The biggest problem with B.J. Upton may no longer be that he can't hit -- it's that he has lost all perspective.
Upton is hitting a sparkling .203 with a league-leading 56 strikeouts in 143 at-bats this season. Apparently in B.J.'s own private Idaho, that's dramatic improvement from hitting .189 with 151 strikeouts in 391 at-bats a year ago.
If Upton was still in little league, the coach probably would move him up from eighth to seventh in the batting order and give him an extra juice box. Instead, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez, whose team has had problems scoring runs, actually had the temerity to drop Upton in the order from second to fifth to sixth.
Upton was benched in Sunday's win in St. Louis. He had struck out 13 times in his previous 19 at-bats, and I know what you're thinking: Was he swinging a toothpick?
In a season and two months as a Brave, Upton has more than twice as many strikeouts (207) as hits (101).
Upton had hit a stretch where he was only slightly awful, not completely useless. In 14 games while batting second, he hit .220 with a .350 on-base percentage. But neither he nor the lineup was producing enough runs so Gonzalez slide him down in the order and moved Justin (The Better) Upton up to No. 2. B.J. had a .167 on-base percentage in the next 11 games and his strikeout ratio spiked (again).
“Yeah, but I’m not saying that’s it,” he said. “But I never really felt well where I’m at now (in the sixth spot) in the past, so … Do I want to hit there? No.”
I guess when a professional athlete is handed a five-year, $75 million contract, he feels he's entitled to the benefit of the doubt. But Upton lost that a long time ago.
He is hitting .213 (23-for-108) batting second, .000 (0-for-3) batting fifth and .188 (6-for-32) batting sixth. There are only two absolutes when it comes to Upton: 1) He stinks no matter what here he is in the order; 2) He's a head case.
A little accountability would be nice.
Here's a link to a column I wrote on Upton in April . In this excerpt, we discuss the criticism he has faced:
Upton is aware of the public criticism. Actually, he’s probably too aware. Be careful about venturing onto Twitter or onto the Internet when your career looks like a grease fire because you’ll find no comfort there.
“Oh yeah. They’re all over me already,” Upton said about fan criticism Tuesday. “Whatever. They don’t have to come out and play.”
So you go on Twitter a lot?
“I check it every once in a while. If you don’t check it out, it backs up (with messages) and you have to scroll all the way to the top. So I see it. But that’s the thing about social media these days. Everybody has something to say. But like I said: They don’t have to play, and I don’t have to see them. I play for these 24 (players) and these coaches.”
He might just want to start looking in the mirror instead of Twitter.