B. J. Upton was going to be the next big star. He was the Jason Heyward of a few years ago. The Bay Rays (then the Devil Rays) made him their first pick (second overall). He showed promise in the high minors and then with a 136 OPS+ in 2007 with 24 homers and 22 stolen bases. But since then, his batting average has dropped every season. He had a horrible season last season with a 79 OPS+ and this year, his OPS+ is 93. What happened?
Well, to this observer, who has had the opportunity to watch a lot of Florida baseball, Upton has lost confidence and lacks the every day concentration and discipline to succeed. His manager, Joe Maddon, has shown the patience of Job with this guy. The Fan happens to think that Maddon is one five best managers in baseball. Maddon, after allowing Upton to get 626 unproductive plate appearances last year, has started to sit Upton in favor of other options.
One can appreciate Maddon's dilemma. You look at Upton and see his talent, the kind of talent the team invested highly in and it would be difficult to give up on him. If Upton could only turn the corner, what a magnificent player he could be. But Maddon is also trying to win a division and get his team back to the playoffs and has to put the players on the field that have the best chance to get him there. And right now, Upton isn't one of those guys.
If you look at it from Upton's point of view, you can feel for him too. Here's a guy who was always the best player on his team. He was even the best on his team in the minor leagues. Suddenly, it doesn't come as easy as it did. He struggles. He pouts. He loses interest. He gets defensive. Upton is in a position he's never faced his whole life.
But let's face it. It isn't Maddon's job to rescue Upton's status and career. It's Upton's job to rescue his own career. He seems like a decent guy and one hopes that he can figure it out. But he also has to understand that he hasn't produced and Maddon is certainly justified in sitting the guy. Upton has to handle this correctly and look in the mirror and understand that it is up to him to turn things around and earn back his career and playing time. Complaining to the media is an immature act and not the right way to go about things. But if you put yourself in Upton's shoes, you can understand it and give him a pass.
The bottom line is that Upton's career is at a crossroads and if he doesn't start producing, he's going to have a lot more cause to complain about his playing time.