Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tom Jones' Two Cents: Tampa Bay's most unappreciated sports figures

This week could be the last for B.J. Upton in a Rays uniform. If it is the final week for the centerfielder, he will leave as one of the most unappreciated sports personalities in Tampa Bay's recent sports history. • Here's a look at the bay area's five most unappreciated over recent times.

B.J. Upton

Yes, he strikes out a lot. No, he doesn't always show the type of emotion fans want to see. Yes, he occasionally pulls a rock on the bases. No, he doesn't hit for a high average.

But it seems like half of Tampa Bay criticizes all the things Upton can't do instead of applauding all the things he can do.

First off, let's get over the whole hitting-for-average thing. He came into the weekend batting just under .250. Well, you know what? He's a lifetime .255 hitter. But dig deeper and you'll see that he hasn't hit higher than .250 over an entire season since 2008. He's a .240-something type of hitter. That's who he is.

But he has power and speed, and he is one of the best defensive centerfielders in the game.

And let's be real clear about this part: He's extremely well-liked and respected by his teammates, who consider him a leader who plays hard all the time.

The old saying will come true: You don't know what you miss until it's gone. Baseball fans in Tampa Bay will be reminded of that next season.

Brad Johnson

There's no question that the great Bucs defense gets and deserves the lion's share of the credit for winning the Super Bowl in the 2002 season. When anyone begins a roll call of the players most responsible for that improbable Bucs championship, the names begin with Derrick Brooks, Warren Sapp, John Lynch, Ronde Barber and Simeon Rice.

When folks get around to talking about the offense, the talk usually goes to Mike Alstott, Keyshawn Johnson and even Michael Pittman. Doesn't it feel as if Brad Johnson is an afterthought?

That season, Johnson started 13 games, winning 10. He completed 62 percent of his passes with 22 touchdowns and only six interceptions. He threw five more touchdown passes in three postseason games, including two in the Super Bowl against the Raiders. Interesting how little credit goes to a QB who won a Super Bowl.

Cory Stillman

We all remember when the Lightning won the Stanley Cup in 2004. Marty St. Louis was the star of that team. Not only did he lead the team in points with 94, he led the entire NHL and was named the league's MVP.

But do you know who the second-leading scorer on that Cup-winning team was? Your first guess probably would have been Vinny Lecavalier or Brad Richards. Your next guesses might have been Fredrik Modin or maybe even Dave Andreychuk.

The answer: Stillman, who averaged nearly a point a game with 25 goals and 55 assists in 81 games.

His contribution is often forgotten for two reasons. One, it was his only season with the Lightning. The other is that he did little in the playoffs, with two goals and five assists in 21 games; however, he was believed to be injured during the postseason. It needs to be noted that he picked up an assist on what proved to be the Cup-winning goal.

Diamond David Santos

When you think of boxers from the Tampa Bay area, you think of Winky Wright, Jeff Lacy and Antonio Tarver. And, yes, they were all big-time boxers. There was a short spell when Wright was on the list of the best pound-for-pound boxers in the world.

Santos never did reach the level or popularity of those boxers, but he was a local star and actually held a couple of world titles in the featherweight division back in the 1990s. Santos often fought on cards at the St. Petersburg Coliseum and won his first 27 fights as a pro. He finished his career in 2005 with an impressive record of 46-6 with 29 knockouts.

Art Williams

When you look back at the history of the Lightning owners, Williams often is seen as a bit of a nut job of that group. He has never been given nearly the credit he deserves for the important contribution he made to the organization.

We applaud the original Japanese owners. They brought hockey to Tampa Bay along with ring leader Phil Esposito. We thank Bill Davidson, who brought a Stanley Cup to Tampa Bay. Today, we appreciate Jeff Vinik, who is pouring money into the building and has put a strong staff in place.

The "cowboy'' owners Len Barrie and Oren Koules are seen as a bit of a joke.

And there's Williams. He owned the team only for a season and seemed much more suited to being a football owner than a hockey owner with his southern twang and almost no hockey knowledge. But he bought a debt-ridden franchise at a time when Davidson was only kicking the tires. Williams took over in 1998, cleared the debt, then made it a viable franchise that Davidson would buy a year later.

tom jones' two cents

Joke of the day

"Coming into work today, I went through the drive-through at Jack in the Box. They messed up my order. They gave me the wrong change. So I guess it's official: The replacement refs are back to their old jobs.''

NBC late-night host Jay Leno

Tom Jones' Two Cents: Tampa Bay's most unappreciated sports figures 09/29/12 [Last modified: Saturday, September 29, 2012 7:19pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Cup-winning Lightning captain Dave Andreychuk makes Hockey Hall of Fame

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Hall of Fame coach Scotty Bowman said Dave Andreychuk's name has surfaced often the past eight years with the selection committee.

    30 Oct 2001:  Left wing Dave Andreychuk #25 of the Tampa Bay Lightning skates towards the blue line during the NHL game against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Canada.  The Maple Leafs defeated the Lightning 3-2.  Mandatory Credit:  Dave Sanford /Allsport
  2. Rays acquire slick-fielding shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria from Marlins

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Chaim Bloom said the Rays weren't necessarily in the market for a shortstop. The team has a number of those. But when the Marlins recently began shopping Adeiny Hechavarria, well, that was too much to pass up.

    Adeiny Hechavarria has emerged as one of baseball’s top defensive shortstops in the past three seasons with the Marlins.
  3. Rays at Pirates, 7:05 p.m. Tuesday, Pittsburgh

    The Heater

    Tonight: at Pirates

    7:05, PNC Park

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    Probable pitchers

    Rays: Alex Cobb (6-5, 4.05)

    PORT CHARLOTTE, FL - FEBRUARY 18:  Alex Cobb #53 of the Tampa Bay Rays poses for a portrait during the Tampa Bay Rays photo day on February 18, 2017 at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Floida.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
  4. Lightning journal: Forward Yanni Gourde agrees to two-year deal

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Just three years ago, Yanni Gourde was fighting to stay in pro hockey.

    Tampa Bay Lightning center Yanni Gourde celebrates after scoring against the Florida Panthers during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, March 11, 2017, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) TPA108
  5. What they're saying about Dave Andreychuk making Hall of Fame

    Lightning Strikes

    "Dave helped me so much when I was just starting my career, a young kid that was looking to find his way as a hockey player, a person and a member of the Tampa Bay community. In addition to watching him compile such awe-inspiring statistics, I remember him as a big brother to me and many others, making sure all the …