Well D’backs fans, it finally happened. The ongoing saga that was Upton vs. the organization has closed the books on its final chapter as general manager Kevin Towers pulled the trigger on a seven-player trade that sent Chris Johnson and Justin Upton to the Atlanta Braves for Martin Prado, Nick Ahmed, Randall Delgado, Zeke Spruill, and Brandon Drury.
Right fielderJustin Upton
(10) hits during the fifth inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. Image: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
As news broke earlier this morning I was still enjoying my cup of coffee when I received notice that, in fact, the team’s franchise player had been dealt to Atlanta. My first reaction was just a simple, “wow,” followed by an immediate text to my brother, a huge D’backs fan who responded with a one word profanity that I’ll leave out of this article.
The relationship between Upton and Towers (or certainly someone in the front office) was akin to one of those unhealthy relationships that your friend was in where they were constantly on the fringe of breaking up and multiple times threatened the act but never actually walked away. It was a roller coaster relationship and even though you like both parties involved, you hoped they would just part ways. And then one of them finally did.
Today was that day and after hundreds of rumors over the last six and a half months that included a reported trade to the Seattle Mariners that Upton used his no trade clause to deny, they parted ways for good on Thursday.
So, the player who was drafted number one overall in the 2005 amateur draft and made his major league debut at age 19 two years later helping the club win the N.L. West for the first time since 2002, is gone. He was the player who was literally the face of the franchise during his six years of service and had garnered his own section in the right field bleachers called ‘Uptown’ while the club did what they could to build a championship team around him. We’ve watched Upton grow up from a teenage prospect to a finalist for the MVP Award.
Upton enjoyed a career year in 2011 but then saw significant drops in his power numbers in 2012 in a year filled with criticism from all directions. Overall, the 25-year-old handled the chatter as well as the trade rumors professionally. After all, he was given the role of the franchise player on the D’backs as a role model that the team and fans could look up to.
"Bittersweet day for me. So happy to get the chance to play with my brother in Atlanta but will miss the city and the fans here in Phoenix. ~ Upton’s response to the trade via Twitter"
Another buddy of mine who is an Arizona native and has followed the team since their inception tweeted out in response to the trade that he was sick and tired of watching the team trade away their star players. I know he’s not alone here and unfortunately for fans of the D’backs it is also true. For a team that struggles to reach 60% capacity [at Chase Field] on a regular basis, one would think that building their club around a star rather than prospects would be a better way to attract fans. But, alas, this is the way of ‘small market’ teams and part of the love-hate relationship that many fans have with the club they love as a result.
Make no mistake about it though, watching the Diamondbacks take the field against the St. Louis Cardinals on opening night without Upton in right and batting third will just seem weird. The power swing followed by a bat throw as he watches a ridiculously long home run soar into the seats of Chase Field was a signature move that we may have taken for granted. He will be missed and for the sake of fans all around the valley, hopefully Upton won’t have a monster year in Atlanta that will push fans farther away from the organization for making what may seem like another questionable trade.
On the other hand, we would be crazy to not wish the young right fielder anything but the best and when he and the Braves arrive at Chase Field on May 13th for the start of a three game series I hope the fans recognize the star they were lucky enough to watch for six seasons and reward him with a standing ovation.
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