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Luis Gonzalez says that Justin Upton didn’t provide leadership to the Diamondbacks

Jan 26, 2013, 2:10 PM EDT

Justin Upton AP AP

People affiliated with the Diamondbacks continue to throw Justin Upton under the bus and play the grit-grit-grit card. The latest: Luis Gonzalez, who spoke to Arizona Sports 620’s Doug & Wolf:

“What we’ve gained now, is a couple of blue collar guys that are going to play the D-back way. Which means they’ll go out there and play hard, give everything they’ve got … There were times when Justin was on, he was a superstar. But when he was off, he would get in his shell and would have those slumps and those streaks.”

Hey, at least he has those superstar moments.

In other news, many folks have said that maybe race has impacted the way in which the Dbacks have talked about Justin Upton recently. The argument: only white guys are ever described as “gritty” and often black stars are accused of dogging it if they play smoothly rather than with dirt in their teeth, etc.  I am aware of that general phenomenon, but I don’t really buy it here.

For one thing, the guy being called “gritty” in all of this is Latino.  For another, more important thing, I think that the use of racial code words to describe players is more of a jackass fan thing, and occasionally a media thing, rather than something real baseball professionals do these days, even if they used to do it a lot. I find it hard to believe, frankly, that a modern front office is trafficking in that noise and I tend not to buy such explanations unless and until there is a reason to do so, and here there is really no reason for it. They sent out Trevor Bauer for the same reasons they sent out Upton, and last I checked he wasn’t black.

What I think is really going on here is just some fetishization of hard-nosed play at the expense of actual talent, and one can make that mistake regardless of their racial attitudes.

That said, this passage from the article is the best typo/Freudian slip ever:

Gonzalez, having been part of the D-backs’ lone World Series team back in 2001, says that while Justin Upton is a great player, the organization had a desire to add more lunch pale-type assets in the offseason.

Not that actually saying “lunch pail” would turn that into some deep and meaningful point of analysis.


  1. Fink - Jan 26, 2013 at 2:20 PM

    Too bad spell check can’t detect incompetence. Fortunately, Freud has an app for that.

    • aarondommin - Jan 26, 2013 at 5:40 PM

      Justin Upton never progressed the way EVERYbody expected. The media is interpreting that as the Diamondback organization is calling him a lazy player when in fact its clear they just wasn’t happy with him as a human. He IS moody, he IS inconsistent, he DOES make excuses for his lack of production (oblique, 2010, thumb in 2012) and just because he has a ton of potential the Diamondbacks were supposed to (starting in 2013) pay 8 figures for a player not living up to his potential AND not helping lead the younger guys? If Upton had another down year the organization was screwed owing about 30 million to this guy for 2014 and 2015 even though he’s had 1 really good season in 2011?

      • jamaicanjasta - Jan 26, 2013 at 6:03 PM

        The problem outside observers have with the Diamondbacks (both the organization and some of their more vocal fans) is that instead of just trading Upton and wishing him well, they’ve been sniping him 24/7 since the trade. Coupled with the anger from some D-Back fans expressed about Upton blocking the Seattle deal (why should he go to a team on his no trade list to help Arizona when apparently the organization didn’t think highly of him) just sounds like sour grapes.

      • aarondommin - Jan 26, 2013 at 7:15 PM

        I dont hear sour grapes from Dbacks fans at all. Martin Prado has had a better WAR than Upton over the last 4 years combined plus last year alone. Throw in Delgado for depth in the rotation and the fans I talk to are happy. Sure the Seattle offer was better but by all accounts they were overpaying and it was worth a shot to negotiate with them in case Upton really did want out of Arizona then that was his chance. This Upton fiasco grew to be a distraction and as management has said he wasn’t a leader in the clubhouse so what are the Diamondbacks actually missing in 2013 without Upton that they had in 2012 with Upton? .280/.355/.430 with 107 runs. Cody Ross will replace 90% of that. If Upton fulfills his potential more power to him. In six years in the desert it didnt happen.

      • jamaicanjasta - Jan 26, 2013 at 7:32 PM

        Aaron, have you seen the Twitter and Facebook comments on this? Where some of the things DBacks fans have called him a ‘headcase’, ‘selfish’, ‘thief’ and ‘lazy’? Or even the comments on this topic mentioning how he’s ‘a punk without leadership skills’? Or frankly all of the comments coming from the team itself including using grit and blue collar as backhanded insults?

        Many teams have traded star players that they may have felt didn’t fit their idea for the future direction of their franchise, but outside of Dickey and the Mets, I can’t recall a team in recent memory going so far out of their way to insult a former player. For example, all of this mention of ‘leadership’ or lack thereof, why does that matter for a guy who DID do well in Arizona. He may not have been the generational player I’m sensing DBacks fans expected him to be, but it’s not like he was a bum either.

      • tomemos - Jan 26, 2013 at 10:47 PM

        Of course Prado has better WAR over the last four years, he’s 29. He’s exiting his peak while Upton is entering his–who do you think will have better numbers over the next four years?

      • aarondommin - Jan 26, 2013 at 11:06 PM

        Well I’m concerned with more educated fans than people spewing ignorant comments about race and stereotypes. Simple fact is upton has NOT improved each season. He has taken steps forward as well as backward these last few seasons. All the while his salaries go up to points where quite honestly he’s not worth 12-15 million a year. He may at some point in the future be but all the evidence up until now contradicts that. The “Sabermetric” community has contradicted themselves on this trade as most of the numbers comparing Prado and upton point to Prado being the more valuable asset yet these guys use upton’s age and potential to prove their points that the Braves won the deal.

      • klj58 - Jan 27, 2013 at 2:52 PM

        I agree with your statements about his inconsitency and as a DBack fan since day one have been hoping for him to break out and live up to the promise. I have no inside information to know how hard he worked or tried, just know that the results haven’t been there.

        As far as the article and Gonzo stating he lacked leadership. The only place I see that word is in Craigs headline. The way I read it Gonzo essentially said he wasn’t a good fit right now. In addition I am sure he provided this quote as an answer to a question that was asked of him by someone in the media. I don’t see how responding to a question is going out of the way to put down the former player.

      • tomemos - Jan 27, 2013 at 7:31 PM

        klj58’s comment says it all, though maybe not intentionally. People get really frustrated with phenoms being erratic in their first few years; the better they’re supposed to be eventually, the more frustrating it is when they’re not amazing now. If you’re not a Dwight Gooden right out of the gate, fans and managers grumble. People in Arizona got impatient waiting for Upton to develop into what he could be, whereas Prado is a known quantity (never mind that as he ages his numbers will rapidly decline). The smart money is on AZ and its fans regretting that impatience.

  2. Fink - Jan 26, 2013 at 2:21 PM

    ps keith law had this 1st on twitter

    • paperlions - Jan 26, 2013 at 4:10 PM

      I’m sure Law was just retweeting a Rick Reilly tweet.

  3. Old Gator - Jan 26, 2013 at 2:24 PM

    I wonder if the Snakes have any idea what a bunch of creeps and whiners they sound like for piling on Upton this way. They’re not quite down there with the Beanbag factotums yet, but every time they belch another swinish criticism of the guy, they make themselves sound like the next category down the scale of lowlives. Sad to see Gonzo joining in with the rest of the slugs.

    • Sign Ahead - Jan 26, 2013 at 2:44 PM

      The Snakes fans sure do. We were talking about this last night, after we saw Keith Law’s tweet, and it reflects horribly on every person involved, as well as the entire team. We would have been much happier if they had just wished him well and moved on.

  4. nogoodtomedead - Jan 26, 2013 at 2:26 PM

    This trade probably made the D-Backs better in the short term- meaning this year. But as a Giants fan I’m happy they were willing to dump a 25 year old potential super star because he is inconsistent and not a true leader yet. In a sport where guys can easily maintain superstar production until 35- I gotta say I think they are idiots down there in the desert. Was happy to see Bauer go too!

  5. sf69ers - Jan 26, 2013 at 2:29 PM

    The D-Backs failed to live up to the high expectations placed on them last year. I don’t feel race has anything to do with as the team was not happy with amount of time it took Drew to recover from injury and he was dealt midseason. Drew, Young, and Upton are out, in with grit? Grace won’t be the only one getting multiple DUI’s watching this D-Backs team this summer.

  6. historiophiliac - Jan 26, 2013 at 2:36 PM

    I don’t think anyone was trying to make the argument that only white players get called gritty or black players athletic, etc. Rather, that these are general trends — which suggests an unconscious bias (as opposed to overt, which is what I think Craig is arguing with here). It’s been my experience that people who use code words often aren’t even aware of them being such, even though their thinking is in line with the meaning of the code being used.

    • stex52 - Jan 26, 2013 at 3:36 PM

      Such as Justin Upton referring to the Braves’ new infield as “athletic”?

      • stex52 - Jan 26, 2013 at 3:48 PM

        Sorry, outfield. But he did.

      • historiophiliac - Jan 26, 2013 at 4:08 PM

        I’m not sure if you’re being snarky or agreeing w/ me there, stex. lol But, to be clear, I don’t think that only white people use code words (or men) — if that’s what you’re getting at. Honestly, I didn’t read about what Upton said to have an opinion on that.

      • stex52 - Jan 26, 2013 at 10:29 PM

        Basic snark. But nothing personal.

  7. randygnyc - Jan 26, 2013 at 2:38 PM

    Had this been the Red Sox and their nearly all white organization, I’d buy into the kkk racist angle. Other than them, I’m not buying it.

    • drewsylvania - Jan 26, 2013 at 11:34 PM

      We’re all buying the fact that your’e a ####, though.

  8. yahmule - Jan 26, 2013 at 2:47 PM

    Ultimately, the winner of this deal will likely be determined by the development of Delgado and the three young players. I think there were some fairly valid concerns about Upton and they probably got blown out of proportion a little bit. He will do well getting out of Arizona and away from the team superstar label. On the Braves, he’ll be one of several talented high profile players and he won’t be under the spotlight so much during his cold stretches.

    • paperlions - Jan 26, 2013 at 4:17 PM

      To me, that is the problem with the deal. The 3 other guys aren’t particularly good prospects with a low chance of being useful MLB players. Delgado has never been able to develop a breaking pitch; as scouts say, it is either in the wrist or it is not. With Delgado, it appears to not be there….leaving him as a FB/CH pitcher and neither is a plus plus pitch.

  9. butchhuskey - Jan 26, 2013 at 2:47 PM

    Juan Pierre is the exception to the “black players aren’t labeled gritty” rule.

    • paperlions - Jan 26, 2013 at 4:18 PM

      Tori Hunter says Pierre is an impostor.

      • Old Gator - Jan 26, 2013 at 5:08 PM

        Then Tori Hunter is not only a homophobic dumbshit but blind as a bat. I watched Pierre play for years at Jopeprodolsharklife Stadium and kept a eye on him as he has made himself continuously valuable to other teams. He’s as gritty as emory paper, works his ass off – teams have kept him around just for the example he sets – and is generally willing to do anything that’s asked of him to help his teams win.

        Every time Tori Hunter opens his mouth these days, he makes himself look like a bigger and bigger dope.

      • historiophiliac - Jan 26, 2013 at 5:15 PM

        Hey! 😦

  10. Jackson - Jan 26, 2013 at 2:57 PM

    Since 2009, Upton has hit .286 91 HRs, 77 SBs, .362 OBP and .485 slugging. The other players to do that are Braun, Carlos Gonzalez and Kemp. I’d rather have the guy with those numbers than a “gritty player”

    • paperlions - Jan 26, 2013 at 4:22 PM

      The only problem with that attempt to make that category seem exclusive is the inclusion of a relatively invaluable category. Remove stolen bases and adjust for park effects (as Upton has benefitted greatly from playing 90 games/year in CO/AZ, and there are a crapton of players that have had better offensive than Upton over that time period. Of course, most of those guys are also a LOT older than Upton, but he’s only been a good offensive player so far.

      • historiophiliac - Jan 26, 2013 at 4:51 PM

        Are you referring to the crapton of players or the ones he named, b/c I don’t think 2-4 years is much of an age difference.

  11. retief1954 - Jan 26, 2013 at 2:58 PM

    Wow, what’s with the DBacks? You’ve sent the guy packing… why try to publicly rub his nose in it by commenting on him after he’s gone? Why not just have class as an organization, and be silent about it, or talk up the quality of the players you got back? This stains their organization, and… you think Upton might take some additional motivation from this? Just a dumb move, any way you look at it.

  12. liddogg33 - Jan 26, 2013 at 3:21 PM

    My feelings are still hurt he blocked a trade to seattle!!! I’d take that talent minis gritt any day of the week!! However hearing this stuff makes me feel a little better considering he is a punk without leadership skills!!!

    • whmiv21 - Jan 26, 2013 at 4:26 PM

      When was Justin Upton ever a punk?

      And so what if ge doesn’t have have leadership skills? Not everyone does.

    • whmiv21 - Jan 26, 2013 at 4:26 PM

      When was Justin Upton ever a punk?

      And so what if he doesn’t have have leadership skills? Not everyone does.

  13. icanspeel - Jan 26, 2013 at 3:40 PM

    Truth is, if Upton has a nice year and Diamondbacks don’t then people won’t buy into any of the Diamondbacks excuses. They pretty much painted themselves into a corner with this whole thing.

  14. luz56 - Jan 26, 2013 at 3:51 PM

    Yes the DBacks continue is piss off their fan base of 4000 seasons ticket holders…

  15. stex52 - Jan 26, 2013 at 3:58 PM

    Pretty low class. Trade a guy and trash him. Did he ask for the trade. Just leave it to “We didn’t want to pay for him so we dumped him.’ He didn’t ask for the trade, did he?

    • historiophiliac - Jan 26, 2013 at 4:14 PM

      I don’t remember there being any of this from management when the Tigers traded Grandy. The Mets snipped at Dickey and now this with Upton…maybe it’s an NL thing. 😉

      • indaburg - Jan 26, 2013 at 8:19 PM

        I’d go along with you, but the Red Sox alone destroy the NL-thing theory.

      • historiophiliac - Jan 26, 2013 at 9:23 PM

        The BoSox ruin everything! Truthfully, they are really in a category by themselves.

  16. timpaz - Jan 26, 2013 at 4:16 PM

    They better hope this deal works , or their going to lose more fans, and this deal could prove to be Towers doom.

  17. felser - Jan 26, 2013 at 4:25 PM

    He’s 25 years old. Sure wish he’d come not provide leadership for my Phillies. He’d look great in right field, non-grit and all.

  18. djjackson81 - Jan 26, 2013 at 5:07 PM

    Anyone playing the race card and the comparison of gritt is way off. This was nothing more then the Dbacks made a mistake of labeling Upton as the leader of the franchise. Yes the Dbacks have repeatedly talked up there new players and rightfully so. They did exactly that with moving Upton they strengthen there hole organization with the additions of these prospects and the mix of Major league players with prospects. The AZ organization really likes Nick Ahmed as well to be in the majors sooner rather then later. Delgado is ready to compete for the fifth starter this year. Prado’s numbers speak for them selves and Atlanta fan really didn’t want to loose that. As a hole Arizona has lowered there strike out numbers by these additions while adding a nice 2hole hitter or even 5 hole hitter in Prado. Now AZ has two great lead off batts in Eaton and Prado. The NL west is a much stronger three team race then Washington,Atlanta, Phili. Arizona drafted and had J-Up for 5 years on the roster and they know him best not a leader and guy u put a franchises success on his back.

    • historiophiliac - Jan 26, 2013 at 5:46 PM

      Anyone who says “playing the race card” is, in fact, playing the race card.

  19. mdev1987 - Jan 26, 2013 at 5:14 PM

    Gonzo is right, steroids would have provided great leadership

  20. kinggw - Jan 26, 2013 at 5:48 PM

    The D’backs should just shut up. There is nothing they can say to make the deal plausible from their end. They did a nice job getting Prado, but the rationale behind dealing Upton stinks and is getting worse by the minute.

    Leadership? I didn’t know teams counted on 24 year olds to provide leadership when there are several veterans over 30 on the roster. If true, that speaks more to a problem with Gibson and Towers than Upton or any other D’backs.

    • aarondommin - Jan 26, 2013 at 7:20 PM

      The guy was a 5 year veteran with the richest contract on the team heading into the 2012 season. Asking him to be the leader comes with the territory.

      • jamaicanjasta - Jan 26, 2013 at 7:38 PM

        Asking and expecting are two different things and honestly leadership in large part comes down to personality. Maybe that’s not the role he felt comfortable in doing, and contract size/years wouldn’t change that. Instead of berating him for what he wasn’t maybe the focus should have been on what he was. Again, it’s not like he was a bum player.

  21. cur68 - Jan 26, 2013 at 6:47 PM

    Kid’s there to play baseball not lead a marching band. Given his line over the 6 seasons of his career he’s done that baseball playing at a high level. He’ll get better as he enters his middle and late 20’s, too. I’m pretty sick of hearing from the D-Backs on this topic. They sound like they think they might have made a mistake and are trying to think up reasons why they didn’t. They’d have done better if they’d shut their fool heads about J-Up.

    Meanwhile, he hasn’t said anything about any of this so far. I hope he continues to take the high road and let his bat do the talking.

  22. vallewho - Jan 26, 2013 at 10:56 PM

    Someone should ask Gonzo how he hit 57 HRs in 2001. True-grit, I guess.

  23. conjecture101 - Jan 26, 2013 at 11:33 PM

    Tell em about the “D-Back Way” Luis! Tell em about the syringes in those lunch pails.

  24. imthedudedude - Jan 27, 2013 at 12:07 AM

    Shut up Gonzo, ROID MONKEY!

  25. imthedudedude - Jan 27, 2013 at 12:12 AM

    Well u gotta provide the juice! Help him out like we all know you can gonzo, damn ROID MONKEY! Shut up

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