When Online Forums Go Bad: Justin Upton and AZCentral.com

The great thing about the Internet is, it's an open forum. And the worst thing about the Internet is... Yep: it's an open forum. For when you let everyone express an opinion, it seems close to inevitable that the results tend toward a level where the most relevant, best thought-out responses are drowned out in a the cacophony of those who yell loudest. For an example, look no further than AZCentral.com, the online arm of the Arizona Republic, whose comments section has become a byword for trolling, ignorance and the lowest form of online debate.

Join us, as we look at some of the most head-shaking moments in AZCentral commenting over the past year. Warning: a loss of IQ points may be experienced by some readers as a result of what comes after the jump.

While bad, the sports pages probably aren't the worst offenders: it has got to the stage where some political stories simply don't have comments enabled any more. But the main problem is obvious. To be effective, any online gathering needs to be accompanied by vigorous moderation and active policing, and that's where AZCentral basically falls apart. While users get their accounts suspended, it's no deterrent at all, for they simply create a new identity, switching one anonymous label for another and often wearing it in their name like a badge of honor, e.g. xxxxBannedx6.

To quote William Grueskin, dean of academic affairs at Columbia’s journalism school: "A lot of comment boards turn into the equivalent of a barroom brawl, with most of the participants having blood-alcohol levels of 0.10 or higher. People who might have something useful to say are less willing to participate in boards where the tomatoes are being thrown." While there are some sensible opinions expressed, it's hard to separate them from all the shrill yelling by the nattering nabobs of negativity that infest the site, obsessed about "cheap, weak ownership" and the failings of Justin Upton, to the exclusion of all other topics from their minds.

The latter became so omnipresent, that Diamondbacks' beat journalist Nick Piecoro felt compelled to address "the Justin Upton hate that regularly flows through the comment section of this web site." On the one hand, I doubt any of the basement trolls will read the well-considered piece and suddenly think, "Y'know, that Justin is a good player, after all!" It's not how trolls operate, and I've learned the hard way that engaging them is largely futile. However, you can't allow their toxic waste dumping to go unchallenged either, and Piecoro's article was a good way to respond without paying them attention, which is what they desperately want.

We'll hear more - much more - about Upton later, but let's cover some other classics from the AZCentral.com archives first. We start with a comment on the memorable night where Gonzo's #20 was retired and the Diamondbacks enjoyed a walk-off win on Chris Young's ninth-inning home-run. Plenty of great memories to remember there, right? Not so fast, writes DaronSuttonMUSTGO10 - the capitalization of "must go" makes all the difference there, I feel - who enjoyed the evening...

...until Chris Young unleashed that series of ridiculous styles while rounding the bases. This pains me to point out yet another example of this team's lack of class and unfortunately on such a historic night.

First was the style of pulling the necklace out of his shirt just 4 paces out of the box. Second style was the tossing of the helmet 20 feet into the air prior to even touching third friggin base. Then the third and most absurd style was his shirt pull, gangsta hop trot, AND FINALLY THE ULTRA CLASSY GRABBING OF HIS PACKAGE PRIOR TO TOUCHING HOME PLATE!!!!!

I'm CERTAIN that a player of Luis Gonzalez's acumen would NEVER, EVER, ACT EVEN REMOTELY LIKE WHAT YOUNG DISPLAYED TONIGHT. This was one of the great nights in this team's history and yet a selfish act by Young personifies this organization's inability to groom REAL PROFESSIONALS

The last off-season was a busy one for the Diamondbacks, with the bullpen basically being entirely retooled, along with much of the bench and starting rotation. Most of us were happy to see the team apparently looking to move in a positive direction, though we appreciated it might take time for us to compete fully. Not so ValueArbitar, who enlightened the world with these informed opinions on February 19:

This team has 2 average middle infielders in Drew and Johnson complemented by black holes on either side (unless Brandon Allen takes that step forward).

It will have a collection of the worst left fielders in baseball, no legit backup catcher, only two good starters, and a mediocre bullpen.

Trash their best player and one of the best right fielders in baseball during the entire off season.

Retain an inexperienced interim manager who constantly wastes precious outs on the basepath and doesn't know how to manage a pitching staff. Remember when everyone trashed AJ Hinch because he didn't have managerial experience?

It's the product of cheap ownership that is going to spend at least $30M, and probably closer to $40M less than the average MLB team on payroll, and doesn't have a clue about running a team. They gave their new GM the shortest contract in baseball with an implicit demand he turn things around fast, so expect any young prospects of any value to be shipped off in a (probably failed) attempt to build a temporarily .500 team to get the GM an extension. Their comments in this article are as unintentionally hilarious as ever, as they whistle through the graveyard of their own construction.

Fans will be initially pleased when the new team strikes out far less without Reynolds, then they'll turn on ownership when they realize while the players aren't striking out as much, they'll be grounding out and flying out even more, and that this team has the worst offense in baseball, a lousy defense and mediocre ptiching.

If the 2011 Diamondbacks don't lose more than 100 games it will be one of the biggest upsets in baseball history.

This is an excellent summary of the quality of content to be found on AZCentral. It exemplifies nicely the hysterical hyperbole found so often on the site, is wrong in just about every way, to the point where it is now actually pretty  amusing, because subsequent events have proven its damning invalidity. Particularly the last sentence: it appears we are firmly on course for "one of the biggest upsets in baseball history" - the team would now need to go 22-69 the rest of the way to hit ValueArbitar's projected mark. Oops.

Moving from the general to the specific, while we've already seen Chris Young targeted for some criticism, just about every player on the roster has his critics, mostly for the unforgivable crime of not hitting .350 with 40 home-runs and 150 RBI. One suspect the commentators on AZCentral.com would probably tear Babe Ruth a new one for being "fat and lazy". The team did lose one major whipping-boy when Mark Reynolds was traded to Baltimore, but there are plenty more where he came from. For example, Miguel Montero, who is leading all National League catchers in bWAR this year and is fourth since 2009. That's just not good enough for kriz:

I have heard from others that our pitchers dont like pitching to him because he is such a bad defensive catcher. We need to get rid of him before he is exposed. As bad as Snyder was, Montero still does not have as many HRs and RBIs as Snyder does. Montero is another Connor Jackson hitter. He always hit for average but did nothing else. Those players are a dime a dozen. Get a catcher that can help us behind the plate.

Chris Snyder bWAR since 2009: 1.1. Miguel Montero bWAR since 2009: 5.3. Of course, AZCentral.com is the forum whose player evaluation skills were largely responsible for convincing management to make a grandiose gesture, and sign Eric Byrnes to a three-year contract extension. That went well, didn't it? They were also very keen for the team to pay Randy Johnson whatever he wanted to stay with Arizona in 2009 and chase 300 wins. Wisely, the team had learned their lesson and didn't listen - the Big Unit's back duly imploded, with the Giants paying $8 million for 96 innings at an 88 ERA+.

The best rule of thumb is, the more AZCentral.com posters complain about a player, the better they are likely to be. Nowhere is this disconnect more apparent than in their opinion of Justin Upton. It's bizarre - there's really no other word for it. Here is a player whom the fans of just about every other team would love to have, and he's maligned beyond belief by a certain section of Diamondbacks' fandom. I haven't found any fully convincing explanation of why this is the case. Was he over-hyped? Possibly. Did Upton end up in the bigs too early? He did skip Triple-A. Is there racism? The last has certainly been claimed - albeit not how you'd think. Stargate11 dons the tin-foil hat:

Why is Parra sitting down again? Parra has the best arm and will run down anything around him. Upton can't field and is getting slow and fat like Barry Bonds, without the skill. Young is real good in center, but not as good at bat and Parra who can also play center as well as anyone.

But there they are both of the Hinch boys out there everyday or they will through a hissy-fit. You need defence to support good pitching and since Upton can't catch, will never hit the wall and always has the cleanest uniform, with his $51 million contract up soon I suspect he will go,( at least one can hope).

Maybe this state is racist and Latino players are disrespected over black players. After all we don't want any more black ESPN commentators saying that MLB discriminates against blacks... like the NBA discriminates against whites.

Because, of course, Arizona is all about keeping brown down, right? This would explain why Juan Miranda is being sat in favor of Xavier Nady; the only Latino in the rotation got sent to Reno, and former closer Juan Gutierrez is now relegated to mop-up duty. Because Ken Kendrick hates Hispanics! Nothing to do with Parra being easily the worst hitter of the three, even discounting the fact he struggles mightily against lefties (a career .574 OPS). Just like every other story on AZCentral.com, it seems even baseball discussions will eventually devolve into a political yelling match. But's let have some other classic Upton-isms from the site.

Justin is a .271 lifetime hitter who drives in about 80 runs a year (from the 3 hole) hits 24 homeruns a season and is an average defensive outfielder.  Justin Upton by every measure is an average player.  Every team has a couple of Justin Uptons in their outfield.  Justin Uptons are a dime a dozen in major league baseball.
   -- Mr. Sports

I've yet to see a decent throw from the kid, who they claim has a great arm.It's never on line and he usually misses the cut off man. He's a below average outfielder, average hitter at best and they still talk about his talent. I don't see it but I do see a overrated and overrated kid with a tude which isn't much better than his brothers.It could be worse, he could be Reynolds.
  -- hatman3

Upton is the poster boy for the spoiled superstar. He doesn't hustle consistently and with him it is all about himself instead of the team... For now, injured is the best contribution he can make to this team.
  -- Burdette

upton sucks, should have traded him in the offseason when they could have got anything for him. he is 0 for the last 5 games!
  -- desertdogsrule

Upton as the face of the franchise only speaks to the futile state of the DBacks. The bullpen cost us 20-25 W's last year and one player (Upton), alone, will never have that kind of impact. If you can move him and get all you need for the pen and maybe a 4 or 5 for the back-end of the rotation, pull the trigger - just make sure you're right.. CY is probably as valuable as Upton on the market. If you can get the deal done, throw CY in to sweeten trhe deal and be done with both of them.
  -- Okieman

Either trade Upton or send him to AAA to learn the game and meet his supposed potential we keep being told about. Don't charge people $40 and embarrass the team with an UPTOWN section for a .240 hitter and someone confused and making errors in the field. The fans are seeing what the real problems with this team have been over the last two years.
  -- our old friend, Stargate11 again

Throwing stats out the window (including made up ones like BABIP), what I ahve seen out of Upton hasn't been impressive. I'm sorry but I just don't see it. He's is becoming the LeBron James of baseball.
  -- JoeJoe27

I have to stop there, because I can feel my brain liquefying and running down my nose as I hit the embolden key. For there's not even a debate here. This is not "Does Parra's defense make up for his offensive limitations?-type debate. this is the player who leads our hitters by fWAR, and is first in the NL at his position - plus, it's not even like he's some new arrival, because Upton's overall value ranks in the top five NL outfielders since 2009. Look at the names below him: Carlos Gonzalez, Hunter Pence, Matt Kemp. Can you imagine the Rockies, Astros and Dodgers fanbases being so ignorant?

The effect is somewhat like an online version of Night of the Living Dead. You can go out there, and whack a few zombies' heads in, easily enough. But there are just too many of these mindless  and they keep coming back, making the same monotonous sounds. Eventually, it gets tedious and you realize there are better ways to spend your time, so you ship off for more pleasant climes. That leaves the zombies in control over their domain, where they can do nothing except shamble around and chew on each other. It's kinda sad - the shopping mall used to have its moments - but hey, that's life.death undeath.

And finally, there's the occasional mother-lode of wrongness, provided for us here by HomerSimpson1. This offers an all-you-can-eat buffet of factual inaccuracy, talk-radio shrieking and an approach to baseball firmly rooted in the sixties. And I mean the eighteen-sixties, e.g. Chris Young is "clearly a bust" because he does not "drive in runs like a winner."

What the hell are you people talking about?

Go look at stats!

Quentin and Gonzalez hit home runs, drive in runs, and GET ON BASE.
Upton, Drew, and Young don't, at least not as well as advertised. I won't go as far as saying the three suck and are completely useless, but remember how these guys were the blue-chip, can't-miss prospects?

Young was the key piece in the Vazquez trade. This "can't-miss" prospect has only gone on to hit a whopping .241 with a million strikeouts. Not to mention the awful .314 OBP. Does he drive in runs like a winner? Nope. Never cracked 100 RBI in a season. He obviously will never do this as a leadoff hitter, but still. All I'm saying is that for all the hype this guy got, he is clearly a bust.

Drew was a #15 draft pick. He was supposed to be better than brother J.D. He's gone on to hit an ok .273... but that's about it. He has a fairly bad career OBP of .335, does not hit for power, nor does he drive in runs. Again leadoff syndrome will prevent some RBI, but I don't think that's an excuse. Oh yeah, and he's struck out more than he should. My point is just that for a #15 overall draft pick, he is clearly a bust.

Upton was the #1 overall draft pick in 2005. In his FOURTH MLB season, he has hit an ok .272 with an ok .352 OBP. He has shown signs of some power in his bat (oh! he might hit 30 HR this year!), but like Young and Drew, has yet to drive in 100 runs in a season. Oh, and then he strikes out like he's trying to. All I'm saying is that with him being the #1 overall draft pick, he clearly has been a bust.

Those of you who will defend these 'blue-chippers' will say the same thing that's been said for 4 years now: "they're young, they just need more time." Um, I'm pretty sure college, A, AA, AAA exist for the growing pain. You really think it's normal to be a big league starter for 4-5 years in a row before magically being useful? If 4-5 years isn't enough to see if a player is good or not, then when is? And it's not like these guys' stats are at least trending upward. Over the last several seasons, they are all doing about the same thing every single year. And don't ignore that they are nowhere NEAR hitting .300.

Go look up Gonzo's and William's stats when they were here. Remember, each hit 142 RBI's? Go remember what REAL hitting looks like and what hitting is necessary for the Dbacks to, you know, win NL Championships and World Series Championships.

Even I couldn't resist taking a head-shot at this one. "Yes, let's compare Upton with Gonzalez and Williams shall we? In particular, to Gonzalez and Williams at age 23...
Gonzalez: .254/.320/.433 = .753 OPS
Williams: 202/.242/.455 = .697 OPS
Upton: .268/.353/.487 = .840 OPS
Upton kicks their butts. Both Williams and Gonzalez were 27 before they produced at Upton's current level." And that was written before J-Up went on his current tear, pushing his BA almost to .300 and his OPS above .900.

Now, obviously, there are some coherent, reasonable posters on AZCentral.com, but the overall effect of reading the comments is to convince me that egalitarianism is a bad idea when it comes to online forums. Without some form of "quality control," it's not the cream that rises to the top. It's more likely to be the pond-scum - in the shape of those who use their voices, not to debate, or even to argue, but simply yell and scream loud enough to drown out and drive away those who disagree. While possessing the same ugly appeal as a car-wreck, it's an embarrassment to Arizona fandom, and leaves me ever grateful for the community we have here.

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join AZ Snake Pit

You must be a member of AZ Snake Pit to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at AZ Snake Pit. You should read them.

Join AZ Snake Pit

You must be a member of AZ Snake Pit to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at AZ Snake Pit. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9351_tracker