04/02/12 11:45 PM ET
Upton reigns supreme in bracket challenge
By Mark Newman / MLB.com
That might be a good question for a fantasy baseball roster, maybe a debate about which 2009 and '11 All-Star outfielder has the best 40-40 chance this season. It could be a logical final-round pairing in the State Farm Home Run Derby this July in Kansas City, or maybe even a prediction for the Most Valuable Player for each league.
But no, we are talking college hoops, and that debate was settled on the court with Upton the victor. For the first time, MLB.com invited player representatives from all 30 Major League Baseball clubs to fill out NCAA men's basketball brackets with the rest of the masses, to decide on bragging rights as the baton is passed from one spectator sport to another. Upton won the Big League Bracket Challenge courtesy of Kentucky's victory on Monday night.
Upton, who will lead the D-backs into their Opening Day game against the Giants on Friday at 7:10 p.m. ET, has led most of the way through March Madness and paced all player reps with 150 points and 47 correct picks. Half of the field picked top overall seed Kentucky, and Upton came through with an additional 32 points for correctly predicting the winner of the title game.
BIG LEAGUE BRACKET CHALLENGE
"It's an honor," Upton said of being on the brink of a possible conquest of his peers, who sit around Major League clubhouses through Spring Training and often talk college hoops, while watching early games on monitors. "I worked hard on my bracket, spent a lot of time thinking about it."
Granderson, who will lead the visiting Yankees into their Opening Day game against the Rays at 3:10 p.m. on Friday, was the only player in the field who predicted that Kansas, a No. 2 seed, would go all the way. A Kansas upset would have vaulted from seventh place to first.
Coming off a breakout season with 41 homers, 119 RBIs and 25 stolen bases, Granderson was sidelined last week by right elbow soreness and underwent an MRI exam. He tweeted before Saturday's Kansas victory over Ohio State: "Final 4 for the Jayhawks, #rockchalkjayhawk." Then he assured fans, "MRI results back -- negative. Thanks for all the prayers. Should be back on the field ASAP."
Upton knew he had at least one victory at hand, at least in the sibling bracket rivalry with his brother B.J. of the Rays. B.J. is in 18th place, with 80 points, and he picked North Carolina to go all the way.
"B.J. had no chance," Justin said. "I pride myself on being better than him at March Madness brackets. It's a great feeling to take him down also."
Reds utility player Todd Frazier is also deserving of some hoops cred. He also picked Kentucky over Kansas and finished a very close second, 150-147. Alas, Frazier has to be happy with life either way right now. He just played his way onto Cincinnati's Opening Day roster, thanks to a .302 average, five homers and 15 RBIs in Cactus League play.
It was only natural to let MLB players make it a friendly competition within The Show, and this time, it will make a nice transition from the title game on Monday to MLB's Opening Night game on Wednesday at 7:05, featuring the defending World Series champion Cardinals visiting the new-look Miami Marlins.
Jason Giambi and Troy Tulowitzki submitted a joint entry as the Rockies' player representative, going with their beloved Long Beach State early on and then joining the masses who predicted that Kentucky would win it all.
"Overall, it's just fun to fill out the brackets," Tulowitzki said. "Get a group of guys together, compare the brackets. Then we're playing for braggin' rights as well, so that's always a cool thing about it."