October 10, 2011
MILWAUKEE — Yuniesky Betancourt(notes) came here in the Zack Greinke(notes) trade, and it's widely believed the Kansas City Royals made the Milwaukee Brewers take him. Fangraphs lists Betancourt as the worst starting shortstop in the major leagues. His defensive range is poor. He's one of the most impatient, least potent hitters in baseball. He's no J.J. Hardy(notes).
And yet, there was Yuni, being escorted to the dais for a news conference following Milwaukee's 9-6 victory against the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 1 of the NLCS on Sunday night. Betancourt went 2 for 4 with a stunning home run in Milwaukee's tide-turning, six-run fifth inning, and he put together two great overall at-bats — one in which he fouled off five pitches and another that went to a full count.
If Betancourt performed like that more often, his critics would pipe down. Not that Betancourt minds what people say about him — so he says. A native of Cuba who was smuggled into the United States via the Bahamas and Tijuana, Mexico, after defecting in 2003, Betancourt's English is still in the developmental stages.
"I don't really understand English very well, so that being said, I don't really pay attention to what the critics say," Betancourt said through his translator, drawing laughter from reporters and from himself.
"Since I don't understand, I don't get mad, I just try and do my job."
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Sticks and stones might break his bones, but Él no habla inglés, eh?
"It frustrates me sometimes," Betancourt said. "And I certainly realize that it can be frustrating for them. But that's the style of player I am. I'm a very aggressive hitter and I just try to do my best that way."
You don't get off the island by walking, as they say.
"Yuni is a little inconsistent sometimes with his AB's," Roenicke said. "Sometimes you get frustrated with him when he makes first-pitch outs. But he can turn it around. And when he's hot ... for two months, he swung the bat great for us, two months in a row.
"And I think that Yuni, when he gets in those little streaks, he's going to give you a nice at-bat. I wish he could do it all the time. I wish everybody could do it all the time, but that's not baseball."
At 29 years old (or thereabouts) Betancourt is not going to change much anymore. He is what he is. But if he can stay in one of those "little streaks" and help the Brewers win a few more playoff games, including in the World Series, he can get away with being Yuniesky Betancourt for the rest of the time he's in the major leagues.
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Meanwhile, check out this amusing series of photos of Yuni rounding the bases on his home run:
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It's almost like he's cruising one-handed on a Harley-Davidson, which probably requires both hands.
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Betancourt happy in any language.
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We got a screamer. Well done, Yunicorn.
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