It only took about two and a half weeks for Yunel Escobar to start doing things that made all of us shake our heads and wonder, ‘what the heck is he doing?'
First it was Thursday, when on a potential double play, second baseman Martin Prado's throw to Escobar was a little high and to his left. Escobar was trying to make one of those running throws to first base, skipping over the second base bag.
Instead, Escobar didn't catch the throw from Prado, the ball rolled into left field, and two runs scored for the Phillies.
The error was given to Prado because the throw was a little off the mark. But it could have gone to Escobar since he should have made the catch. It was a catchable ball, but Escobar was trying to be too cute and it cost him.
I had wondered the night before, on Wednesday, if Escobar might have been upset that Bobby Cox had placed Jason Heyward above him in the batting order. That seemed like something that would tick Escobar off and make him pout a little.
After that play Thursday raised a few eyebrows, Cox had Escobar on the bench Friday against the Mets. You know Escobar couldn't have been happy about that. Cox tried to say it was simply to give Escobar a break, but you wonder if there was more to it than that.
Then on Saturday, well, how do I explain it? Backup catcher said he and the rest of the players were ‘dumbfounded' when they saw what happened. It's hard to describe because I don't know if anyone knows exactly why Escobar did what he did.
Escobar was at third base in the fifth inning, with Prado right behind him at second base. There was one out. Troy Glaus hit a fly ball to right field. Instead of tagging up and running home as soon as the ball was caught, Escobar was inexplicably halfway down the third base line and then went back to third base.
Prado assumed Escobar would be headed home, so he had tagged up and went to third base. But Escobar was closer to third than to home. When he saw Prado coming to third, Escobar finally took off for home. But Prado had slowed up a bit, and the Mets tagged Prado out.
It was Escobar's fault. And it made no sense. Did he just forget how many outs there were? Well, even if he thought there were two outs, he would have gone on and ran home. Instead, Escobar looked confused and was going back and forth down the third base line.
After the game Cox reportedly let Escobar have an earful. It's not the first time Cox has had to loudly scold his talented shortstop, and you wonder if it will be the last.
Remember last year, when Cox had to have a sit down with Escobar over his behavior on the field? There were a couple of inexplicable plays, and then the famous yelling to the official scorer when Escobar did not agree with a ruling that gave him an error.
But now it's happening again, and the Braves have to be getting tired of it.
There is no disputing Escobar's talent. He's a true offensive shortstop, with above average defensive skills. But right now, Escobar's hitting only .194, and a pouting player who is struggling does nothing to help the team.
I'm not saying it's time to ship Escobar out, but it does get old having to watch these ‘episodes' several times a season. It does nothing to help the team having to watch a player make strange plays, and then get defensive when he's asked about what happened.
When a team is struggling like the Braves' offense is right now, everything has to be on the table. If Escobar does continue to have these issues, the leash is going to get shorter.
Last year when all that mess happened, there were rumblings the Braves were putting Escobar on the trade block. How serious did that get? Who knows. Escobar's meeting with Cox seemed to smooth things over, and he went on to have a great season.
That's probably what will happen again. The Braves don't want to get rid of this guy. He's good, very good. But you just have to wonder if he does continue to have these ‘brain lapses' the team might use Escobar in an attempt to bring in a better bat.
If this offense doesn't get better, general manager Frank Wren is going to have to do what he did last year and search for help during the season. That's easier said than done, but maybe not so difficult if you have a talented middle infielder to peddle in a deal.
But after the last few days, we have to keep a close eye on Escobar. This team is frustrated right now, with a four-game losing streak. And the last thing it needs is to have one of its best players get out of control and write his ticket right out of town.
Bill Shanks hosts The Bill Shanks Show on
WFSM Fox Sports 1670 in Macon, Georgia and The Atlanta Baseball Show. Shanks writes a weekly column for The Macon Telegraph. Email Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/billshanks.
Yunel Escobar skating on thin ice - again
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