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Yunel Escobar is in trouble for what he's writing on himself. The Toronto Blue Jays are in trouble because they have to evaluate Escobar and the rest of the team.
The Yunel Escobar flap seems like something you're supposed to have Big Opinions on. And I do. A bunch of swirling opinions that touch on society, cultural mores, and all points in between. And it would be a mess of an article. More importantly, it wouldn't be a baseball article. Certainly nothing you'd want to read, anyway.
But there's a way to turn the Escobar thing into a baseball article. After the suspension (assuming there is one) has been served, the Toronto Blue Jays will still have Yunel Escobar. They'll likely have him next year, one year older, a little bit harder to foist on another team for fair value, and just as confusing as ever. And he's the perfect Blue Jays player. Not because of his eye-black stupidity, but because he's confusing.
Of course he's confusing. The entire Blue Jays team is confusing. There are good teams, and there are bad teams. But there isn't a more confusing team than the Blue Jays.
Take the Cubs. They're a bad team, but they aren't confusing. They're going to build around players like Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo, and Brett Jackson. They're going to explore a Matt Garza trade at some point in the next nine months. They probably aren't going to offer Josh Hamilton $200 million. You have a pretty good idea of what the Cubs are and what they're trying to do.
The Blue Jays are filled with mystery players. They could be good next year. They could be bad. They could be in the middle. It's a mysterrrry! Escobar is one of those mystery players. In 2011, he hit .290/.369/.413 and looked like a franchise cornerstone. This season, his walk rate was cut in half, and he couldn't even out-hit the no-hit shortstop (Tyler Pastornicky) he was traded for. Now he's embroiled in controversy.
More mystery: Colby Rasmus was one of the other trade acquisitions that inspired the Alex Anthopolous nickname of "The Ninja." The Blue Jays GM was metaphorically dressing in all black, sneaking into the houses of other teams, and absconding with their cost-controlled young players. But Rasmus slumped horrifically after the Blue Jays acquired him, and after a promising first half this season, he's been dreadful in the second half, hitting .185/.242/.295 after the break. His OBP on the year is now .295. Will he add some better plate discipline to go along with his 20-homer power? Will he ever hit lefties? Mystery player!
There are a lot of mystery pitchers this year around both leagues. Tim Lincecum, Jair Jurrjens, Daniel Bard, Randy Wolf … all of them have seen mysterious and brutal declines for various reasons, none of which can be conclusively identified. But the most mysterious of them all is Ricky Romero, who went from an All-Star to the worst pitcher in baseball. Nothing about his situation is especially encouraging, except for the 613 mostly successful innings he had his career before 2012.
Then you get into the mysteries of the fragile human body. How will Drew Hutchison and Kyle Drabek recover from their injuries? Was the organizational inability to keep pitchers healthy an unfathomable streak of bad luck, or is there something systemic going on? Don't know.
Brandon Morrow was the original mystery pitcher, with strikeout stuff and peripherals that didn't match his lack of skill preventing runs. He looked like he was on the right path this year before his injury. Or maybe he was really the pitcher from the previous two seasons. The Blue Jays will figure it out next year, apparently. Unless they don't.
You can do this up and down the roster, from Adam Lind to David Cooper, Anthony Gose to Brett Lawrie, Henderson Alvarez to Brett Cecil, just about every player is something of an enigma -- a throw-up-your-hands kind of player who could be the a part of the next good Blue Jays team, or who could disappoint just as easily.
Long story short: No other team can look at their organizational depth chart and say, "I have no idea what in the hell is going on here" quite like the Blue Jays will this offseason. Do they make trades and free-agent signings in a win-now attempt, or do they trust the team they've built, hoping for better luck and rebounds from more than a few of the above players?
All I know is that I'm glad it's not my job. The eye-black nonsense will probably cost Escobar some games, and it will probably cost him in the public-relations department. It will also add to the hard-to-evaluate offseason the Blue Jays were already expecting. Is he a no-hit, all-glove specialist, or is he the plus offensive shortstop he was last year? The Blue Jays would love to know so they could plan things out, but they'll have to make an educated guess right now. The same goes for the rest of the team. It's a fantastically confusing group of players, with Escobar representing the whole lot of them.