Time for the Shields Vintage to Mature
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.
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,
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”.
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.
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.
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.