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Justin Upton: Still hard to figure out

It’s been eight years since the Arizona Diamondbacks drafted Justin Upton; he spent six seasons in a D-backs uniform, was traded four months ago and will play against his former team for the first time Monday night.

And I still haven’t figured him out.

When Upton steps onto that field Monday, is he the hero or the villain?

I was hoping by now for clarity regarding one of the most enigmatic athletes to ever play in Arizona, but as I sit to write this, I realize I have more questions about Upton than I ever did when he was here.


Why were the Diamondbacks so intent on trading him? Or, more to the point, why did they actively put themselves in a position where they had no choice but to trade him?

Will he ever reach this much talked about ceiling or is this who he is? And by “this” I mean a wildly talented player who routinely fluctuates between greatness and just so-so-ness. Some like to point out that he’s only 25. I like to counter that he has amassed nearly 2,800 at bats in his major league career.

I don’t want to see him fail but I sure as hell don’t want to see him kill it either. Why is that?

More than anything though — this was something Nick Piecoro touched upon in his Upton story this weekend — how different would this all have turned out if Upton had gone on the DL for his thumb injury a year ago? If he sits and heals and has a second half as dominant as his 2011 season, I can’t imagine the Diamondbacks would have moved him. And why didn’t he go on the DL? He said he wanted to play through it. Fine. Wasn’t it then incumbent on the D-backs to be the grown-ups here and make him get healthy? Guys play through injuries all the time, I get it, but if he can’t even grip a bat properly, it sure seems counter-productive to run him out there every day.

The answers aren’t likely to come over these next three games. If Upton has a great series but the D-backs win two of three, who won? Who lost?

You see…more questions.