Despite having a winning record, the Atlanta Braves are certainly difficult to watch sometimes. They are up one week and then down the next. They’ll make you think they could actually win a World Series against one team and then play the next three games like they might not finish above .500.
And there is one player who seems to be the symbol of the team’s inconsistency. He’s frustrating beyond belief, to the point that you might not even want to watch him when he comes to the plate.
That player is B.J. Upton.
Now that Dan Uggla is thankfully out of the way, Upton is the player who will make you scream while watching the Braves. He has been a failure in his one-plus season in Atlanta, and you can make a case that he is the worst free agent signing in franchise history.
Yeah, Upton might be worse than Bruce Sutter, worse than Derek Lowe and even worse than Kenshin Kawakami.
Somehow, someway Upton has forgotten how to hit. Not that he was Ted Williams with Tampa Bay, but he did hit .255 with the Rays in eight seasons. With the Braves, Upton has hit only .192 since he joined the team last year. He hit an embarrassing .184 last season and has managed only a .206 average so far this year.
How can someone lose 63 points off a career batting average? Well, we have seen this before, haven’t we? Uggla hit .263 in his five years with the Marlins, but in his four-plus seasons with Atlanta he has hit only .210. The fact that he can’t even hit above .200 anymore has him languishing on the bench with a year-and-a-half left to go on his expensive contract.
The Braves wish they were so lucky with Upton, who has three-and-a-half years left on his expensive deal. So how much do you make a year? Well, Upton makes $83,024.69 per game. That’s per game -- not per week or per month -- but per game. He makes a lot of money to be horrible. Let’s not break that down into how much it is per inning. It might make us sick.
Oh, and Uggla? He makes $80,246.91 per game. Let’s hope he can pay his mortgage and that his cable bill is never late.
Upton’s offense is bad enough, but recently his defense has been horrible. Friday night he dropped a ball he tried to make a basket catch on in center field. Earlier last week, Upton lollygagged on getting to a ball in short center to the point that even the television announcers called him out for his lack of effort.
A few weeks ago, we saw Upton make a huge defensive mistake in the eighth inning of a game in Boston. It led to a loss. We thought he was this great defensive player, and instead he’s as ordinary as a player can get.
The logic for general manager Frank Wren signing Upton was not wrong. Upton was a 28-year-old athletic player who had success in his first big league stop. He had hit .300 one year. He had hit 28 home runs one year. He had stolen 30 or more bases in five straight seasons.
But no one could have predicted this. That’s no defense for Wren, who gave a lot of money to a player who had been inconsistent throughout his career. It would be one thing if Upton could simply be labeled as disappointing, but so far he has been an utter disaster.
And unfortunately, the Braves are struck with him. Upton has more than $53 million left on the contract. No team is going to take a chance on him, just like no one has wanted Uggla so far. All the Braves can do is hope that somehow, someway Upton will get on track. But at some point Upton has to give us some hint that’s even possible. More dropped balls in center and more pathetic swings at the plate simply will remind us how the Braves made a huge mistake bringing him to Atlanta.
Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at www.foxsports1670.com/. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.