Happy is the default setting for the former Mets third baseman. Escobar has always maintained an upbeat attitude and was a favorite in the clubhouse during his tenure with the Mets. Even when the club called up top prospect Brett Baty to supplant the struggling Escobar in the lineup in April, the veteran infielder was gracious in his dealings with Baty, his teammates and the media.
That tenure ended abruptly in late June when the Mets traded Escobar in the middle of a game. Escobar was getting coffee in the kitchen of the visitor’s locker room at Citizen’s Bank Park when manager Buck Showalter called him into his office to deliver the news that no one saw coming.
“He said, ‘We traded you,’” Escobar told the Daily News this weekend at Citi Field. “It was really tough being traded during the game. I didn’t get an opportunity to say goodbye to my friends and whatever. I respect the decision they made to trade me, but during the game, I was really surprised.”
Escobar was playing a utility role with Baty taking over at third base, but even this role was limited. By that point, the Mets just didn’t have a spot for him. Sometimes he played at third, he was used at second base a few times and at shortstop for one inning. Without consistent playing time, it was tough for him to show much at the plate, though he had improved by the time the Mets traded him, hitting .318 with a .830 OPS and one home run over his final 18 games before going to Anaheim.
Escobar was in the second year of a two-year contract. A switch-hitter with the ability to play multiple positions on an expiring contract made him a prime trade candidate. The Mets, seeing how thin their system was when it came to pitching, made a move for two low-level pitchers, right-handers Coleman Crow and Landon Marceaux.
Escobar understood that it was a baseball decision, but he didn’t want to leave. The most difficult part was leaving the teammates who had been helping the Venezuelan study for his U.S. citizenship test.
“The team over there, they really helped me. Everybody helped me a lot,” Escobar said. “I was so sad.”
Once again, Escobar was is without a spot and limited to a utility role. Despite the challenges, he’s taken it all in stride.
“I’m playing third base, first base and second base,” Escobar said. “I’m always ready to play where the manager needs me.”
Escobar has settled into Southern California, finding a house in Orange County large enough for his 165-pound St. Bernard, Picañero. He even added another St. Bernard to the mix, a puppy named Esmerelda.
Escobar also passed the naturalization test, fulfilling a lifelong dream of becoming an American citizen. He took the test shortly after the trade, leaving the team for a few days to do so. When he returned, his new teammates celebrated the accomplishment. Manager Phil Nevin gave Escobar a bottle of wine. His teammates gave him a bottle of whiskey. Everyone waived American flags. Escobar was touched.
“It was something beautiful and I’m so appreciative of that,” Escobar said. “I didn’t get to celebrate with the Mets, but I celebrated with my new teammates.”
The Mets welcomed back Escobar with a tribute video on the scoreboard Friday night, showing a clip of the 34-year-old singing Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You.” He laughed as he tipped his cap in the dugout.
“It shows you how good of a person you are when everybody takes care of you and no matter where you play, you have people who respect you,” Escobar said.