Is This The Last Opening Day for James Shields? | The Process Report

Is This The Last Opening Day for James Shields?

The Rays open the season tomorrow night. It’s the third consecutive season they will start on day two of the regular season –once by rain, twice by design—and I’m not sure how I feel about it. On one hand, it creates the illusion of two Opening Days and allows for everyone to soak in the atmosphere from other parks. On the other hand, though, it’s been long enough, I’m ready to see the Rays play meaningful baseball.

It’s a weird Opening Day and a weird team. They’re not favorites to make the playoffs, but then again, they weren’t in 2008 or 2010 either and things went okay. They have a fighter’s chance and with this payroll in this division that’s all you can really ask for. It’s also weird because of the new faces and the old faces who may soon be in new places. I always have one on the future and sometimes I wish I’d leave both eyes on the present. I want to savor Manny Ramirez as a Ray, because it’s not every day an all-time great who can still hit joins the roster, but at the same time, I fear this is James Shields’ and (probably) B.J. Upton’s final Opening Day with the Rays, at least for the next few years, maybe they’ll return down the road.

I used to defend Upton as much as anyone because I never understood why we attempt to make villains of our own, but I’ve given up on that battle in the search of something winnable. Shields should be winnable. Heck, it shouldn’t be a battle. Even if 2010 sucked, he had four strong seasons before it. He has the lore, he has the nondescript off the field life and the qualitative stuff that folks usually eat up, but it feels like that goes out the window with him and that sort of burns me up. I’m going to be nervous for all of his starts because I want him to succeed in the worst way. If you asked me which of the Rays I’d like to have a career year –if I could somehow guarantee such a thing—I’d probably juggle between Dan Johnson and Shields before deciding on the latter.

Shields’ success cements his legacy as the best homegrown pitcher in Rays’ history. He may not hold onto that title for long with David Price around, but he’d still be the best righty (until, universe willing, Jeremy Hellickson or Wade Davis or Chris Archer usurps him). He’s one of the finest players in franchise history but that often gets overlooked. He’s really not all that different from John Lackey, but in this org that’s enough to grant all-timer status –for now, at least. I remember Shields’ first start (back when he went by Jamie) and I’d guess I’ve witnessed 95-98 percent of his big league starts, give or take one or two. That’s 150-something games over five years. It’s hard to not get attached.

As much as I’d like to pretend he won’t be traded at season’s end, ultimately that’s the process. Wade Davis is the continuation of it. Sometime down the road, another righty, someone who may not be in the system or in organized baseball yet, will look like the next Shields or the next Davis. That’s just how baseball is going to take place in this area for the time being. It’s weird to me that Evan Longoria now arguably the best player in baseball and that Reid Brignac is the starting shortstop and that Davis is not only in the majors but just signed a seven-year extension. It means even more time has passed since Shields debuted and since Shields signed his own extension. Time flies when you’re winning ballgames.

Ultimately, I want Shields to succeed more than he has before because it helps the team and allows his Rays’ career to end on a high, not a low. Then his legacy can live on through trade strings, much like Scott Kazmir’s.


  1. kgengler wrote:

    “I remember Shields’ first start (back when he went by Jamie) and I’d guess I’ve witnessed 95-98 percent of his big league starts, give or take one or two.”

    Random cool story bro: I too remember his first starts, and was at #4 in Philadelphia. I have, in my room, an autographed ball by him from that day. Unfortunately he signed it “Jam(ie/es) Shields #55” and then switched numbers to 33 the next year.

    • kgengler wrote:

      Actually, what am I talking about? That’s not true. I got the autographed ball and everything but he didn’t start the day I went, Seth McClung did. Duh.

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