Toronto gave Atlanta a pennant race gift in the form of SS Alex Gonzalez yesterday while acquiring the far younger problem child Yunel Escobar to play the same position. Chatting on ESPN Radio yesterday, former Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi spoke glowing of the additional prospects the Braves picked up, though at no point did the broadcaster mention these were players signed on his watch (at least not during the excerpts played during the network’s scoreboard updates) or that he might have any motive in making Toronto’s current front office look dopey. Among others unimpressed with the Jays’ haul, the Globe & Mail’s Jeff Blair, who says this swap is the latest blow to “a train wreck of a sports city.”
The truth about this trade is that unless you™re a Braves fan, there is no reason to get too excited either way. Escobar has a ton of baggage, but as Anthopoulos said, so did Jose Bautista when he came to the Blue Jays from the Pittsburgh Pirates. Two things you need to know about baseball people: They all think they can reinvent the wheel, and if they™re going to misread a player, more often than not it will be a Latino. Remember how Pedro Martinez was too slight to hold up as a starting pitcher? That™s what the Los Angeles Dodgers thought about him, and they did Latin America better than most teams at that time.
The two happiest people in all this? Gonzalez, who is now in a pennant race, and the Braves™ Bobby Cox, who is retiring as manager at the end of the season and is rid of a player he thought was lazy. The Blue Jays weren™t going to the playoffs before the trade. They aren™t any closer after it.
At least Alex Anthopoulos has satisfied his jonesing by getting a right-handed hitter who, when he™s right, will bring a little more on-base percentage to the position, a guy who is playing well below his track record instead of some waiver-wire flotsam and jetsam. Signing Gonzalez and John Buck wasn™t a test of Anthopoulos™s acumen. This trade is, because the little lefty who went to the Braves, Tim Collins, has eye-opening numbers, and the shortstop going to Atlanta, Tyler Pastornicky, has off-the-charts makeup.