The Rays won tonight, finishing the season with 90 wins. Tonight wasn't about a win or loss, though. Sure, it helped the mood to get the victory, to have Fernando Rodney come in and slam the door on the season. No, tonight was about celebrating. The team didn't succeed as we had hoped this season, but there were still plenty of individual performances worthy of celebration. None more so than B.J. Upton.
It's not officially over until he puts pen to paper with another team, but Upton's tenure with the (Devil) Rays symbolically came to an end tonight. After receiving a standing ovation prior to his final at bat and singling on a blooper to left field, Upton was lifted for pinch runner Rich Thompson, allowing him to receive a proper send off from all in attendance and doffing his cap in appreciation. If that didn't get your allergies going, Sun Sports cameras showed a clearly emotional Upton hugging choked up teammates and nearly crying himself. After a few minutes the cameras again focused on Upton, this time sitting alone on the bench, unable to hold back the tears any longer. For anyone who has ever accused Upton of not caring, those 10-15 seconds of video should erase those feelings.
Friend of the site Tommy Rancel tweeted that losing Upton was harder on him than losing Carl Crawford, and I agree. I can't put a pin on exactly why, but it's true. We've seen him grow from a 19-year-old shortstop into the 28-year-old centerfielder that stood before us tonight. There's also something touching about seeing any professional athlete, whether you like him or not, showing that type of emotion. So often we forget these people who perform a game for us night in and night out are...people. Humans. Humans have emotions. Upton showed us that side of the game tonight.
He finishes his Rays career hitting .255/.336/.422 with 118 home runs and 232 steals in 956 games over parts of eight seasons. We'll miss you, Bossman Junior.
Fernando Rodney also received a nice send off. With two outs a man on first in ninth inning and the crowd chanting ROD-NEY, ROD-NEY, Joe Maddon brought in his closer for the final time in 2012. Rodney responded like he has all season, by recording the final out and shooting his arrow one last time, capping one of the greatest relief seasons we've ever seen.
Evan Longoria finished strong, blasting three home runs in the 4-1 victory. It's really a shame he missed so much time. He'll finish the season with 31 extra base hits in 74 games. What could have been...
Thanks to all of you for putting up with our recaps this season. Hope you enjoyed reading them as much as we did writing them.