This is a first for The Card of the Day series: A player who is still active.
What is in a name?
For Melvin Emanuel Upton Jr., there seems to be no shortage of awesome names.
The second overall pick in the 2002 draft by Tampa Bay (right after Bryan Bullington of the Pirates) Upton was a shortstop drafted into a franchise whose fates had never risen above “Awful.”
Back then he went by the name “B.J.” which I assumed meant Billy Junior or Bob Junior or something like that.
Nope. The B stood for “Bossman.” He was Bossman Junior Upton. His father, Melvin Senior, was nicknamed Bossman and Melvin was Bossman Junior.
Please take a moment to savor that amazing nickname. Bossman is cool enough on its own. Bossman JUNIOR implies that we need to make a distinction and the player who skyrocketed through Tampa Bay’s farm system was the younger one.
Bossman Upton Senior saw another son, Justin Upton, become the first player taken in the insanely deep 2005 draft. and he of course became an MVP candidate in Arizona.
Meanwhile B. J. made it to the bigs in 2004 and to stay in 2006. The stats of this Topps card go through the 2006 season.
By 2007 he was a 20 homer, 20 stolen baseman and part of a strong youth movement for the Devil Rays. Listed as a third baseman on the card, he struggled defensively all around the diamond. filling it at second and shortstop along the way. He shifted to the outfield for good that season to make way for Evan Longoria.
By 2008, with the Devil Rays Rechristened the Rays, Upton became a postseason hero. The 23 year old son of Bossman homered 3 times in the Division Series against the White Sox. Then he launched 4 homers, drove in 11 and batted .321 with an OPS of 1.180 in the dramatic 7 game ALCS victory over the defending World Champion Red Sox to lead Tampa to their only pennant as of this writing.
When he won player of the month in June of 2009, it looked like B. J. Upton was solidifying his position as one of the game’s rising stars.
But his career became plagued with inconsistencies. He was not the same threat in the Rays postseason appearances in 2010 and 2011 before leaving for Atlanta. There he joined his brother Justin and made for a feel good story as the Upton’s joined a perennial playoff contender.
But B. J. was a disaster in Atlanta, batting sub .200 and seeing his home run totals drop to single digits. He was reduced to a pinch hitter’s role in the post season. He remained a non factor in 2014 before he and his brother landed in San Diego for an ill fated post season push in 2015.
In San Diego, he started going by Melvin Upton Jr., a more direct honoring of his father than Bossman Junior. He had a decent if not great 2016 for the Padres with his new name before being sent to Toronto where he got another post season berth.
So Melvin Upton Junior, AKA B. J. Upton, AKA Bossman Junior may not have emerged as a superstar. He will be entering his 13th season in the majors and has seen his share of postseason games along the way (and become a millionaire many times over along the way for his troubles.)
The back of this Topps card points out something kind of amazing about him.
Evidently, former Devil Rays slugger Greg Vaughn nicknamed him “Easy” because of how gifted he was.
Easy Upton. That’s a pretty bad ass name right there. He already has too many nicknames!
But that being said, no name was cooler than Bossman Upton Junior.
Why did he never go by that?