For the first time since James Shields entered Major League Baseball he will not be wearing a Tampa Bay Devil Rays uniform or a
Tampa Bay Rays uniform because he was traded to the Kansas City Royals on December 9, 2012. The trade is not very surprising since the Rays cannot afford to keep Shields, who was due $10 million in 2013. Meanwhile the Royals are hoping that Shields will be the ace they have been lacking since Zack Greinke was traded. Shields will always be remembered as one of the Rays’ best pitchers in its short history.
Shields was drafted in the 16th round of the 2000 amateur baseball draft by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. After spending several years in the minors, he debuted in the majors against the Baltimore Orioles on May 31, 2006. Though Shields only lasted five innings and gave up five run, Shields would quickly become the Rays’ ace pitcher. A month after his first start, Shields became the first Rays pitcher to start his career with four straight wins. In 2007, Shields became a number two pitcher, second only to Scott Kazmir. He finished the year with an ERA of 3.85 and over 200 innings pitched, a trend he would continue for the next five years. In 2008, Shields was the only Rays pitcher to win a World Series game. The year 2011 was Shields’ most impressive year; he pitched 249 innings, 11 complete games, 4 shutouts, had an ERA of 2.82, and a record of 16-12. Big Game Shields was now known as Complete Game Shields. In 2011, Shields was selected to the All-Star game and finished third in the American League Cy Young voting. In 2012, Shields felt the pressure of being traded and did not perform at his best until after the trading deadline. The last game Shields pitched was on October 2, 2012 against the Baltimore Orioles. Though the Rays lost the game 1-0, Shields pitched a complete game and had 15 strikeouts.
Besides great pitching, Rays also know that Shields has a big personality. Rays’ fans will always remember Shields fighting Boston Red Sox centerfielder Coco Crisp. In 2008, Crisp was caught stealing by Rays’ shortstop Jason Bartlett. Several innings later, Crisp intentionally slid hard into second baseman Akinori Iwamura. The next day, Shields purposely threw a pitch at Crisp, causing Crisp to charge the mound. Shields swung back at Crisp; though he missed Crisp’s face, he was suspended for six games. Shields stated that the reason he purposely threw a ball at Crisp was to defend his teammate. Shield showed that he is a dependable player that can be counted on. Shields also became a role model to the younger Rays’ pitchers, including David Price. The two of them would soon become inseparable; it became a common sight seeing Shields throw peanut shells at Price during a television interview. When Shields would be interviewed, Price would stroll over and start answering questions. Shields was also active in the Tampa Bay community. At the beginning of the baseball season, he would purchase a suite at Tropicana Field and let different groups of foster kids watch baseball throughout the year. Shields also worked with his wife to help pair parents with foster children; he is responsible for creating families. Not only will Shields’ loyalty and humor be missed in the Rays’ dugout, but his contributions to countless families will always be remembered.
James Shields leaves behind seven memorable years with the Rays, ranging from fights with rival teams to throwing peanut shells at his pitching coach. He also leaves behind a legacy since he is the all-time leader in wins, shutouts, complete games, strikeouts, and innings pitched. His pranks with Price during baseball games will be missed by Rays’ fans as well as his contributions to the Tampa Bay community. Shields will be a great addition the Royals since he is a great player both on and off the field.