Monday, January 4, 2016
#611) ALEX ESCOBAR
Escobar had worked his way up to Triple-A Norfolk five years later and was elevated to the Mets top minor league prospect. "There is not much to worry about with Alex, other than just getting him enough at-bats so he can become the player he can be," Mets manager Bobby Valentine said during spring training camp in 2001.
In April the Mets were forced to place three outfielders- Darryl Hamilton, Benny Agbayani and Timo Perez on the disabled list with a variety of injuries. When center fielder Jay Payton strained his hamstring the club found it time to promote Escobar. He made his major league debut on May 8, 2001 facing the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. Alex would get a base hit in the 6th inning over four trips to the plate. "There's a back end in sight to it," Mets general manager Steve Phillips explained. "He's not feeling like he has to produce to stay here, and we're not counting on him to turn things around." The scenario was for Escobar to play in New York and return to Norfolk in six days when Darryl Hamilton was activated to replace him.
Alex's return to Triple-A was relatively short. He was summoned back to the Mets when Tsuyoshi Shinjo was placed on the disabled list on June 21st. "Being in the big leagues the first time was a great experience," said Escobar. "The first time you don't know what to expect. You have an idea what you should do when you get up. The second time you feel more comfortable." His game that night against the Montreal Expos was his Shea Stadium debut. The Mets would lose to the visitors by a score of 10-3 but Alex collected two hits in the contest. The young outfielder would hit his first major league home run off Atlanta Braves pitcher Tom Glavine days later on June 23rd.
"As far as a kid coming up, people haven't had this much excitement since Strawberry came up in our organization," Norfolk Tides manager John Gibbons said in regard to the young Escobar. "It seems like with the very good players, they're effortless in the things they do, and that's what he's got. He's on of those guys that things come real easy for him. I guess you could say he's a natural boy wonder."
Alex remained on the Mets roster until late June but struggled to adjust to the major league pitching. He was returned to the Norfolk Tides until the rosters expanded in September. Escobar would have his greatest single game performance as a Met on October 5th. The rookie slugged two home runs and drove in four runs against the Expos at Shea Stadium. He would finish the season with three home runs, 8 RBIs and a .200 batting average in 18 games.
His career with the Mets came to a surprisingly quick end on December 11, 2001 when he was traded to the Cleveland Indians along with Jerrod Riggan, Matt Lawton, Billy Traber and Earl Snyder in exchange for Mike Bacsik, Danny Peoples, and future Hall of Famer, Roberto Alomar. "His strikeouts are a concern, but his talent has never faded," Indians general manager Mark Shapiro said about Escobar after the trade. "We spent a great deal of time following him closely this season and we feel he had the total package."
Alex suffered a knee injury that forced him to miss all for the 2002 season. The injury robbed him of his speed and diminished his range in the outfield. In the four years of his major league career he would only appear in a total of 125 games due to persistent injuries. Escobar retired from baseball in 2008 after playing some of that year with Triple-A Columbus.
I created Alex Escobar's card in the set from an autographed index card purchased from Kyle's Sportcard, Inc. on January 4, 2016.