PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Yunel Escobar was dealt to the Rays in a trade prior to the 2013 season, complete with baggage. But the veteran shortstop thrived in his new environment under the leadership of manager Joe Maddon, who continues to be Escobar's biggest advocate.
Though Maddon knew about Escobar's bad-boy reputation, he opted to form his own opinion about Escobar, noting that reputations can be formed by a lot of factors that aren't necessarily accurate.
"I was not surprised at all, because I did see the energy," Maddon said of the Escobar he has come to know. "Definitely, he's got the chrome. No question he has the chrome."
"Chrome" is Maddon's way of describing a player who is flashy, as opposed to one who is not, who has no chrome. Escobar twirls his bat like a Keystone Cop as he walks to the plate, he shoots imaginary jump shots after making a nice play in the field, and he's gone behind his back as he did to second baseman Ben Zobrist when making an assist on a double play last season. Though it's flashy, it's fun and entertaining.
"I mean, this kid grew up with a lot of chrome," Maddon said. "And to really strip that away from him, I think you're going to take away a lot of his playing ability.
"People don't understand that. When a guy has been that way so long, you're asking them to change them without any good cause, it's very difficult. And a kid like him knowing that whatever the perception was of what he was doing wrong, in his mind's eye, he's like, 'What are you talking about? I've always done this. What do you mean it's wrong? You didn't grow up where I grew up.' So you have to consider all that stuff."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.