Rays Notes: Evan Longoria, Dan Johnson, Game 162, B.J. Upton, Fernando Rodney
By Robbie Knopf
The Rays ended their 2012 season on a near-perfect note. Evan Longoria slammed 3 home runs, B.J. Upton singled in what could be his final at-bat as a Tampa Bay Ray, Jeremy Hellickson was sharp, and Fernando Rodney nailed down his 48th save, finishing with a 0.60 ERA that is the best in major league history for a single season minimum 50 innings, as the Rays beat the Orioles 4-1 to nail down their 3rd straight 90-win season. For the second straight year, the Rays found some Game 162 magic, although this time it meant much less, but it’s staggering that Evan Longoria now has 5 homers over the last two 162’s. And then there’s Dan Johnson, the Rays’ other Game 162 hero from 2011. Playing for the Chicago White Sox, Johnson equaled Longoria with 3 home runs of his own. He hadn’t hit a single homer since his clutch blast from the 9th inning of Game 162 of 2011 and somehow came through again. Both Johnson and Longoria slammed 3 home runs on Game 162 when no other player had hit 3 homers in a Game 162 since Dick Williams on the 1968 Phillies according to You Can’t Predict Baseball.
With the season ending, it was an emotional time, especially for B.J. Upton, who was playing in what could very well be his last at-bat as a member of a Tampa Bay Rays after being a member of the organization for the past 10 years. Upton tweeted before the game about how appreciative he was for all the support Rays fans have given him over the years.
And after getting removed from the game, B.J. got emotional.
Upton’s time with the Rays had its ups and downs, but he has given so much to this team over the years, with his incredible run during the 2008 Postseason always coming first to mind, and his staggering performance in September to finish his Rays career reminded us just how talented he is and has always been. Upton never became the superstar the Rays thought he would be, but nevertheless the Rays would not have been nearly the same without him the past 6 years. Upton has a microcosm of the Rays’ performance the past several years- they have always had great potential and have had their moments, some longer than others, but they have never been able to put it all together and deliver a championship, and they only made it past the first round of the playoffs in the magical 2008 run. Upton was the quintessential enigmatic Rays player. And now, he’ll continue his career somewhere else and another team hopes that he’ll finally become the superstar he has somewhere inside him.
To wrap up the other Rays news, Rodney was named the Rays’ team MVP by the local BBWAA chapter, an honor well deserved after his unbelievable season, Drew Vettleson was named the #15 prospect in the Low-A Midwest League by Baseball America (subscriber-only link), and there has been another proposal for a Rays stadium, this one by the water in Channelside- although as Noah Pransky writes, the proposal is a waste of time because they have no idea how they would possibly fund the building of the stadium.