It is time to address a serious issue with the Tampa Bay Rays 2010 post-post-season. Amidst all the speculations and incessant questioning of the team’s future, Joe Maddon assured that the team will remain competitive and the main reason for that belief is that his starting pitching rotation will remain intact in 2011. Let’s be honest and just lay it all out there; James Shields (13-15) is the Achilles heel of this starting rotation. Let me be clear that this is not a personal attack on James Shields, but a vote of no confidence in his abilities.
In the 2010 regular season with the exception of Dan Wheeler and Joaquin Benoit (who are relievers by the way) that he is the only pitcher on the staff that did not post a winning record this season. As your number one rotation guy that is and has proven to be a recipe for disaster. Say what you want about the lack of run support and offense this season (I’ll get to you in the future Derek Shelton!), but you cannot have your starting ace be giving up 34 home runs in 33 game starts (the most on the starting roster).
Look, if you’re a realistic Rays fan then you know that Joe Maddon is the mad plaid pied piper who will stick by his guys and lead the team to the gates of destruction (self-destruction that is). He will not deal away a veteran the organization and previous staffs have invested in. So what do you do? The most realistic expectation to hope for is that he is demoted to the number five spot in the rotation. Based on his performance, regression and lack of quality in his work these past seasons that is more than fair and in my opinion more than what he deserves. I honestly believe the best thing for the Tampa Bay Ray’s future and fight to stay somewhat relevant can be accomplished by dealing him away for some prospects and some power hitters.
I am a reasonable and realistic fan. Since I do not work in the industry or for the Rays organization I can say it is easy to propose all these changes without knowing the all the facts and budget issues. Ok, I will deal with the reality that James Shields will not or just cannot be traded away for one reason or another. It is time to either demote him in the lineup or move him to the bull pen. Here are the big reasons why I think it would be a great idea to move him there: