Braves center fielder B.J. Upton is in the midst of a rough honeymoon in his first year with the club, and most would argue that phase ended months ago. Some who watched Upton play in Tampa Bay have said we got exactly what we should have expected out of the 28-year-old — a mediocre hitter with plenty of speed and, at times, a temper.
Rumors have surfaced of B.J.’s run-ins with fans in the Turner Field outfield, and we’ve all seen his behavior when a call doesn’t go his way at the plate. He’s been booed multiple times as his plate appearances end in strikeouts far more than they end in hits or walks.
His .186 batting average has never once, not for one day, been above .200 this season. And at the beginning of the season, if you said backup outfielder Jordan Schafer would be more deserving of the starting center field position than Upton, people would have called you crazy. But that’s exactly what has happened, and every time Upton plays, it seems like a bad decision for manager Fredi Gonzalez to leave Schafer on the bench.
#Braves B.J. Upton has hit .155 at Turner Field this season, including 1-for-36 in his past 14 home games.
— David O'Brien (@ajcbraves) August 19, 2013
Yet if you’ve been one of those people booing Upton at the ballpark, you shouldn’t do it for another second, because he made a very selfless statement on Saturday night.
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Speaking to reporters, Upton said everything a good, slumping teammate should say. He made no excuses for his poor play and put his own failings aside for the best interest of the team. Here’s the full quote, posted to AJC.com by writer Carroll Rogers:
“I’m just rolling with it. If I’m in the lineup, I’m in there. If I’m not, then I’m not. I don’t really have an argument. What’s my argument? I don’t. So he’s going to play who he wants to play and that’s fine with me. Like I said, as long as we win, I’ll support my teammates regardless. We all have the same goal, that’s to get a championship, get a ring. Wherever I can pitch in to help, I’ll do it.
“We’re going way too well for me to be worried about what I’m doing. This is bigger than me. This is about the team. Obviously I want to be on the field every day but that’s not the case right now. We’ll just see as it goes on … I will continue to support my team and that’s it.”
That’s as mature a statement as he can make when asked about his possible benching down the stretch. It would be understandable if Upton was upset about the short leash he’s on, even if fans wouldn’t understand it. He wants to work through his problems as badly as anyone else, even if he’s being paid a massive salary regardless of whether he plays or not.
Upton has been the worst hitter on Atlanta’s roster so far in 2013, and I’m sure he wants to figure out what’s been wrong with his swing and end the embarrassment. But more than that, he wants to win, meaning his head’s in the right place down the stretch.
No matter what side of the fence you’re on about B.J.’s bat, you should definitely know where you stand about the guy’s heart.