Maybe this day was inevitable- but now it’s finally beginning to sink in. B.J. Upton will not be playing his home games in Tampa Bay next season. He has signed a 5-year, 75.25 million dollar contract with the Atlanta Braves, the largest deal in Braves history. For 10 years, he was in the Rays organization. Now his time with the Rays is done. B.J. was enigmatic. There were times when you wondered how in the world he cracked a big league lineup. There were times when you wondered why Upton had so much potential he could never tap into. And then there were times when he looked like the best player the Rays have ever had, slamming homer after homer, stealing bases with the catcher not having the slightest chance of catching him, and making plays in centerfield that left you speechless. There were times when he carried the team and made it look easy- no one will ever forget what Upton did in the 2008 Postseason, slamming 7 home runs and driving in 16 runs in 16 games. This August and September, he hit another gear, slamming 19 home runs and doing everything he could to keep the Rays in the playoff hunt. But just like the Rays missed the 2012 postseason as their improbable playoff hopes never materialized, the hope that Upton would spend his career in Tampa Bay has faded away. Upton and the Rays could never agree to an extension in the early stretches of his career, and suddenly it was too late. It’s going to hurt to see Upton in a Braves uniform. The first few times you see him, you’ll squint into your TV screen and wonder whether you’re seeing things. But the exhilaration Upton has given Rays fans the last six years is over. The Rays have to move on and figure out who their centerfielder is going to be next season. The feeling in the minds of Rays fans won’t be hatred or frustration- it will simply be shock. When the Rays play on Opening Day and throughout April, you’ll keep telling yourself that he’s just on the DL and he’ll be coming back any day just like what happened in 2012. But the dream is over and it’s time to wake up no matter how hard it will be. Best of luck to Upton in Atlanta and best of luck to the Rays finding a way to survive the end of an era.
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