There’s a certain egotistical motif in the world of editorial writing these days where the author takes some current event in the world of politics, sports or entertainment and turns it into a personalized story in what they claim is an attempt to convey the material in a more relatable way but which is actually just a showcase for their own self-centered vanity.
I have even been guilty of this a few times, and I can tell you right now this column is going to be slathered in this egotistical motif. Sure, I’m going to talk about baseball, but all the while, I will most-assuredly be exorcising my own personal demons and probably being somewhat self-congratulatory.
Last week, Justin Upton was traded from the Arizona Diamondbacks to the Atlanta Braves in a move that was a lot less of a surprise than it should have been and a lot less controversial than it should have been. Justin Upton is a fairly well-known player, and he’d been the subject of trade rumors for so long that when it happened the media strangely focused all of their attention on the fact that the team to which he was being traded was where his brother B.J. Upton just signed to play.
Apparently, brothers in sports is currently very interesting to the media. I don’t know if you heard, but the Harbaugh brothers coached against each other in the Super Bowl.
And all the very interesting brother coverage of the Upton trade distracted from the fact that one of the league’s top 20 players was just traded away for slightly more than a bag of baseballs.
So, then how are we going to make this about me? Don’t worry. I’m on it. Many years ago, I was dating a girl and we were getting along quite well, and things were progressing in all the good ways that one would hope a relationship would progress, and then she dumped me.
“Whoa, Jed! Making this about you is one thing, but crikey, how can this possibly have anything to do with baseball?” said everyone.
Patience, dear readers. The connection comes up here pretty quick when I compare the reasons Justin Upton was traded to the reasons I got dumped.
“Jed, you might be the most full-of-it writer ever and this couldn’t possibly be anything more than an attempt to vent some past frustration in what is actually a very awkward setting,” said everyone.
Yes, some of that is true. But I also know a lot about baseball and you have to trust me on this one. Upton has already shown that he has the skills to be one of the few best players in the league, and at just 25 years old, he is only now entering his peak-performance years. And he was traded away for far less than what a player like that should be traded for. In fact, normally you can never trade for a player like that.
Let’s call this girl I was dating “Brooke” (that wasn’t her name, though similarly, her actual name was also a noun – never trust girls whose names are also nouns: Joy, Hope, Faith, Summer, Olive, etc.). Anyway, at the time she dumped me, I was what some might consider to be one of the few best eligible bachelors available. I was above-average in multiple relationship skills: acclimating to friends and family, understanding of career pressures and conflicts, personally successful and financially stable, and of course pretty darn good when the lights go out (not all the lights, of course, because then you can’t see what you’re doing and mistakes get made).
Brooke once sent me a list she made, before we met, of the 37 things she wanted in a man, and I scored an impressive 35 out of 37. I missed on “likes dancing” and “physically fit” – though one could argue those two are the same thing. So, this was a good match of like-minded individuals.
Then I got dumped. By email. I was accused of a litany of terrible things that had very little basis in fact, which she had never actually brought up to me in person ever before. And I have literally never seen Brooke since. Sure, I made attempts to reach her, but her decision was final and no attempt by me to clear my name would be heard.
That brings me back to Justin Upton. Why would a team that wants to win games trade away one of the best players in the league? Okay, so Upton was injured early on last year and he never fully recovered but the year before he was in the top five in the MVP voting. The short answer is I don’t know why.
At this point, it’s time to start talking about the other parties involved, namely Kevin Towers, general manager of the Diamondbacks. There have been rumors floating around that Towers wanted to get rid of Upton going back to the season Upton made the top five in MVP voting. And the team’s manager, Kirk Gibson, has been rumored to not like Upton’s “style of play” (yes, even when Upton made the top five in MVP voting).
The theory here is that Upton must have been some sort of clubhouse cancer. Well, you know what cures clubhouse cancer? Home runs, doubles, stolen bases, runs batted in and great defense. And these just happened to be the areas of expertise for Dr. Justin Upton.
The team and Upton had to part ways because of two individuals and their own arbitrary assessment of him – their “gut feelings” and “intuitions.” See, now you’re starting to see the connection, aren’t you? Brooke and I were a very good match. But there were others around her who didn’t feel that way and fabricated stories and exaggerated circumstances about me to Brooke highlighting their “gut feelings” and “intuitions” so that she was painted into a corner of having to choose between me and them. All of which I was almost completely unaware of at the time.
Maybe these individuals preferred when Brooke was single or in a less-fulfilling relationship. Maybe a small comment about some arbitrary preference snowballed into a diatribe and then my days were numbered. I don’t know. People are weird.
There are reports that Kevin Towers didn’t bother to return phone calls from other teams interested in trading for Upton once he started negotiating with the Braves. Even his attempt to trade Upton to the Mariners – one of the few teams Upton could block a trade to – looked kind of nuts because Upton said he would block a trade to them.
Diamondbacks fans have seen one of their favorite players traded away because the general manager and team manager thought he needed to go. And the Upton trade isn’t the only oddity in Arizona. They also dumped star pitching prospect Trevor Bauer for similar “gut feelings” from Kirk Gibson and Kevin Towers. Maybe the general manager and team manager need to go. (Hint, hint — Brooke’s friends.)
Some people might try to argue that the Upton trade wasn’t that unfair but all you need to do is ask if you would trade back for the same players and the reply of “Hell no!” should give you an idea who won the trade.
Atlanta, which was already a serious playoff contender, is even better and now has an outfield loaded with excellent hitters who also play great defense. And if you think defense is no big deal, just ask the Detroit Tigers what they think after they let batted ball after batted ball drop in front of their outfielders in the World Series because they just didn’t have enough range to get there.
These batted balls that drop in are called base hits. Base hits create base runners. Base runners create runs. Runs create wins. If you stop this – “nip this in the butt” as the illiterates say – there is no base hit, no base runner, no run and a decreased chance of a win.
None of us, even myself, knows what will happen from this trade and whether it will be the colossal disaster I believe it is that then results in the firing of Kevin Towers and Kirk Gibson.
The good news for me was that after my run-in with Brooke and her “protective” friends, I met and married a delightful, beautiful, talented woman who thinks I am definitely the best in the league.
“Well, then, what the heck is she doing with you?” said everyone.
I know! Not a day goes by that I don’t think how grateful I am to have her in my life and, in a weird way, I’m grateful to Brooke and her friends for casting me back into free agency.
If things work out for Justin Upton the way things worked out for me, he’s going to win championships and MVP Awards and he’s going to be very, very grateful for Kevin Towers’ and Kirk Gibson’s foolishness.