Justin Upton’s selection to the 2011 National League All-Star team shows what happens when a team acquires a young player with unlimited potential and ability. Guys with five tools don’t come around very often, and it’s great when a team can land a guy with that kind of ability.
It’s even greater when the team shows patience with the aforementioned player, going through the ups and downs that riddle the path to stardom.
It wasn’t long ago that a 21-year-old Upton made his first All-Star team, looking every bit the promising player the D-backs thought they had. Showing power, speed and a big-time arm in right field, Upton was destined to be a star.
Then 2010 happened.
Upton – along with the rest of the team – struggled, and his name was one that reached the trade block in the off-season. The Diamondbacks, with all the hype and fanfare given to the prodigy (Upton, really?), considered moving the former number one pick. While he was not playing at the level everyone hoped he would, Upton had already shown great promise and potential. That didn’t matter, though, as many thought if he hadn’t gotten it by now he never would. Might as well admit he’s not what they thought he’d be and trade him now while he still has some value.
It’s a good thing Kevin Towers did not pull the trigger on a deal, as the team is again reaping the rewards of sticking with their guy. An All-Star for a second time, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone willing to move Upton for more than a handful of current Major League players.
This exercise in patience, whether by choice or necessity, has proven to be a good thing for the Diamondbacks. Here’s hoping the Cardinals follow suit.
With rumors of them being ready to part ways with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie gaining steam, chatter of them moving on from Beanie Wells getting louder and what seems like a rush to declare John Skelton as nothing more than a career backup, the team appears ready to give up on talent when they should be nurturing it along.
This isn’t to say the players need to be babied or anything of the like. If DRC avoids making a tackle he should be reamed for it. If Beanie coughs up the football he should be reminded, again, how unacceptable that is, and if Skelton looks like a 5th round pick he certainly should not be leading the Cardinals on Sundays.
But DRC, who has been to a Pro-Bowl, has shown enough promise to make it worth sticking with him. Wells, as a rookie, showed a strong downhill running game and looked every bit the feature back. And Skelton, with nothing expected of him, led the team to a couple of wins and flashed remarkable poise along with his size and big arm.
However, young players having issues is nothing new, and it would behoove the Cardinals to, while not tolerate the mistakes, understand that it is an unfortunate part of having young players. You deal with it because, well, they’re very talented and you’d like to see their success come while wearing your team’s colors, not someone else’s.
So, while the Cardinals go about filling holes (whenever that may be), here’s hoping they realize moving DRC for Kolb would fill one void while creating another, sending Beanie packing now could be reminiscent of the team dumping Thomas Jones before he became a legitimate NFL running back and, in all honesty, giving up on Skelton so soon could be like, well, there is no Cardinals comparison but you get the point.
If a team — in any sport — is unwilling (or unable) to spend big bucks in free agency the only way to get superior talent is to draft it. Save for the NBA, most young players need a little seasoning before anyone can reasonably pass judgment on how good they will ultimately be.
And, as the Diamondbacks and Justin Upton have shown, a little patience can go a long way.