Brothers Justin Upton and B.J. Upton both hit career homer No. 100 on Friday night, just about an hour apart and in different leagues.
Justin Upton connected for Arizona Diamondbacks in the second inning at Philadelphia off Phillies Kyle Kendrick. Then it was his older brother’s turn. B.J. Upton went deep in the fourth inning for Tampa Bay Rays against Baltimore’s Orioles Tommy Hunter.
“It was cool. I’m happy for him,” Justin Upton said after Arizona’s 4-2 win. “It’s a big night for the family.”
B.J. Upton joins Rickey Henderson, Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonds, Cesar Cedeno, Lloyd Moseby, Eric Davis and Hanley Ramirez as the only players to amass 100 homers and 200 steals before age 28. Upton turns 28 on Aug. 21.
“I was just texting him,” B.J. Upton said after the Rays beat Baltimore 2-0. “He said he got his before mine, but it’s all good. It was cool to do that on the same day.”
The Upton brothers also both hit their 99th homer in games on July 20.
“It was mentioned after the last game,” Justin Upton said. “I definitely wanted to beat him to it.”
The defending National League West champion Arizona Diamondbacks are off to a rough start this year. They currently sit four games under .500 with a 26-30 record. With the Diamondbacks nine games out of the division lead frustrations in the desert are mounting.
Arizona managing general partner Ken Kendrick went on a rant in which he took on shortstop Stephen Drew and right fielder Justin Upton in an interview on Prostopreps.com.
He questioned Drew’s commitment to returning to the field this season and calling Upton an “enigma.”
Drew is scheduled to begin a rehab assignment for Class AAA Reno on Thursday after suffering ankle and ligament damage last July 20.”I think Stephen should have been out there playing by now. I for one am disappointed,” Kendrick said.
“I’m going to be real candid and say Stephen and his representatives are more focused on where he is going to be a year from now than going ahead and supporting the team that is paying his salary. All you can do is hope that the player is treating the situation with integrity. We have our concerns.”
The Diamondbacks are paying Drew $7.75 million this season and the sides have a mutual $10 million option with a $1.35 million buyout for 2013, and it doesn’t sound as if Kendrick would be willing to pick up the option.
Drew’s agent Scott Boras said Kendrick’s suggestion that Drew was focused on free agency “makes no sense.”
Upton finished fourth in the NL MVP voting last season is now hitting .243 with five home runs and 20 RBIs this season.
“I think Justin is an enigma at this point,” Kendrick said on Prostopreps.com. “I know he had an injury. It was something of a nagging injury, but he’s played.
“He’s certainly not the Justin Upton he has been in the past, and we would expect of him. He’s 24 years old. It’s time for him to be a consistent performer, and he’s not been that.”
What’s lies ahead in the 2012 Major League Baseball season, well no one knows for sure but Opening Day is upon us and it’s time to roll out a few predictions. If you happened to listen to our live show this past week then you already heard six segments of in depth breakdown in each division of each league but here is a cheat sheet to those predictions.
Should be an interesting year with another added Wild Card team to the postseason mix and one can only hope this season has a magical finish like last year. Enjoy opening day, enjoy the season. I know I will.
American League East winner: New York Yankees
American League Central winner: Detroit Tigers
American League West winner: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
American League Wild-Card winner: Tampa Bay Rays
American League Wild-Card winner: Kansas City Royals
American League Pennant winner: Tampa Bay Rays
National League East winner: Washington Nationals
National League Central winner: Cincinnati Reds
National League West winner: Los Angeles Dodgers
National League Wild-Card winner: Miami Marlins
National League Wild-Card winner: San Francisco Giants
National League Pennant winner: Los Angeles Dodgers
American League Rookie of the Year: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
National League Rookie of the Year: Drew Pomeranz, Colorado Rockies
American League Manger of the Year: Buck Showalter, Baltimore Orioles
National League Manager of the Year: Davey Johnson, Washington Nationals
American League MVP: Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
National League MVP: Justin Upton, Arizona Diamondbacks
American League Cy Young Award: James Shields, Tampa Bay Rays
National League Cy Young Award: Cole Hamels, Philadelphia Phillies
Minnesota Twins second baseman Orlando Hudson hints at that that some African-American Major League Baseball players are getting the blackballed treatment not for declining skills but because of their skin color.
“You see guys like Jermaine Dye without a job. Guy with [27 home runs and 81 RBIs] and can’t get a job. Pretty much sums it up right there, no? You’ve got some guys who miss a year who can come back and get $5, $6 million, and a guy like Jermaine Dye can’t get a job. A guy like Gary Sheffield, a first-ballot Hall of Famer, can’t get a job. We both know what it is. You’ll get it right. You’ll figure it out. I’m not gonna say it because then I’ll be in [trouble].”
Between the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities program and Urban Youth Academies, baseball has tried to resolve that gap between the sport and African-Americans. Compared to football and the stranglehold of basketball, baseball finishes a distant third. While the tremendous influx of upcoming African-American talent in the major leagues in recent years from Philadelphia Phillies Ryan Howard, Tampa Bay Rays Carl Crawford to Arizona Diamondbacks Justin Upton and Atlanta Braves Jason Heyward is a positive sign, it doesn’t eliminate the feeling that others have been mistreated.
While some will accuse Hudson of race baiting and paranoia, the reality is quite the opposite, he is taking public a concern that promotes discussion and forces MLB to be honest with itself.
However I don’t think it’s as clean or easy to explain Dye’s unemployment as a racist thing as it is to explain the context of financial realities in baseball. Has racism been a problem in baseball’s history? Of course it has, it’s been a problem throughout American history. It still exists today but figure into the equation that the market for aging sluggers with little defensive value is minimal and with the the free-agent market in the last 5 years shifted drastically away from older players at high cost.
Consider the former World Series MVP’s phone did ring in the offseason with Dye and his agent, Bob Bry, turning down offers from the Chicago Cubs, Milwaukee Brewers, Texas Rangers, and last week rejected an offer from the Washington Nationals.
In comparison aging outfielders with similar skill like Milwaukee Brewers Jim Edmonds and Seattle Mariners Mike Sweeney have jobs but it also has to do with they were willing to take $650K and Dye is not.
MLB.com lists 25 unsigned free agents. Of those 25, two are African-Americans, Dye and Sheffield. Dye is still sitting at home for similar the reason that Jarrod Washburn is and that’s unrealistic salary demands.
It’s just 3 days away from Opening Day and its time for a final bonus edition concerning the outfield position for those still to have their fantasy baseball draft this weekend. As stated in part one and deux of the outfield rankings this is where you will find players who will gather the most points for you through out the season in five categories. Those categories being hitting for average/home runs/RBI’s/scoring runs and stealing bases. Guys like Boston Red Sox Jacoby Ellsbury, Arizona Diamondbacks Justin Upton and Seattle Mariners Ichiro Suzuki are the best at this and will be sure to be taken early so lets go deeper.
Breakout Player: Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles
- Jones was a first time All-Star last year and on the brink of MLB stardom when injuries cut short his season. It wasn’t just injuries that put a damper on his second half as pitchers began to figure him out and he hit .237 with 7 home runs and 26 RBI’s. This came after a first half in which he hit .305, 12 home runs, 44 RBI’s and scored 50 runs. He spent a huge chunk of the off season with Orioles hitting coach in better preparing himself to take more walks so he doesn’t become an easy strikeout victim which prolongs hitting slumps.
Sleeper Pick: Garrett Jones, Pittsburgh Pirates
- I toss and turned over on where to put Jones here in the sleeper or the risky spot. In the end I have to trust my gut and believe last year wasn’t a fluke for him. He reminds me of Los Angeles Dodgers Casey Blake who developed into an everyday player at the big leagues late in his career. Jones was a 10 year minor league journeyman before getting his first lengthy legitimate shot with the Pirates. Pittsburgh gave him the opportunity in midseason and he capitalized on it by hitting .310 with 10 home runs in July and finished with more home runs than any other rookie in the major. The longer I allowed myself to second guess myself the worse it got for Jones. Ultimately I had to come back to what my eyes saw last year and it just wasn’t the home runs, it was the confidence he showed at the plate. He belonged and and I believe he will show it again this year too.
Risky Player: Chris Young, Arizona Diamondbacks
- Young had yet another roller coaster season last year, hitting .196 with 6 home runs through the All-Star break. Then in September he hit .278 with 8 home runs and 14 RBI’s. He has a combination of speed and power that give him an attractive allure but he never seems to put it all together at the same time for a long period. Until Young makes more consistent contact I see another year like last, some highs more lows.
Slipping Player: Vernon Wells, Toronto Blue Jays
- Wells had wrist surgery in November to help with pain from a 2008 injury. It’s believed that the lingering pain caused for his power numbers to suffer like they did last season. With his power numbers down again, Wells did impress me by stealing 17 bases last year. It gave him some added value but on the other side what took away from that value was him falling back to hitting .260. I thought he had pulled himself out of the depths that he reached in 2007 when he hit a miserable .240 and only 16 home runs. At the end of 2010 I don’t see him crossing the plate more than 80 times, 16 home runs and back to normal on the bases with 11 steals and another .260 season.
Be sure to come back for a preview of starting pitcher position.