I’ve long been a Justin Upton defender – even apologist, at times. There’s no doubt that Upton had a bad year, for his standards, last season. But there’s also no doubt that Upton has been treated badly by GM Kevin Towers and the front office.
Arizona Republic’s Nick Piecoro detailed the multiple trade rumors and other mishandling of Upton in his piece here.
Piecoro makes several poignant observations in the piece. But the part that I have found to be the most relevant to me was his obvious emotional reaction to Upton’s situation. I’ve found myself in the same situation when talking about Upton.
He was boo’d, demeaned and blamed for the D-backs failures this season, which would have been okay for this season, since he is the best player on the D-backs and the face of the franchise, if he had also been lauded, celebrated and credited for the D-backs success in 2011.
He was far and away the best player on the team. He covered for many faults in the roster and made the hitters around him better players.
But there wasn’t much celebration. Guys like Ryan Roberts and Gerardo Parra were lifted up and were beloved by the fans instead of Upton. And while they were good players, they were also replaceable if needed. Upton was not.
Upton was hampered with injuries almost the entire 2012 season. But he wasn’t given a break. And he didn’t ask for a break. He kept his head to the grindstone and worked as hard as he could. He ignored Ken Kendrick calling him out for basically being “immature” and “soft.” He ignored the fans booing. He fought. He played hard. He did what he could to help the team while he worked through his injuries.
And when he was finally healthy?
In September, he hit .304 with a .362 OBP and had six home runs and five stolen bases in only 115 at bats. And it wasn’t just one month. After the All-Star break, Upton had a .287/.357/.460 slash line. That wasn’t quite his 2011 power numbers (.289/.369/.529) but his average and OBP were very similar.
The point is, he was rebounding. But it was too late. Or maybe not enough. The only thing it earned Upton was more trade rumors this offseason. That’s a shame. Like Piecoro says, maybe a change of scenery would be the best thing for Upton. But I sure hope not because when gets back to his 2011 form (MVP Caliber), I sure hope it’s in Sedona Red.