30 September 2009

No Visible Means of Support

Clinching last place in the NL West would normally warrant the headline, but a curious incident in today's third inning at China Basin supercedes everything else.

With one out in the third inning, and runners on first and third, Justin Upton got drilled on the lower forearm, just above the wrist, by a Brad Penny 94 MPH fastball. Home plate umpire Brian Knight motioned Upton to take his base, as the Giant battery appealed the check swing.

First base ump Wendelstedt ruled Upton went around and called the pitch a strike. Check swings are notoriously nebulous, especially from a head on, or center field camera. Often, what doesnt look like much of a cut, when reviewed from the appropriate side angle, is revealed to be an extended arc through the strike zone.

This wasnt one of those times.

The side reply confirmed Upton barely got the bat off his shoulder and the lumber never got near the strike zone, let alone passed through it. It was just a pathetic call, probably the second worst of the year, after Jerry Crawford's brain fart against Washington, where our runner was safe by ten feet.

Upton disagreed but his lack of animation can be attributed to either composure beyond his years or the fact he was in a state of shock. Hinch came out briefly, not to argue but to get up to speed apparently, and promptly walked back. That's it. No discussion with Wendelstedt. Nothing.

Maybe AJ didnt see it. Maybe he was distracted on the play. I can understand that and want to give him the benefit of the doubt.

But here's what I dont get. Upton's a right handed batter. The visitor's dugout in San Francisco is on the first base side. Due to the lack of tradional bullpens at this venue, plus September callups, there were at least 30 players and coaches in the Diamondbacks dugout when this happened. Presumably most of them, aside from Chris Young, enjoy adequate eyesight and had an unobstructed view of Upton's non-swing.

Were they not watching the game either? Do they not care enough to relay this information to Hinch? Did they try to, but it didnt get through for some reason? I'm just dumbfounded by Hinch's non reaction to Wendelstedt's boner. First, it may've taken the Dbacks out of a big inning. Second, and more importantly at this stage of the season, your 22 year old superstar just got metaphorically chopped and screwed, and it appears nobody had this kid's back when he clearly deserved it.

When the scoreless inning turned over, Upton approached Wendelstedt on Justin's way to right field. The All Star looked more disappointed and hurt than angry. As the crusty umpire alibied, the youngster could barely meet Wendelstedt's gaze, like an honorable son who cant look an alcoholic father in the eye.

It's been a tough season. There's been plenty to be embarrassed about. But watching Upton twice fight this obvious battle alone, then visibly simmer from his post in right field, I'm not sure I've ever been as embarrassed to be a Diamondback fan.


Russell said...

Great post. A couple of weeks ago AJ said that a good run in the last couple of weeks of the sesaon would set the team up for next year, but since then they've been coasting. There was an argument to be made that that the players got too comfortable with Melvin at the helm, but at least they respected him and seemed to be focused. With AJ they also seem comfortable but he doesn't seem to have earned their respect.
Mental toughness in a team isn't something that can be switched on when neeeded it has to be there all the time and, on the evidence of this season, they're never going to get that from AJ

Diamondhacks said...

As you know, I've generally been more critical of Hinch's appointment than with Hinch.

But a couple things recently lowered my view of The Effete One. This bizarre handling of Upton. Then what I felt were coy and irresponsible comments in the paper, distancing himself from the season's failure.

Russell said...

"I've done all I can,now it's up to the players." Was probably a legitimate position to take in Hinch's previous role. For a manager it's a recipe for disaster.