Yesterday, Mark Simon had an interesting post about BJ Upton over on the big blog.
The data about Upton’s success on off-speed pitches down and away was particularly interesting (even more interesting if you take a second to think about Upton’s stance and his non-step foot trigger). But, I was more intrigued by the perpetual question surrounding Upton (and the discussion of that topic in the comments): “What’s next for BJ?”
That seems to be the perpetual discussion about BJ. We spend every spring wondering if this will be the year he lives up to his (always vaguely undefined) “potential.” Then, we spend all summer beating on him, regardless of his production, for failing to meet our non-specific expectations. It seems to me, that no matter what BJ does, we will be disappointed. We are just built that way.
BJ is partly to blame for all of this. He was a cocky kid when we drafted him that formed a malcontent trifecta with Delmon Young and Elijah Dukes. Then, he flashed his athleticism and casual observers decided that he wasn’t trying when he couldn’t stretch routine singles into doubles. The biggest problem, however, seems to be that BJ is a generally shy kid that struggles with the limelight.
All those factors combine to make BJ the anti-Longo. Or, back then, the anti-Rocco. If we liked Rock (or like Evan) we simply couldn’t treat his opposite the same.
But, look closer. Strip away the (unrealistic?) “potential” we created for BJ. Strip away his “reputation.” Strip away his facial expressions. Look at him now. Isn’t he a really, really good ballplayer? Would you really be upset if the Rays married themselves to Upton for 4-6 more years? I wouldn’t.
Look, it’s not like he is without flaws. He’s going to make you crazy when he looks at a third strike (especially a non-strike that the umpire has been calling all night). He’s going to make you crazy when he gets near, but not to, an unreachable ball in centerfield thereby playing a double into a triple. And he’s going to make you crazy when he gets into “I-will-hit-100-weak-ground-balls-to-second-trying-to-get-myself-to-drive-the-ball-the-other-way” mode.
But EVERYONE has peccadilloes like that. We just skewer BJ for his.
I doubt the Hall of Fame will ever have to decide whether or not to allow Melvin to put the moniker “BJ” on a plaque. But so what. Have we come so far as a fan base that we only want Hall of Famers?
Let’s make an Upton-pact for 2012. We’ll call it the Upton Pact. Let’s just compare BJ to BJ instead of comparing him to some Platonic ideal. Here’s my hand, shake it.