At the end of 2009, Yunel Escobar was one of the top players in baseball, at least when it comes to potential. He was 26 years old and had just finished a season with a .299/.377/.436 line, 26 doubles, two triples, 14 home runs and 76 RBI for the Atlanta Braves. For some reason, though, Atlanta wasn’t fond of him.
Legendary Braves manager Bobby Cox was fed up with Escobar’s lack of hustle and disregard for the expectations that he had for all of his players. However, Escobar seemed to use the language barrier, he defected from Cuba, as a crutch. While others used translators on the team, as did Escobar, the expectations that Cox had were never met, as Escobar seemed lazy and lethargic with his day-to-day responsibilities in the game of baseball.
Mark Bradley, of the Atlanta Journal Constitution, said after the trade of Escobar in July of 2010 that this was “addition by subtraction” and added that:
This is a happier clubhouse than it has been in years, and not just because the team is in first place. Because these guys like and respect one another. The one guy who didn’t fit — and who was never going to fit, no matter how many chances the Braves offered — just got traded.
Whether it was a language barrier issue or a maturity issue, Yunel Escobar just bought himself some unneeded publicity. This publicity will reach well beyond the sports world and well beyond the diamond, just ask the owner of Chick-Fil-A.
On Saturday afternoon, Yunel Escobar wore eyeblack with the words “tu ere maricon”, which anyone who has seen the movie Scarface knows is Spanish for “you are a fag—.” Needless to say, this will lead to a suspension.
Earlier in the 2012 season, Major League Baseball suspended Detroit Tigers outfielder Delmon Young for anti-Semitic slurs thrown at a group of tourists outside of a hotel in New York, receiving a 7-day suspension. Prior to that suspension, John Rocker was suspended in 2000 for all of spring training and the first 14-days of the season after ranting to a Sports Illustrated reporter about gays, foreigners and minorities.
Bud Selig took this stance with Delmon Young’s suspension in 2012:
Those associated with our game should meet the responsibilities and standards that stem from our game’s stature as a social institution. An incident like this cannot and will not be tolerated.
Yunel Escobar plays in a city, Toronto, that is very liberal, in the liberal nation of Canada. His choice to wear the slur was a miserable idea, one that should and will have repercussions, not only on this season, but, possibly, Escobar’s 2014 and 2015 team options and the Toronto Blue Jays willingness to keep him beyond this season. Ultimately, Escobar’s entire future in the majors could be affected by this choice.
After having been traded for pennies on the dollar in talent from Atlanta to Toronto, little has changed in the man that Yunel Escobar has been or who he is going to become. He is still immature and a nuisance to his team. For someone who had to defect from Cuba to earn an opportunity at freedom and a chance to play the game that he loves, it is incredible that Yunel Escobar continues to make poor choices and doesn’t seem to think of how lucky he is to be making millions to be a complete moron, on and off the field.