While having good team chemistry and keeping things laid back in the clubhouse is part of the infamous “Rays Way” that has aided in the Rays’ success over the past few seasons, the Kansas City Royals are hoping to create some of that magic too. Former Rays starting pitcher James Shields is taking on a leadership role in Kansas City, and he looks to loosen up the Royals’ mentality and start some clubhouse antics with his new team.
“It’s different here,” Shields simply told Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan. Coming from a team with themed road trips that also created the DJ Kitty video shown in the Trop, just about any clubhouse would be different than Tampa Bay’s.
But Shields went on to explain the importance of team chemistry, saying, “Chemistry is something that has to happen naturally. We worked really hard in spring training to create that. It’s important to get our arms and bats in shape, but you have to know each other before the season starts or you can’t be on the same page.”
Passan reveals that Royals general manager Dayton Moore asked about Shields’ leadership capabilities before trading Wil Myers and three other top prospects for the starting pitcher. While players like Billy Butler, Jeff Francoeur, and Mike Moustakas are some of the Royals’ best-known players, they haven’t filled the leadership position Moore knows his team needs. Moore was looking to add a player who was not afraid to speak up and be a leader, which is what he found in James Shields
During the offseason, Shields quickly began taking on a leadership role, planning outings for his teammates to get to know one another. One of Shields’ most successful events was a golf match in Arizona that he organized with out fielder Francoeur, where over 40 Royals players attended.
While Passan did not reveal any specific actions Shields has taken recently to liven up the Royals clubhouse, Elliot Johnson, who came to the Royals from the Rays as part of the James Shields trade, spoke highly of Shields’ success with their new teammates.
“”He started off pretty slow, which I think was the right thing to do, rather than completely overhaul immediately. We are the new people here. But he brings a certain leadership. He had it with the Rays, and he wants it here. And he’s doing a good job of initiating that role,” Johnson said.
Since 1994, the Royals have had only one winning season and several seasons of 90 plus losses. The Rays, on the other hand, have delivered 90 or more wins in four out of the last five seasons. Although the Royals’ top priority is to turn around their record quickly like the Rays did in the 2008 season, the Royals understand that victories on the field are related to team chemistry, making James Shields much more valuable to them. Shields’ method seems to be working as the Royals sit atop the AL Central division with a record of 6-4. Shields has already delivered 14 K’s and no walks in 12 innings this season.
The Rays operate by a much different playbook than most teams in baseball, and it looks like James Shields is starting his new chapter in Kansas City with a few notes from his time in Tampa Bay. Should the Rays feel a little betrayed that Shields is doing this? No, and in fact it’s completely the opposite. The Royals giving Shields the opportunity to overhaul their clubhouse dynamic so swiftly and entirely is a ringing endorsement of the Rays Way and a vindication of everything the Rays have done to not just put together great players but create an environment where everyone can thrive.