In the mega-media markets of New York City, Boston, Chicago, or Los Angeles, an owner calling out his star players in a very public fashion would bring on a rash of public opinion. Some may like the move, others may hate it. In Phoenix, Arizona though such an action barely registers on the national scene. Yesterday, Ken Kendrick, the Arizona Diamondbacks owner, did just that in a radio interview.
Kendrick was none too satisfied with the rehab and recovery of the team’s star shortstop, Stephen Drew. He has also been far from impressed with Justin Upton‘s inconsistent performance at the plate. Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic provided a transcribed version of Kendrick’s comments. In part, Kendrick said:
I’m pretty disappointed. When you bring back basically the team that you had a year ago and won a division, played very well, you bring it back intact and you add some talent, you certainly would expect to be above .500 at this point.
Stephen Drew and Justin Upton, in Kendrick’s opinion, have been part of the problem. Drew, who suffered a gruesome ankle injury last season, has yet to come off the disabled list and is progressing slower than most had hoped. Upton, on the other hand, has simply failed to live up to the lofty expectations heaved on his shoulders. Upton put up MVP-type numbers last season, but he has failed to duplicate that performance this year. That has many frustrated, including Kendrick.
Last season Drew was batting .252/.317/.396 when he went down with the injury. In 2010, though, Drew had one of his better seasons hitting .278/.352/.458 and clubbing 15 home runs. Since the injury, the Diamondbacks were forced to go with a combination of Willie Bloomquist, Josh Wilson, and John McDonald. All three underperformed. While McDonald and Bloomquist are performing better so far this season, the Diamondbacks are not.
Couple the struggles at shortstop with Justin Upton’s .243/.350/.365 line and it’s clear why the team’s owner is frustrated. However, public comments like the ones made yesterday generally don’t help players improve. They usually serve to splinter a clubhouse – something the Diamondbacks struggled with for years until putting things together last season.
“I think Stephen should have been out there playing before now, frankly. I, for one, am disappointed, said Kendrick. “I’m going to be real candid and say Stephen and his representatives are more focused on where Stephen is going to be a year from now than on going out and supporting the team that’s paying his salary.”
Comments like those not only call a player out but question the player’s integrity. Such things do not bond a team and push them towards their potential. Instead, the Diamondbacks will have to deal with Kendrick’s interview as a distraction. Fortunately, Arizona’s market isn’t the type for such a story to spin out of control, but it will be a distraction nonetheless.