Renteria takes over at shortstop
Four-time All-Star excited to join Braves organization
ATLANTA -- Undoubtedly he's his family's most accomplished baseball figure. But it wasn't until Monday afternoon that Edgar Renteria was given his first opportunity to do what two of his brothers had done many years ago.
While being introduced as the Braves' new shortstop at a Monday afternoon press conference at Turner Field, Renteria displayed his contagious smile, proved he has a pretty good sense of humor and proudly adorned his new Braves jersey and cap. "I'm excited to be the new shortstop for the Atlanta Braves," Renteria said. "I'm so happy because my whole career (I've wanted) to play for the Atlanta Braves."
Renteria, who has a brother who had a one-year playing stint in the Braves Minor League system and another who served as a coach in the same fruitful system, was acquired from the Red Sox in exchange for Andy Marte on Thursday. It's Braves general manager John Schuerholz's biggest splash of the offseason and one that could have the Atlanta fans quickly forgetting about the departure of former shortstop Rafael Furcal.
"We could not have acquired a more perfect player for us than Edgar Renteria," Schuerholz said. "We've always had tremendous respect and admiration for his ability."
When Furcal chose to sign with the Dodgers, Schuerholz says he immediately began searching for the "highest quality shortstop" available. In Renteria, he's got a 30 year-old player who has won a world championship, two Gold Gloves and three Silver Slugger Awards. Along the way, he's been named to four All-Star teams and been regarded by most scouts as one of the game's premiere shortstops.
While those credentials were obviously enticing, Schuerholz became more interested in Renteria as more and more people from the baseball world speak so glowingly of the shortstop's ability to be a great clubhouse influence.
"(It's) not only what you see on the field is what makes him the kind of player he is," Schuerholz said. "But what we know is in the clubhouse, his teammates, his managers and his coaches and his general managers and his public relations manager will tell you this is the best teammate there is."
While meeting the Atlanta media for the first time, Renteria showed a comical side that should allow him to quickly get acquainted with his new Braves teammates. After a Spanish-speaking woman asked a lengthy question, the native of Columbia created laughter by saying, "I don't understand."
Also after Schuerholz pointed out that Renteria looked to be in great shape while wearing his new Braves jersey, the shortstop said, "I'm trying to be like my agent." His jab was aimed toward his agent Jeff Lane, whose physique might cause some to mistake him for a sportswriter.
Like he was for Monday's introduction, Lane was with Renteria at various times last year. Despite the fact that Boston fans had loudly voiced their displeasures toward their shortstop, he never once heard his dedicated client utter any sense of disgust.
"He never tipped his hand that he never wanted to be there," Lane said. "It wasn't like he was calling me in June and saying, 'These people are crazy, get me the heck out of here.' He didn't say anything like that. Edgar is very steady Eddie. I consider him like a lunch pail guy -- show up, let's play and let's win and let's go home."
It was just last winter that Renteria signed a four-year, $40 million deal with the Red Sox. Those same Boston fans who were singing his praises a year ago quickly turned after he hit just .228 in April. The boos got louder during a season in which he committed a career-high 30 errors.
"Nobody likes to get booed," Renteria said. "Maybe (it was) the fact they don't know nothing about me or they didn't believe I could play in the (American League). But I know what I can do."
Renteria had spent his previous nine seasons in the Majors in the National League. As a rookie in 1997, he delivered the 11th-inning single in Game 7 that gave the Marlins the World Series title. During six seasons with the Cardinals, he became a fan favorite in St. Louis. Never once did he hear fans boo him before they resoundingly did in Boston last year.
"They are the fans," Lane said. "They can do whatever they want to do."
While the fans had already cast their verdict on Renteria after just one season, it became very clear how Boston management felt about him when they were willing to also give the Braves $11 million in the deal. Now the Braves are essentially paying the accomplished shortstop just $18 million of their own money over the next three seasons.
"I don't know (Boston's) decision-making process was," Lane said. "I thought he might get a little more time. But that's just baseball."
The reality of baseball might have just provided the Braves an early Christmas present. The overwhelming thought in Atlanta is that in a warmer climate and under the guide of an ever-encouraging manager Bobby Cox, Renteria will quickly regain his top-notch form.
Between 2002-2004 with the Cardinals, Renteria hit .297 and averaged 10 homers and 80 RBIs per season. In what was pegged a disappointing season with Boston, he still managed to hit .276 with eight homers and 70 RBIs -- the same amount of runs driven in by Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, who made $19.6 million last year.
Through the boos, Renteria never lost confidence. In fact, he bounced back to hit .342 and produce 20 RBIs in August. As he's done throughout his career, never once did he ask to be taken out of the lineup, despite battling a sore back and groin.
"If I can be on the field, there's nothing that's going to stop me," said Renteria, who has averaged 153 games played over the past four seasons.
Renteria, who splits his time during the offseason between Columbia and his home in Miami, feels he's in great shape physically. Mentally, he's excited for the opportunity to be back in the more familiar NL, with a franchise in search of its 15th consecutive division title.
"This is a great organization," Renteria said of the Braves. "They know how to win. That's the kind of player I am, I like to win all the time."
Renteria has also proven to be a player who doesn't make excuses. While he admits he doesn't like playing in cold weather, he's not willing to blame the Boston environment. Nor does he blame his high error total on the Fenway Park playing surface, which has never drawn rave reviews from players.
"The infield didn't help," Renteria said. "But I'm not making excuses because I always say, 'I make the errors. It's not the field that makes the errors.' When you don't feel comfortable, you're not going to be comfortable." The Braves are looking forward to providing Renteria whatever necessary to make him the latest player to rebound in their comfortable haven. About the only thing they can't provide is his preferred No. 3 jersey. That number is retired in honor of Dale Murphy. Instead, Renteria will wear No. 11."The most important thing is I'm going to help the team to win a championship," Renteria said. "That's the most important thing to me."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.