Time for the Shields Vintage to Mature

 

 
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St.PetersburgTimes/TBT.com Photo
 
Sometimes Tampa Bay Rays starter James Anthony Shields seems to act more like a cartoon character than a veteran Major Leaguer. You can definitely pick up his voice among those on the Rays bench during his non-pitching Rays game days.

Shields is often heard in the background on dugout microphones throwing out these definitely unique brand of “Shields-isms” that makes no immediate sense until they suddenly hit you right between the eyes and you find yourself either rolling your eyes or emitting a huge belly laugh at them. It was Shields non-pitching character to keep the team loose and carefree.
So on the 29th anniversary of his birth today(12/20/1981) in Newhall, California I want to publicly start the James Shields birthday celebration. Shields has always felt he was the Rays “graybeard” of the pitching staff, and in 2011 that seniority will be much needed within the Rays clubhouse.

Some joking aside, maybe it is time for Shields to consider himself more of a finely matured Cabernet within Rays Manager Joe Maddon’s clubhouse instead of the whimsical Sangria. With the Rays roster renovation project firmly entrenched to begin in the Spring of 2011, now more than ever Shields has hit that finely aged vintage stage of his career where providing a veteran presence throughout the Rays clubhouse is more important than his off-day dugout verbiage.

It is time for Shields vintage to either ferment and mature along with his young Rays teammates, or he could eventually be turned into expensive red wine vinegar and subsequently sent a sail into the Gulf of Mexico sunset. As one of the most vocal Rays veterans remaining from the 2008 American League Championship team, it might just be Shields time to shine as a clubhouse leader and provide more than just another inspiring page to the Rays 2011 Media Guide.

This Spring Shields begins the fourth year of a four year contract with the Rays, but he also has 3 one-year club options in 2012,2013,2014 firmly on the horizon. With a season like 2010 behind him, it is time for Shields to again lead by example and reclaim his Number one spot in the Rays rotation.

Coming off the statistically worst season of his career,

Shields had some Rays Republic members losing a bit of faith in his alter ego “Big Game” James, and some scoffed at the notion that Shields could pull off an unprecedented fourth straight Opening Day Rays starting nod in 2011.

It has been almost 10 months since Rays hot prospect Jeremy Hellickson inadvertently said in an interview he could “learn some things from the Rays older pitchers”. But is his true whimsical nature, Shields did not mope or get his nose out of joint with the comment.

Shields instead took it in with gusto and came out into the Florida Sun on February 28,2010 sporting a fake gray beard beaming with pride that he was the staff “graybeard”.

Some veterans might have been offended or even taken the young Rays buck aside, but Shields relished in the comments and even told the St. Petersburg Times that day: “I saw what Helly (Hellickson) said about the older pitchers, so I figured I would be one for the day”.

That just might be the type of bend but not break mentality and banter needed as the Rays rebuild from within both on the field and in the clubhouse.

 
 

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With a large Rays leadership void created with the departure of long time Rays clubhouse mentor Carlos Pena and long time Ray Carl Crawford, the Rays will count on guys like Shields, Evan Longoria and fellow starter Matt Garza to fill some might big character cleats in the Rays locker room. Shields who is coming off his second straight Roberto Clemente Award nomination just might be peaking and ready for the challenge this season.

You wonder if that new found wisdom and confidence of Shields will come from his age, or the pure fact that leaders step forward in adversity while other tend to follow. It is the time for the newly minted 29-year old to show his grey MLB seniority whiskers and possibly bring out that gray beard upon his face to show his commitment to supporting and leading this young Rays unit.

Now more than ever the Rays need a figure like Shields to thrust his hands into the crisp Florida air and call for his team to unite and bond under the banner of the “Rays Way” as the Rays reporting date for pitchers and catchers (2/13/2011) quickly approaches.

It will ultimately be the strength and leadership roles portrayed by Rays players like Shields in the coming months can will repair and hermitically seal the Rays leadership.


Shields has the heart and desire along with his pitching talents to help raise the Rays game both on and off the field. The best praise a pitcher can get is from a teammate who has face him at the plate.

Infielder Eliot Johnson, who will be fighting for a utility spot this Spring for the Rays might just sum it up best: “He (Shields) didn’t lose a thing. He’s still crisp no matter how old he is- or isn’t.”


Happy Birthday Shieldsy, I think it is time to show the rest of the baseball world your vintage has mature and is ripe for a leadership role. Take the reins graybeard, it is your time to lead this crew, all 25 of them.
 
 

14 Comments

That picture cracked me right up! Shields sounds like quite a character and every clubhouse needs one to lighten the load.

http://janeheller.mlblogs.com

Jane,
I agree every clubhouse needs that guy who can cut the tension with a comedic act. But, the Rays have a few of those closet stad-up guys and need a more secure backbone like Pena instilled for the clubhouse to stay the course and not wander into the abyss.
That might sound a bi.. dreary, but the Rays have finally gotten out of that 10-year funk, and I would love to see them stay out of that dark place for a long, long time.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Just when you thought you’d gotten Carl Crawford out of the AL East…he’s off to the OTHER “evil empire”. My only question is the $142 million (over 7 years) Boston’s paying him.
And yet people DARE to say the Nats “overpaid” for Jayson Werth (@ $126 million over 7)?? Let’s see, $20.85 mil/yr for Crawford as opposed to $18 mil/yr for Werth…now, WHO’S the overpaid one?
Just give both of them 2 years, and we’ll find out.
Gary
Nasty Nats Live Here (and Everywhere)
http://go-nasty-nats.mlblogs.com
http://twitter.com/gonastynats
http://greatjake1958.wordpress.com

Gary,
I truly thought (as most of the country) that Carl Crawford was going to the Angels.
But after nearing the Angels owner moan and groan that C C was not worth that type of contract…I think Scott Boras and C C made a accurate $$$ move.
Hate that he is in the A L East, but we have beaten teams that look better on paper than us.
Heck we only lost 1 lousy game worse than our 2008 campaign and scraped by to win an A L East title.
I think in two years we will know who was wise, and who got hosed…..You can bet who I hope got hosed.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

I’m with Jane… I gotta get a new keyboard now cuz there’s coffee in mine (it was part of the spit take after that pic).
–Jeff
http://redstatebluestate.mlblogs.com/

I second – or is that third at this point – Jane and Jeff. That photo is a riot and a half. Then again, I have a huge soft spot for the goofier players – go figure, Angels fan. While I agree that being the class clown isn’t always the best way to rise to a leadership role, I love that this was his response to a younger player’s off the cuff and less than tactful remarks. Making your point with good humor leaves a stronger impression than chastising, I think. Sounds like Shields could very well be the guy for the Rays this year.
-Kristen
http://blithescribe.mlblogs.com/

Jeff,
Hopefully you are at work and IT can get you a new keyboard without a big incident. If you are on a laptop or at home…I am sorry Iposed a photo that made you spit up before 6 pm and that it did not have a malt taste to it.
Seriously, it is time. Time for Shields to take that next step ion his career both on and off the field. Taking a piece of the Rays clubhouse leadership should help him get an internal confidence of leading his team out to battle every day…maybe as a modern day grayheart…

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

As long as Shields produces on the field like he’s capable of then it wouldn’t matter to me. However, if his “youthfulness” is preventing him from becoming a better pitcher then something needs to change. Ryan Dempster is known to cut up quite a bit for the Cubs, but he also takes his performance on the field very seriously. I think Shields could win 15-20 games this year and be the leader the Rays need in the rotation.

Ron

http://strictlycubsbaseball.mlblogs.com/

Happy Belated birthday old wise, beard wonder! love the pic!
Emma
http://crzblue.mlblogs.com

Ron,
Shields hit 13 wins a few years ago, so I do not foubt the talent, just needs to broaden his game with maybe a slight difference in his delivery or pitch selection. Shields got hammered in 2010 when people were sitting at the plate waiting on that patent change-up, and he paid the price.
Adjusting both on and off the field might be the key to his 2011 season, and his chance to get to the 3 1-year club options in 2012-2014.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Emma,
Thanks for coming by and saying that for Shieldsy.
The pic was amazing. And like Kristen stated, Shields could taken offense to the comment, but played off it and made it into a positive.
Wonder if he had a lemonade stand as a kid?

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Blithe,
I agree that there has to be a class clown on every team, but when the bulk of your leadership takes their stuff and leaves, someone has to fill the void.
Shields is a natural candidate, and one I hope will heed the call to duty. From what he does with his own charity, I know he has the internal fortitude and strength to pull it off. Now all he has to do is throw back his hounders and take on this team’s leadership role. Longoria could be a vital part, but I think Longo needs to not take the top step yet. Same with David Price. in the next two years those two Rays can take the torch and lead…I think it is Shields time to shine in 2011.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Congrats on hitting #2 for November, Renegade! WTG! You have a great blog. I always enjoy reading your posts.

Jen
http://faithful.mlblogs.com

Jen,
Thanks for that, but I am not sure how I did it this time. It was a great surprise and makes me feel like it is all worth the time, effort and research to get the scoops or news every day on my favorite team.
I guess it is a firm example that if you want it…Every one can get to this point….any month.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

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