So it’s a little late. About seven months late, but I figured better late than never. The idea well has been running a bit dry of late. Looking for a job is consuming a lot of online time and fixing up the condo has been taking care of the rest of it. New floor in the bedroom should be finished on Tuesday!
So without further adieu here it is:
The Tampa Sports Wasteland Card of the Year (2008)
B.J. Upton Upper Deck Masterpiece Captured On Canvas Auto
What’s not to like? A future All-Star/ Gold Glove winner/ Silver Slugger. A small piece of fabric. An on-card autograph. Its own built in frame! It’s cardboard perfection!
I picked this up from a box of 2008 Masterpiece that I bought late last year from Dave & Adam‘s Card World. While it’s not Carl Crawford, it’s just as good.
Young Melvin Emmanuel Upton (the B.J. comes from the nickname Bossman Jr his father being the original Bossman) had a rough regular season in 2008. He failed to improve on his 2007 season finishing with fewer home runs, RBI and total bases. He did lead the league in one category - he was thrown out trying to steal more than anyone else.
The talk shows and the cowbell fans couldn’t complain about him long enough or loud enough. He was lazy, he didn’t smile on the field, he didn’t run fast, he struck out too much, he walked too much, the list was endless. Of course plenty of people used the catch all “he sucks” without backing it up with anything.
All the while Upton kept his mouth closed. No longer was he the hot headed youngster who ran off at the mouth about his displeasure. When Joe Maddon benched him for lack of hustle he didn’t complain, “I didn’t run it out - but it’s over, done with, you move on. Learned a lesson”.
That’s what 2008 was for Upton. A 162 game learning lesson. He learned how to be an everyday player. He learned how to play centerfield. He learned the strike zone. It wasn’t until September that everyone learned that the former number one pick had been playing with a torn labrum in his left shoulder.
The pain wasn’t great but it altered his swing and sapped him of the power that had displayed itself in the 24 homeruns he hit in 2007. Since May he had dealt with the injury, with the boos and the negative comments from the fans. Never a peep, never a rant, never an outburst.
Then the playoffs came around. With no need to hold back, knowing that the season was almost over he let it go. The result, seven home runs and sixteen RBI in the three playoff series. The fans that had demanded that he be run out of town in July were embracing him with open arms in October. All was forgotten.
Off season surgery slowed the start to his 2009 season. The grumblings began again. Zero homeruns and a .177 average in April. He managed 2 homeruns and a .218 average in May. The angry fans returned. He needed to be benched, he was overrated, move him down in the order. A strong June quieted some of the voices, but will he manage to continue to improve?
One of the big questions is how this love/hate is going to affect his career with the Rays. When free agency comes a callin’ (after the 2012 season) he’s gonna get paid! Will the Rays offer the big bucks, even if they do will he accept it? As far back as 2006 he has mentioned that he wouldn’t mind playing on the same team as his brother, Justin.
What if he looks into the stands and sees all of the Pena, Kazmir and Longoria jerseys and decides that the TBA has enough superstars as it is? Does he say thanks, but no thanks and takes the money to play somewhere else? Does he take the time then to blast the fans for booing him, for turning on him when it was bad and then cheering him when he was winning games with his arm or his bat.
The good news is that those questions are for the future, for now I can enjoy the card as the best card I pulled in 2008. What does 2009 hold?