I doubt anyone has been any tougher on B.J. Upton that yours truly, and with his recent and refreshing 10 game hitting streak (snapped only yesterday) since being moved to the leadoff spot in the Atlanta Braves’ lineup, I felt it was time for me to formally apologize to the elder Upton, and eat a little crow.
Anyone who watches the game of baseball, and certainly anyone who watches the Braves, should know why I’ve been tough on him. Oh, I could easily have directed my ire toward Frank Wren, responsible for the bozo move of signing him to a 5 year, $75,000,000 dollar contract in the first place, but Frank was just being Frank then.
It’s the player who’s getting paid and not producing I have to reserve my ire for ultimately, and it was B.J. Upton’s obvious lack of production through countless experiments that had my dander up.
Manager Fredi Gonzalez loves to experiment, and he’s tweaked this lineup more than a drill sergeant working with a dozen Gomer Pyles! So it’s not so unusual that Fredi would have tried BJ Upton in almost every spot in the lineup, from early to late, and everywhere in between. No matter where he had been previously placed though, BJ Upton couldn’t hit the broad side of an Indiana Barn.
It wasn’t just his lack of production either, but a number of other non-stat intangibles that irritated me.
Upton had absolutely no reason, in the large majority of the strikeouts he’s been called on, to argue with the plate umpire. Not only were most of the pitches where he argued actually strikes, but when you struggle to get above the Mendoza line in average, a little humility goes a long way with staff, players, and fans. Sure, I get that sometimes players fuss out of frustration, and B.J. certainly had ample reason to be frustrated, but he failed to realize time-and-time again, that Braves’ fans were even more frustrated!
Well, I don’t need to beat that dead horse anymore, or at least beat what I hope is a dead horse – that seemingly insurmountable regression the elder Upton was mired in.
As you all know, Fredi Gonzalez tried Jason Heyward at leadoff, because afterall it worked last year! He tried newbie Tommy La Stella and that worked okay for awhile, and Fredi has tweaked around with that spot in the lineup incessantly. No, in the absence of any true leadoff hitter, I cannot say I blame him – but it sure took long enough for him to figure out that BJ Upton just might be the ticket there!
BJ Upton has always fancied himself more of a power hitter than he is, but with his speed and natural ability to make contact when he applies himself, he perhaps should have been one of the more obvious choices, certainly more obvious than Jason Heyward.
However the Braves came to the decision to put Upton at leadoff, the experiment seems to be working. BJ Upton now has a 10 game hitting streak at that position, getting one hit in 9 of those 10 games, and having a multi-hit game last night.
Furthermore, you could argue that BJ Upton’s uptick in production, and obvious success at leadoff, has enlivened and rejuvenated the rest of this Atlanta Braves offense. That’s certainly true if the last 8 games (priot to the snap of that streak yesterday) are any evidence. Sure, the schedule of late has been soft, but the Braves are swinging away, stealing bases, playing small ball, staying within themselves well, and playing like the talent they have. Heck, even the pitching has improved!
So with all that said, let me move on to my letter of apology, and eat a little crow.
I’ve not been a fan, and I’ve not supported you as an Atlanta Brave. Frankly, you’ve given me no reason to other than the fact that you wear an Atlanta Braves’ uniform.
Oh, I always support my team, and every player on it in the sense that I root for each player, and hope they all do well! I’ve rooted for you sir, and rooted hard, but I’ve also been exceedingly critical of your attitude, your lack of humility, and most of all your missing bat!
That’s going to change now, and so I apologize for any flack I’ve given you, or bad energy I may have somehow floated your way.
You’re doing really well in the leadoff spot, and I hope you continue to do so. You’re certainly getting paid enough that you should, so in truth you’re only doing what you should have been doing all along.
A part of me thinks the jury is still out, but I’ll reserve judgement, tone down my criticism, and hope that you and Mr. Mendoza will forever part company.