COMMENTARY | All rise! The Honorable Judge Anthony Schreiber presiding.
Today, the MLB Fan Court will hear motions for the case docket number ending 2-24: B.J. Upton v. Michael Bourn. The object of this hearing is to decide whether or not the Atlanta Braves were justified in their move to acquire B.J. Upton rather than tendering an offer to retain Michael Bourn.
Cases will be made on behalf of both parties, and the ultimate decision will be turned over to the jury members to comment below on which player they would rather have patrolling the center field grass for the Atlanta Braves in the 2013 season.
Case for the defendant: B.J. Upton
This case hinges on one simple idea: upside. Who has it? My client, Melvin Emanuel Upton, better known as B.J. Upton, has the potential to be a franchise player. Mr. Bourn, on the other hand, is, at best, a career specialist who will soon see that a specialty diminishes with the onset of age.
Upton is only 28 years old, while Bourn is already on the wrong side of 30. My esteemed opponent for the plaintiff will likely get up here and try to say that his client stole 42 bases last season, so he is subsequently too valuable to the top of the Atlanta lineup. But I would remind opposing counsel that Upton isn't exactly running in lead-lined boots. Upton stole 31 bases in his own right in 2012, and he has swiped an average of 39 bags per season over his last five MLB campaigns.
Upton is well above average at the one facet Bourn would appear to hold a competitive advantage, but Upton also has the added benefit of being able to go deep. In seven seasons, Bourn has muscled up enough to hit just 22 total home runs. In the 2012 season alone, Upton hit 28 homers. One is a potential 30/30 player, whereas Michael Bourn wouldn't even qualify for the "prestigious" 10/10 club -- as if anyone would even waste his or her time acknowledging such a group.
At $12 million per year, Bourn was simply too high-priced for the one-dimensional type of player he is. The Braves would have also been held hostage to any type of leg injury that could slow his speed and immediately take away the only part of his game that makes him special. Upton is a player with multiple tools who is not only as good as his speed allows him to be. The Braves simply made the more logical, long-term choice by choosing B.J. Upton over Michael Bourn.
Case for the plaintiff: Michael Bourn
Wow, what a dog and pony show this has turned into today. I almost expected to see a group of clowns emerge from that circus tent they call a legal defense team. Unlike my opponent, I do not need to revert to shameless putdowns of his client, or his career .255 batting average. We will take the high road and rest our case merely on the facts.
Fact No. 1: I am being kind by categorizing Upton as a career .255 hitter. In reality, he hasn't hit higher than .246 in any season since 2007. And let's put aside the fact that without Bourn's 42 stolen bases, the Braves would have finished dead last in baseball; the loss of Bourn is more than just how many bags he can abscond with in a given year. Without Bourn anchoring the top of the Atlanta lineup, the Braves have no true leadoff hitter. You cannot replace Bourn with a player who had a sub-.300 on-base percentage and then think that alluding to how many home runs he can theoretically hit will make up the difference.
By losing Bourn, the Braves will miss out on the 171 hits he had in 2012, as well as his ability to set the table for the middle of the order the way few in baseball can. Speed is something that only a handful of teams have, yet those who do can truly put the pressure on the opposition. With Bourn on the basepaths, the hitters who follow him see more fastballs simply because pitchers cannot afford to give Bourn easy opportunities to pilfer bases on off-speed pitches.
Finally -- and I know the defendant's side was hoping I would not bring this up -- we have to talk about the vast disparity in defense. Upton has committed 58 errors in his career; Michael Bourn has only 16 black marks on his fielding resume. Bourn posted a 3.0 DWAR (Defensive Wins Above Replacement) in 2012. B.J. Upton had a laughably low -0.1 DWAR last season. There is simply no comparing the two on the defensive side of the ball.
For everything Michael Bourn adds to a team, he was the vastly superior choice for the Braves to keep. Instead, the Atlanta Braves ended up giving the richest contract in team history (5 years, $75.25 million) to a career .255 hitter.
Judge Schreiber's Ruling
These were very compelling arguments from both sides. At this point, I will turn to the jury to make the ultimate decision. Comment below on who you think should win this case. Remember, the burden of proof in on the plaintiff.
Did Mr. Bourn's team show, without a reasonable doubt, he was the better choice to play center field for the Atlanta Braves in 2013? If not, then B.J.Upton should be given the victory and granted the opportunity to lead Atlanta in the upcoming season. The choice is yours.
Anthony Schreiber is a freelance sportswriter based in "Braves Country." He has penned articles for a variety of online publications and magazines.
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- Atlanta Braves
- Michael Bourn