Way to make us smile BJ!
Chris O’Meara / AP
Oh Melvin Emmanuel Upton, how we have all collectively been waiting to envision that explosive bat again taking control of games since you won that American League Player of the Month award back in June 2009. And during this past small 2-game series against Seattle, you showed why your star has always been shining bright amongst the great young talent in the A L. That the offensive firepower hidden within that black and brown maple bat of yours can come out screaming again and make us gasp at its magic. The past few games have been another edition of the Upton fireworks show that we have all been waiting so long this season to again admire and giggle with anticipation.
And how you, yourself needed that explosion to boost yourself. Not only did it help your baseball sanity, but it was a perfect example of how to push back the growing whispers of negative detractors and submerge that recent debacle with Pat Burrell where he called you out in the locker room and you took the painful comment barrage. People have no idea what has gone on behind the Rays closed doors recently with you, but you have endured a lot this season from sporadic injuries and personal mental demons to again show the crowds that spark of promise we have all seen since you were first drafted by the Rays out of High School. You made people again want to clap loud and proud for B J Upton.
It is amazing that no one besides a small handful of fans saw the transformation during that last three games when you posted back-to-back-to-back multi-hit nights, it was the first time since June 27-28th against the New York Yankees that you felt that offensive power swell up within you and explode onto the field. For some reason, people only want to remember the 4-38 slag mire you have been dragging yourself through, and continue to ride your back as their personal Rays scapegoat this season. And some of them have not even given you a moment to collect yourself or breathe. But you got a sweet reprieve during that series. Oh, you got some sweet revenge my friend.
Most of them did not see or have forgotten that during Wednesdays game, just like Ben Zobrist you got a rocket off to the plate to catch a mis-guided base runner. But unlike Zorilla, your perfect throw did not accumulate with Dioner Navarro preventing the run from scoring. When you threw that guided missile to Navarro trying to gun down M’s first baseman Jack Hannahan at the plate,it was the late glove sweep by Navarro that kept you from the spotlight.
The ball was there in time, but Navarro could not get himself settled in far in front of the plate and tag Hannahan before he slid just beyond Navarro’s glove. But what would the talking heads in Bristol, Conn. have said about the play then? Would they have gushed and admired the defensive gem by the struggling outfielder? Or maybe they might actually have to admit to themselves and the world that you were on your game during this series.
We all know the answer to this question all too well. You have the talent, the ability and the swagger to be mentioned every night, but they forget who you are at times. You have changed position three times with this team to help the team. You took on the lead-off role without much hassle and even if you did massively struggle in the role,you pressed on until you were finally put down in the order in the spot where Jason Bartlett spent most of the season. But people want to remember you comments about the 9-spot in the line-up and not anything else. Sometimes I think we relish seeing people fail on the field and do not appreciate our players enough.
But you made sure people did not forget your name as they were getting out of their seats and driving home on that night. No, you made sure that if they forgot that laser to the plate and those 3 RBI, that they could not forget that fielding gem in that contest. And the funny thing is, if I was not present sitting in the stands watching this, I would not have seen the true grandeur of the moment. People might not even have envisioned that third out being that dramatic, or that spectacular, but you did.
That even during your long sprint towards the dead centerfield fence you had an air of confidence in your strides. And that even as you were leaping like a cheetah towards that tasty meatball of a pitch, you thrust yourself up high on that centerfield wall and took that sure home run ball from above that yellow line and preserved your teams victory. It was he perfect exclamation point on this series for you. It was the perfect way for you to put your name on their lips as they filed out of the stadium.
You made sure that if they did not know you have hit for a .545 average, with 5 RBI and a solo strikeout in your last three games. You might have flown under the radar for most of this home stand, but on that night, you are out of the shadows and right up there in the spotlight for all to see and enjoy. For during this season, most of the Rays Republic have remembered you for untimely strikeouts and an unusual plate discipline, but recently, you have re-adjusted yourself mentally and started to show us again that pretty power swing that has been missing for some time in your game.
The Rays fans seemed to only want to remember that you were hitless in 7 of the last 8 games before this trio of awesomeness. They only wanted to see the struggles and the pain as you walked back from the plate after a bad at bat. They wanted to thrust all the frustrations and the anguish on you, and not see the multiple reasons for failure on this 2009 Rays squad. They singled you out as their token reason for not repeating, but you still played on amongst all the riff raff and the BS.
And I have to admit, I was one of those people wondering a bit BJ. I was wondering if you might have finally gotten so tired of all the gruff and comments bent straight towards your head and shoulders that it might have finally made you shut down a bit. I was thinking of replacing you in the MLBloggers Fantasy League because during this weeks last Championship Playoff match I needed offensive moxy. But you proved me wrong, and I am glad of that. You showed me and the Rays fans you still have the desire and the passion for this game, both at the plate and in the field.
And BJ, I did not drop you from that Fantasy&
nbsp;roster. Hey how soon people forget I traded Angels closer Brian Fuentes for you. I had that much faith in your abilities. Or maybe it is rooted more in the fact that I have watched you play professional baseball since you were 17, and I know the passion and zeal you have for this game. It is that glint in your smile and that cock of the head that tells me you are still very much centered in this game. And for that reason, you still have me as your fan.
And with that spectacular catch to keep you on the minds of Rays fans for a bit, maybe it is time to again show the Rays fans why you are the real star in centerfield. Forget that painted on yellow sunburst that you sometimes put your left foot on while setting up in centerfield for an inning. You are the bright star in that outfield, and it is about time that we again see that shine. So hopefully that same magic is stuffed in your bag for the last road trip of the season so we can again marvel at your skills this weekend.
This is the time BJ. This is the moment where you can again get people excited for 2010 and the possibility of you again making plays like that and being the man at the plate. Some people say that first impressions are the most important, and in normal life they are totally correct. But in sports, it is what you have done in your last impression that keeps you on peoples minds and in their thoughts. So what you do these last 10 games might set up the fans mindsets even before you take the field in 2010. People remembered the massive homers in the post season in 2008 and envisioned a career year from you this season. Maybe it is time to revisit that glory and again make us salivate and yearn for more baseball in 2009.