Diamondbacks not quite living up to expectations

BY BRANDON J. SMITH, Couchsideshow.com blogger

Arizona Diamondbacks shortstop Stephen Drew has been on the disabled list for the entire 2012 season so far and team management isn’t happy about it. Photo by: Paul Martinez / Flickr

What the hell is going on with this team?

Such is the thought that popped into my head when I read these quotes by Dbacks Managing General Partner Ken Kendrick concerning Stephen Drew and Justin Upton.

“I’m going to be real direct about Stephen,” Kendrick said on XTRA Sports 910 AM. “I think Stephen should have been out there playing before now, frankly. I, for one, am disappointed. I’m going to be real candid and say Stephen and his representatives are more focused on where Stephen is going to be a year from now than going out and supporting the team that’s paying his salary.”

The comments were impromptu and unwarranted by someone who immediately soured his arrival in 2005 by signing Russ Ortiz to a 4-year deal (old grudges never go away), and now he’s publicly blasting players, as well as burning bridges with agent, and in many respects, business partner Scott Boras. He has reason to be unhappy about what has happened thus far this season, but he turned into the average fan, instead of being a representative of the organization. 

It’s not what this Dbacks expected going into the season. A division champion playing sluggish to the tune of a 26-30 record, and being 9 games out of first place is hardly the predicted result of a group with talent all over the board, and roughly the same roster from last year.

Jonah Keri of Grantland beat me to the punch with this, but I’m going to take this analysis in a different direction: The pressure of expectations can be a bitch.

Justin Upton was thrown into the fire at age 19, with only one and a half seasons of experience in the low minors before getting the call up from Double A during the improbable ’07 run. His consistency as a hitter has been up and down, his ’09 and ’11 seasons have been incredible, but his ’08 and ’10 seasons by comparison, have been disappointments. It appears he’s keeping up this trend by having an even worse start than before (5 home runs and .704 OPS).

Prone to fits of anger on occasion if he makes the slightest mistake and isn’t unfamiliar with boos at Chase Field. Upton is probably not the easiest player to coach due to his intensity and desire to 1. The expectations of being a young superstar, and 2. Growing up and maturing in a man’s game, because at 24, most of his peers are getting out of college and into the work force, but he’s been in that world since day one.

As a result of his ongoing struggles (one factor being a thumb injury that may or may not be fully healed), Upton was benched last night for the second time in four games. Being the fiery competitor that he is, he was none too pleased about the decision, but accepted it without throwing his team under the bus.

“Pretty unproductive,” he called yesterday, but we’ve all had those days.

“He’s a little bit lost in who he really is,” said Dbacks manager Kirk Gibson.

You could read further into the quote and surmise that just not him, but many players are lost in who they are, where they are, and where they want to be. Natural performance regression happens everywhere, all the time and it’s about adjusting and finding that medium. Whatever that level is, AZ doesn’t currently have it, and haven’t shown it since the opening weekend sweep against the Giants.

“I had pretty high expectations going into the season,” Kendrick said. “They certainly haven’t played up to my expectations. I’m frustrated about it. Frankly, I’m in this to see my team to succeed.”

We understand, Mr. Kendrick, we understand.

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