Stupidity Revisited: Devil Rays Edition
The BJ Upton situation has been something that has outlined everything that is wrong with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. While most people saw the need to move Upton from shortstop, the Devil Rays were reluctant and continued to let him make 199 errors in five years. Ladies and gentleman, that is not a mechanical defect. It's a complete and utter malfunction. In high school, I'm guessing the majority of the guys in the bigs could have played shortstop with aplomb. I'd venture to guess that most of these guys were in fact shortstops growing up since they were probably the best players on their teams. However, when you get to high school to a lesser extent, college, and the pros, they typically find the best fit for you. There are plenty of minor league short stops who aren't good enough to hack it in the pros much less all of the high school shortstops that get drafted.
When Justin Upton was drafted, there was no question he would have to make the move to centerfield and it was not just because of Stephen Drew. While the Devil Rays could not have been more smacked in the face with the reality that BJ was simply not a shortstop, they failed to act on it partially because they had Baldelli, Crawford, Young, Dukes, and Gomes already clogging up their outfield. Always gun shy to make a trade, the Devil Rays stood their ground and kept running Upton out there year after year and wasting his development time. Now they have no where to play him while he should have been a full time starter in the bigs as early as 2005. What has changed? Not much. Now they plan to mind bogglingly use him as a utility guy to see where he fits best. In my estimation, they should stop screwing around, pick rightfield or centerfield for him and let him go get regular work there.
While it seems easy to everyone else, this has been a difficult situation for the Devil Rays. With the glut of outfielders and Upton profiling well as a centerfielder, Baldelli should have been shopped around more for a top tier pitcher opening up centerfield for Upton. Though centerfield is a position he should have logged hundreds of games in the minors already, he has not and could have reported early to camp to work on becoming a centerfielder. With a team that would be lucky to finish fourth at this point, he should be allowed to learn on the job as he gets comfortable with his new permanent home. If the Devil Rays do not feel comfortable with that, they should deal him. Instead, he is still logging games in the infield for some bizarre reason and not focusing on the things he should. A prospect of his ilk should not be playing the role of utility guy. Yes, Albert Pujols did it, but with Mark McGwire blocking his way there was little choice and there was little doubt where he would eventually end up.
"I still believe I can play it," Upton said, "and play it well."
But he also knows he has committed 199 errors in four professional seasons -- most of them at short. And he knows there's "no excuse" for that. So he understands why this team is now asking him to do everything but rake the mound and announce the lineups.
Five years from now, if this was B.J. Upton's call, he would like to find himself either back at shortstop or playing center field -- because he feels most comfortable "in the middle of the field," he says.
The Devil Rays dropped the ball here and continue to operate without a clue. Upton should be a star in this league at some point, but he should have been a star already. Due to stubbornness and indecisiveness, he is languishing as a player who has no idea where he is going. What really confounds me is that he still talks about moving back to short in the future and that about says it all in regards to this mess.
After striking out nine Red Sox batters -- including stars Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz twice apiece -- in five innings on Thursday night, Perez said his slider had returned. It was the slider that produced many of the 239 strikeouts.
"The best slider I've had since 2004," Perez called it.
Coop's biggest crush, Oliver Perez, was straight dealing yesterday against some pretty good hitters. Five innings of three hit ball? Swellicious. Nine strikeouts? Fucking swellicious.
Really, with Oliver Perez, Mike Pelfrey, and John Maine looking as good as they have, the Mets might shock a lot of people. The potential to be one of the top five rotations in the NL is there. Does a lot have to go right? Yes, but if these three guys are for real, look out.
A high-ranking official of an American League team told me this winter he doesn't think Pedro Martinez will win 10 more games the rest of his career.
Yeah, that's 10.
As in: Not even as many as Mark (Unemployed 'Til Last Week) Redman won last year.
So, to review, that's "not 10" (to paraphrase the great Jim Boeheim).
And why, you ask, would anybody think that? Not because this official, or anyone else, doesn't think Pedro is special. Certainly not because he doesn't think Pedro can win unless he's scorching it up there at 94 miles an hour.
Nope. It's just because he's reasonably familiar with Martinez's medical history, and he doesn't see a whole lot of bullets left in the shoulder of a small guy who just had his rotator cuff sewn back together five months ago.
Shoulders, you see, are different than elbows. If you're looking for a quick rule of thumb in evaluating the futures of pitchers and those arms that make them what they are, it would be this:
Elbows are usually fixable.
Shoulders -- uh, not so much
Scary thought, but I do not think he is the linchpin to the season. I agree that whatever he gives is gravy, but we all might want to get into the mindset that he will not be back. Penciling him for anything in 2007 might be a stretch. However, we've said it before and it bears repeating, his contract is worth every penny if he never pitches for the Mets again.
Labels: Devil Rays