The Diamondbacks want a certain type of player — single-minded, outwardly intense, fierce. Cody Ross is that kind of player. Martin Prado is that kind of player. Upton is not, at least not in the estimation of Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers and manager Kirk Gibson.
"The problem is that he didn’t play with a high level of energy," said one of Upton’s former teammates who spoke on the condition that he would not be identified. "What I think they want is guys who play with the speed, energy and intensity of the Oregon football team — all out, all the time.
"Justin doesn’t have that kind of attitude; he has a quiet intensity that doesn’t fit the mold of what KT and Gibby seem to want. He plays hard but has to look suave doing it. Slamming into walls isn’t his thing, and they will accept nothing short of all-out sacrifice for the team."
Rosenthal smartly makes a hash of all this, which seems pretty ridiculous especially when you recall that the Diamondbacks enjoyed a surprisingly fine season in 2011 with a healthy Justin Upton in right field. Oh, and by the way he finished fourth in Most Valuable Player balloting that year.
It seems that Kirk Gibson wants players slamming into walls because he slammed into walls; never mind that Gibson, a tremendously talented player, played in more than 120 games only six times. I'm reminded of something Bill James wrote about Amos Otis, who was known in Kansas City as an excellent player who didn't hustle like some of his hustling teammates:
He could not stand to do anything for show. He could not charge into walls (and risk his continued existence as a ballplayer) after balls that he could not catch. He could not rouse the fans (and risk his continued existence as a base runner) with a stirring dive for a base too far. He never in his career stood at home plate and watched a ball clear the fence. McRae and Brett, they did that sort of thing; Otis would sometimes turn away interview requests with a sardonic comment, "Talk to Brett and McRae. They're the team leaders.
Beginning in 1970, Otis played in more than 130 games for 10 years running. Beginning in 1976, the Royals won four division titles in five years.
There's room for guys who crash around the field like maniacs. George Brett and Hal McRae were great, and leaders in their way. But you don't need a whole roster of 'em, and in fact you're probably better off with a bunch of guys like Justin Upton.