The Arizona Diamondbacks found themselves in a dangerous position.  They had been picked by many (including yours truly) to finish on top of the NL West division this season, and to at least make the playoffs by most baseball fans.

Yet here they were at the mid-point of the season, sitting several games under .500 and in danger of falling double-digit games back from both of their hated rivals, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants.  They had just been swept at home by the lowly San Diego Padres (the first time in team history) and then lost the first game in their four game series with LA, placing them seven games back.

From a management’s perspective, this must have looked pretty bleak.  Granted, there were several legitimate reasons that the D-Backs were in this position.  Injuries have plagued them, including two of their top three starting pitchers (Saunders is just now returning after a short stint on the DL, while Hudson is gone for 12-18 months).  Add the fact that their other top three starting pitcher (Kennedy) was, shall we say, underperforming.

Their star center fielder (Young) started the season on fire, only to hit the DL for about a month.  Since coming back, he is but an empty shell of the hitter that he was in April-May.

Some of last year’s stars struggled out of the gate this season, both in hitting (Upton, Roberts, Montero) and pitching (Kennedy, Collmenter, Putz).  Add to that picture the lack of consistency and the inability to simply put it all together at the same time, and a sub-.500 team is what you end up with.

So what did management need to do?  Some believed that they should throw in the towel on the season (and the near future of the team) and trade some of their underachieving stars away before the trading deadline hits on 7/31/12.

I have to laugh when I hear these ‘experts’ make these ridiculous statements.  The basis of their opinion is so flawed that it’s barely worth arguing about.  One of these guys actually made the statement (into the microphone for the whole world to hear), that if the D-Backs were to be more than five games out of first place at the All-Star break, they were no longer a contender to win the division.

Really?  At the All-Star break, they had played 85 games.  That means they only had 77 games left to make up those five losses.  He’s right…we should start the fire sale immediately!

Apparently the D-Backs’ management saw a golden opportunity to do something drastic.  They had to figure out a way to light a fire under some of their underachievers.  What better way to do this than to ‘leak to the press’ that no one is safe and they were willing to ‘listen to all offers’ for anyone on the team, including Justin Upton.  The experts had already let it be known that they believed this move was in order, so it was a good bet that they would help spread the word.

Did they ever!  They were tripping over themselves and each other to be the first to ‘break the story’ that Upton was on the trading block.  If you were to believe the non-stop barrage of tweets (remember the good old days when you had to wait for the next edition of the newspaper to come out before you heard the stories, thus giving the experts a chance to make sure they knew what they were talking about?), Upton was a goner.  It was just a matter of which team would grab him.

For the past two weeks, we have heard that he was going to Atlanta, Pittsburgh, New York, Texas, Detroit and Anaheim.  I’m sure we’ll hear that he’s going to each of the other 25 teams over the next 18 days.

This morning’s sports section had a cover story by my good buddy (he said with tongue firmly wedged in cheek) Dan Bickley lobbying his heart out to get rid of Upton right away, as long as they get two starters in return.  And one of them must be a shortstop to replace Stephen Drew (oh didn’t you hear – apparently he needs to go, too).

Okay, everyone is entitled to their opinion.  And these guys are experts, after all, so we really shouldn’t be questioning their, uh-hum, logic when it comes to these matters.

It just seems to me that one thing is being overlooked.  After Upton struggled in the Padres series, ownership announced that they would listen to all offers for Upton.  This came on the heels of Upton‘s declaration that he isn’t concerned with what the fans think (after being booed at home).

The first thing that came to my mind when this statement was made was the shower scene in Bull Durham.  Okay, let me re-phrase that.

When the team was on a losing streak, the coach told Crash Davis (Kevin Costner) that he didn’t know what to do to motivate the players.  Crash, very casually, said “scare ‘em”.  He reminded the coach that these were kids, and if he put a little fear in them, they would take things more seriously.

The next thing you know, the coach comes into the locker room shower with an arm full of bats and lets them fly, and then proceeds to scream at the players about ‘lolly-gagging’.

Okay, so that was a movie.  Just because Upton is a 24 year old, doesn’t mean that something like that would work for him…..does it?

Over the next four games, in which the Diamondbacks won three out of four from the Dodgers to pull within four games of the division lead, Upton went 7 for 15 with a walk, five runs scored, three RBIs, two doubles , two triples and a .500 on base percentage.

Hmmmm.  Maybe we should put those trade talks on the back burner.

Or maybe, Diamondbacks ownership knew exactly what they were doing when they ‘leaked’ the trade talks to the experts in the press.  They were carrying out a well-executed plan perfectly.



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