Parting thoughts on BJ Upton

For years, the Tampa Bay community maintained an odd sort of love/hate (but mostly hate) relationship with their former centerfielder, BJ Upton.  I say former because that all ended last week.  After signing a lucrative five-year, $75 million contract, Upton is now a member of the Atlanta Braves. 

Personally, I’m happy for him.  This was money he was not going to get in Tampa, who only last year re-signed him to a one year deal worth $7 million.  That’s a far cry from his actual market value, as Atlanta just demonstrated.

Albeit a far less cynical sports market than cities like New York, Boston or Philadelphia, BJ Upton received his fair share of criticism in Tampa, often inexplicably so.

Upton may not have been the most clutch player in a Rays lineup that finished 27th in the majors in hitting, but he had his share of big hits over the years.  For some reason, Tampa Bay fans were always quick to forget those, jumping on him a touch harder than anyone else in that lineup.

Perhaps Upton was his own worst enemy, giving Rays fans high expectations early, batting .300 in only his second year in the league, hitting 24 homers and stealing 22 bases.  In his five seasons after that, he never sniffed .300 again.  He’s currently a .255 career hitter but that’s Ruthian considering how futile the Rays lineup has been.  Upton also had a career high in home runs last year (28) and led the team in RBIs.  He may not have had the strongest arm but defensively, Upton covered a lot of ground.

BJ was never what one would call a great player but he was a pretty damn good one.  Still, he never received the fanfare of a Carl Crawford who Rays fans got all misty-eyed about when he left for Boston to hit only .255 then fall victim to rotator cuff surgery and eventually get traded to Los Angeles.  Upton will be lucky to get a ride to the airport.  Rays fans loved Crawford, they tolerated Upton. My guess is that Upton will have far more success in Atlanta and more importantly, he’ll be appreciated.  That chip on his shoulder will be all the motivation he needs.

I’ve met BJ Upton before.  He’s come into my club.  Aside from acting like any professional athlete would, chilling in the VIP section with a touch of prima donna when the deejay wouldn’t play his favorite song at a moment’s notice, he was genuinely a nice guy.  He tipped well and was always cordial.  Upon meeting him, you could tell he just wanted to be liked.  I’m not so sure he ever got that from Rays fans.  Every baseball season, we’d call our local sports talk shows and complain about how BJ didn’t do this or didn’t do that the night before, giving him far more grief than anyone else in a lineup full of players who couldn’t hit their weight.

Now BJ starts anew, at only 28 years of age and in the prime of his career, playing on an Atlanta Braves team that should contend.  He leaves the Bay area behind, taking his 450 career RBIs and 230 stolen bases along with him.

I for one will miss BJ.  While other former Rays have struggled after leaving the Trop, I have a suspicious feeling that won’t happen to BJ.  The Rays are going to miss him more than they’re willing to admit.  Here’s hoping they treat his replacement a little better than they treated him.

37 thoughts on “Parting thoughts on BJ Upton

  1. Chris

    I don’t mind Upton leaving to join the Braves , however what I do now mind are the rumblings that Friedman is now prepared to listen to serious offers for both Hellickson and Shields . If those were to depart , it would rip the guts out of the Rays’ starting pitching .

    Did you place a bet on last night’s game ? RGIII didn’t need to be spectacular , but he got the job done .

    I’ll be dropping my own in depth piece in light of the Longo , David Wright contracts that come to a combined $276 million for the two players merely covering the timeframe of 13 years cumulatively .

    Mets’ fans out there are stating that the deal is the best thing for the ball club. Considering they lost $41 million last year and they’re on track to lose even more with regard to the fact no one is coming to the elephant’s graveyard that ignoramus Bloomberg describes as one the best ballparks in all of baseball . Only in NYC could they be so anally retentive while the city so much in goddamn debt .

    Tophatal ………….. .

  2. So Costas has started a firestorm with his speech on Monday night football concerning Jovan Belcher , by stating that Belcher wasn’t granted a gun license he’d still be alive . My concern isn’t with the fact that the player took his life , but the fact that the mother of his child, well her life was needlessly taken . If as is believed ., Belcher had psychological issues , then why didn’t his a#s seek help , rather than the he actions he took ? That’s my issue with this all ?

    I’ve been around too many ex military guys , in such an instance , and all they really want is for someone to listen to them . Hence the time I spent counseling these vets , when I lived down in Miami as well as after my move north to C Florida .

    The VA isn’t doing enough to aid veterans , especially the guys now coming back from Afghanistan and Iraq .

    Clearly no one inside the Chiefs’ organization knew of Jovan Belcher’s situation, and the fact that his relationship with his deceased girlfriend had become volatile . Unfortunately , Belcher took the coward’s way out in taking, Kassandra Perkins’ life at the tender age of 22 , and now leaving behind a three month baby girl without both parents .

    Tophatal …………

  3. It’s like that old proverb, you don’t miss your water until the well runs dry. These Rays fans (mostly fairweather), are quickly going to realize how much BJ played an intricate part in the Ray’s organization. I have no doubt that he will do very well in Atlanta. BJ is one of my peeps, so this comment might come off as a little biased. But be that as it may, and to steal a phrase from you, he still is “a damn good player”! Yo, B’Jizzle, stop dipping your Wendy’s fries in your frosty! That shits’ gross son!!

  4. Pingback: Parting thoughts on BJ Upton - BallHyped Blog Network, MLB | BallHyped Sports Blogs

  5. Al…

    Don’t me wrong. I love both Hellickson and Shields but as Rays fans, this is something we should be used to by now.

    Hellickson will eventually be due for a big contract. We’re not currently paying anywhere near what he’s worth. And I think Shields is unrestricted at the end of the season. If he pitches this year like he did that last two, Big Game is about to get PAID… and not here in Tampa.

    I actually had the Giants in last night’s game. Eventually I’ll learn not to go against RGIII in prime time.

  6. Al…

    Without dwelling on it too much, ESPN is now reporting that the Chiefs organization had recognized that Belcher was troubled and was offering psychological assistance to both him and his girlfriend.

  7. Black…

    BJ dips his fries in his frosty? Is that to help combat the brain freeze? Mixing in the hot with the cold?

    I am gonna miss the guy but I think he got a raw deal here in Tampa, not from the organization but from the fans.

    Every time I’d listen to local call-in shows, it was always BJ (and obviously Pena too) who got the brunt of the complaints.

    A fresh start, like I said at only 28 years old, could be all BJ needs. It’s a good thing he ain’t playing in the American League is all I have to say.

  8. As a baseball guy I never underestimated B.J.’s skills. I think he gets a bad rap from some people because he doesn’t look like he’s hustling when in fact few outfielders have his range. Did you ever notice how shallow he plays center. Not many players would try that. He is not a great base runner,but he is very good at stealing bases and because of his long strides he is deceptively fast. If he can improve the mental part of his game he could be very good. For all that he did for the Rays and their fans I wish him all the best.

  9. Chris,

    Everything you just replied with, I couldn’t agree with you more. And as far as why he dipped his fries in is frosty, brotha, that’s only a question he can answer.

  10. I always wished the best for BJ but came to understand that, just like Carlos Pena, you couldn’t rely on him at the plate. He’d tease the fans with his hot streaks that might last as long as a week. He’d knock the ball all over the park when he was on and then pressure the defense with his speed. Then he’d slip back into his morose ways and those times could last a month or more. In the 2008 playoffs he got his streak going in the league playoffs and then went back to sleep in the big one. The one constant was his excellent play in center. He’d position himself a good 30 yards from the fence and almost without exception, he’d run down the long flies the opposing players had the audacity to try and hit the ball over him.

    One last thing here. It always struck me that BJ was too thin-skinned. He go into a funk if, in response to his ineffective at bats, Maddon whould move him down in the batting order. The other thing along these same lines were the times when he’d dog it and trot down to first rather than bust his ass. I know Maddon was on him about it and if I’m not mistaken BJ was even fined for his poor attitude.

    Yeah, BJ might tear it up for awhile in Atlanta, but I’d be willing to bet he falls back into his old ways if things don’t work out just so for him…

  11. Bossman was awesome in the playoffs the year of the WS run and I’ll always appreciate him for that. Hope he’ll step his game up now that he’s paid. Good luck, BJ.

  12. Well the psychological assistance didn’t come soon enough , because having pumped nine bullets into the torso of Kessandra Perkins I think we can see that Belcher had a great deal of rage and predetermination on his mind .

    Did you catch a really poignant interview recently with the child of Rae Carruth ? He now suffers from cerebral palsy , brought about by having to be delivered by Caesarian section at the time of premature birth, as he was deprived of oxygen , after Rae , Rae’s henchmen had pumped several bullets into his mother’s (Cherica Atkins ) torso after she was driving home from her job (exotic dancer , part-time , as she was also going to school to become a physical therapist and nutritionist ).

    The Rays will be in for a world of trouble albeit, that they just acquired free agent James Loney from the Dodgers . Here’s my piece on the Rays and their most recent moves .

    MLB piece on the Rays and the Mets .

    Deep pockets , but barely comfortable with their lifestyle

    NFL piece

    For whom the bell tolls , it tolls for thee …..

    Reprise and let me know what you thought about Suh’s actions in the Colts’ game as well as the Thanksgiving game against the Texans .

    So Goodell didn’t have an issue with Suh and his teammates dancing over the concussed and prostrate body of the Colts’ Winston Price , after the player had been “drilled into the ground ” by Ndamukong Suh ? How much of a fu##ing a$shole is Roger Goodell to begin with ?

    One minute he (Goodell) wants to promote good conduct and sportsmanship on the field of play , and the next he glosses over an action such as this , never-mind nothing has done to the Lions’ defensive player , after his deliberate kick to the groin of Matt Schaub . Goodell remains an a#s wipe and a pompous oaf !

    Tophatal ……….

  13. Love hate relationship with BJ ? Ah ! Well simply look at what he was able to do as a player with the Rays ? Never mind that on his day , he was perhaps the best athletically gifted and defensive performer in Rays’ history .

    Downside however , it appeared that he wasn’t motivated to give it his all. And much of that comes down to the fact that Maddon’s style isn’t to browbeat his players , being as he’s far too soft on them .

    Tophatal ……..

  14. Agreed, Aer.

    He covered a LOT of ground and seemed to get to fly balls rather effortlessly.

    I have faith that Rays ownership will find an able-bodied replacement and I also understand why they didn’t re-sign him, but that doesn’t mean we can’t at least honor his time here and openly admit we’ll miss him.

  15. Al…

    Be right over to check out your piece on the Rays. They also signed that shortstop which I guess doesn’t bode well for Sean Rodriguez.

    And regarding Suh, I’m still not quite sure I understand that guy.

  16. Al…

    Maddon’s got his style of management and so far, that’s proven to work.

    Look, I’m not saying this team will be worse without BJ. I’m just saying he’ll be missed more than Rays fans care to admit.

  17. BS/CDR…

    The good folks over at Sports Blog Movement are offering me big bucks and unlimited opportunities of fame and fortune to join their motley crew so I see your point.

    By the way, you are currently leading the NFL over/under pick ‘em contest standings with 25 points by already cashing in on Chiefs under, Panthers under and Chargers under but don’t get excited just yet.

    There’s still plenty of football left to be played.

  18. The feeling in Philly seemed to be Upton was too inconsistent to warrant topping the Braves’ bid. Rumors are the Phillies made an offer more in line with reality and then Atlanta went overboard, if only to make sure the Phils didn’t get another shot at an offer. There is also a rumor the Phillies floated their figure to drive the Braves’ offer up…and they really didn’t want him in the first place. Dunno if I believe any of that. I myself couldn’t get past the lack of motivation/hustle rep he got, fairly or not…especially since we already have that covered here in the form of Jimmy Rollins!

  19. Spring cleaning comes early for the Rays . You know what , I have come to expect this annually from the ownership group , who it now appears , is simply devoid of real business acumen ! How the hell can the likes of the Padres ($2 billion over the next two decades) negotiate multi million dollar deals for broadcast rights but here within the Bay area , you’re telling me that Friedman , Sternberg and Matt Silverman are not that smart to seek out a broadcast partner willing to up the ante for the Rays’ brand ? The organization is regressing from a business standpoint and the lame ##s beat writers and local tv pundit are simply too dumb to be analytical enough to realize what’s going on . The fans deserve what they’re now seeing at present because they’re not that enlightened and are prepared to accept apathy , in whatever shape or form it now takes .

    Tophatal ………….

  20. Always refreshing to hear when an athlete acts like a normal person in public. sorry you guys lost another player to the market, but it allows the opportunity for another young gun to come in and make an impact.

  21. SA…

    None of that would actually surprise me and you’re right, the rap on Upton has been his inconsistency.

    My only point was that the entire lineup was inconsistent but BJ got the bulk of the crap about it.

    Wait a minute, I take that back. The entire lineup WAS consistent… in their inability to hit.

  22. Al…

    I actually watched more Rays baseball last year than I ever have. Whether on the radio or TV, I tuned into just about every game, and I know a lot of people who did the same.

    They’re a marketable bunch so I don’t see why ownership wouldn’t be able to take advantage of that.

    And trust me, if I saw Suh, I would most definitely avoid him.

  23. Jed…

    I just hope that Rays farm system doesn’t eventually run dry.

    I think most are also expecting Brandon Jennings to step it up this year or he’ll suffer the same fate as BJ.

  24. Chris

    If the Rays are so marketable , then how come the woeful attendance for their home games ? Fourteenth out of fourteen within the AL ?

    The print and tv media ads for the Rays are woefully inept and it shows, there’s a great lack of creativity , in their sales and marketing department of the Rays’ organization as well as with the local media agencies they deal with in the marketplace !

    No takers for either Greinke or Josh Hamilton as of yet . Their respective agents need to come down in their asking price and tear up the salacious pictures they have of the general managers behaving rather badly ” shall we say ” ? gents

    Romo has now surpassed the Cowboys’ team record for touchdown passes thrown , 166 by Hall of Famer Troy Aikman . We now have to ask how many games has Romo won in the postseason compared to Troy’s tally as well as Superbowls ? Apples and oranges ? No , just damn common sense when it concerns things that matters the most .

    They do things big , in Big D , so I can only imagine that the propensity for failure is always greater . Cowboys’ recent playoff malaise and then you have the Rangers’ postseason woes , who aspire to be just like the House that Jerry built , all because of Nolan Ryan’s ego .

    Josh Hamilton won’t be resigned by the Rangers for which of the following reasons ?

    1) Issues with sobriety drugs & alcohol
    2) He’s still injury prone
    3) A three-year deal worth $75 million is too high an asking price
    4) The front office doesn’t like for their players to be seen cavorting with strippers in a bar
    5) Hamilton’s image is need of a makeover and Ryan can’t be bothered with it
    6) They have top prospects yearning for their big league debut
    7) Hamilton simply isn’t
    8) All of the above

    Tophatal …………

  25. Good player but not worth 75 mil. Too many big contracts out there yet again… nothing ever changes. Speaking of which, have the Dodgers bought the state of California yet?

  26. Al…

    What I meant by that is, the Rays a good team, a very good team, with a solid manager, that are consistently competitive, so perhaps you’re right, their marketing department can do a better job of selling tickets to at least make it look like there are people in the crowd.

    Greinke goes to L.A. The Dodgers have now become the exact opposite of the Tampa Bay Rays. At least that NL West will be fun to watch this year.

    And I don’t know what to tell you about Hamilton except that it doesn’t sound like he and his agent are going to get nearly as much as they want out of a deal.

  27. yall want BJ back? take him. he’s awful. i mean…we dont even have to talk about his attitude and lack of hustle. the guy cant hit anymore.

  28. Well, Keith, he was a pretty decent ball player in Tampa Bay which only furthers the rumor that former Rays don’t succeed when they leave the bay area.

    Why is that? Who knows?

    Either way, BJ got paid and nobody can fault him for that.

    Except for Braves fans.

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