Few things separate successful baseball clubs from unsuccessful ones. Money is a big one. Good scouting helps. A knowledgeable front office is key. A tremendous amount of work goes into building a team, and all the players are asked to do is perform to the best of their abilities.
Monday night, in the bottom of the eighth, score tied one apiece, Justin Upton hit a routine ground ball to second and jogged his way towards first base. Marlins’ second basemen Jordany Valdespin booted the ball but kept it in front of him, easily throwing out Upton by a couple steps. Clearly Justin is not the fastest baserunner, and he still may have been out if he were running at max effort, but we can’t know for sure. At the very least he could have put pressure on Valdespin and forced a hurried throw. Atlanta’s offense has been struggling since the end of the nine-game winning streak. We need every hit and all the baserunners we can get, especially late in tie games. I’m sure Justin knows this, that this incident was simply the result of frustration on his part, but that’s not a good excuse. Justin can’t slack off every time he doesn’t hit the ball out of the park.
Fredi was upset by Justin’s lack of hustle and stated his plans to address the issue with his outfielder. I don’t think that benching Upton is the right way to handle this situation. This isn’t a team-wide issue and Justin doesn’t need to be turned into an example. Rather, Fredi can remind Justin that his team is working hard, and that they rely on him to do the same. He could certainly learn from Simmons, a teammate no on could accuse of taking a play off. In the same game, Simmons turned a ground ball off the shortstop’s glove into a double. He made a tremendous diving play to get the force out at second, then popped right back up, thinking immediately about finding another out at first. That’s what it means to give max effort.
The Braves can’t pull millions in payroll out of thin air, or play injury-free baseball, but they can hustle on every ground ball, chase down every blooper, backup every throw, and give their all on every play. If they’re going to make the playoffs and find any sort of success there, the Braves can’t afford to take plays off.