B.J. Upton Walks Off With a “Bang”

By Robbie Knopf

B.J. Upton will leave Tampa Bay having never lived up to expectations. It has been over 10 years since Upton was drafted by the Rays with the second overall pick in 2002 and 8 years since he made his big league debut in 2004. Only in 2007 and in the 2008 Postseason did Upton ever play like the 5-tool player the Rays knew he had the potential to be for prolonged stretches. Even in 2012, he has failed to play up to what the Rays still believe is his potential. Yet who knows where the Rays would be without him.

Thus far in 2012, B.J. Upton has just a .252/.303/.431 line. The .431 slugging percentage is his highest since 2007, but that OBP is his lowest ever for a full season. However, Upton is currently doing something that no other Tampa Bay Rays player has ever done before: he currently leads the team in homers with 18, RBIs with 63, and stolen bases with 27. What does that mean? Are the Rays just so pathetic offensively that just a solid player in Upton has been their best player this season? In reality, he isn’t. Ben Zobrist has put together another remarkable season even after a slow start, and Evan Longoria has always been the best the Rays have when healthy. Upton could actually manage to not lead the team in homers, RBIs, or stolen bases by the end of the season. Carlos Pena is just 1 homer behind and Zobrist and Matt Joyce are just 3 behind. Zobrist trails Upton by only 5 RBI. And Desmond Jennings is right behind Upton with 25 stolen bases. Maybe Upton’s current glory is short-lived. Again.

B.J. Upton isn’t a bust. He’s something entirely different. He’s a player who shows the flashes. There are some games when you watch Upton swing and you marvel at how far the ball travels off his bat. There are times when Upton steals a base so easily you wonder how any catcher could ever throw him out. You see him make diving catches or perfect throws from centerfield and you wonder why Upton has such a poor defensive reputation. B.J. Upton is like a loaded gun- but when you pull the trigger, a flag that says “bang” comes out. Maybe next time it will be loaded with bullets. Maybe next time everything will be different. Hopefully B.J. Upton can continue playing well for the Rays down the stretch and leave some more good memories. But Rays fans will always wonder why everything never came together for a player with such amazing talent.