Shields is no “Big Game James,” but “Regular Season Game James” fits well

Posted: 02/11/2015 in baseball
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James Shields is a member of the San Diego Padres and the first thing we need to all agree on is this:

Never, ever refer to the durable starting pitcher as “Big Games James.” Don’t do it.

If you pay attention to baseball even a tiny bit, you know that is one of the worst nicknames ever placed on an athlete. Doesn’t come close to being accurate either and you just know I will detail those ugly postseason numbers at some point in this article.

Call him “Little Game James” or “Regular Season Game James” or else just get ready to “Blame James” for not coming through under pressure. But “Big Games James” went down hard last October when the Kansas City Royals went to the World Series and played in Game 7 of the World Series despite getting nothing but dreadful outings from Shields all October.

That’s the hard thing about this signing. The Padres put a totally putrid product on the field last season and becoming respectable has to happen before you can start printing World Series tickets.

New general manager A.J. Preller has been busier than the beaver with the highest work ethic in trying to re-do the mess he inherited. He went hard on the offensive end and acquired outfielders Matt Kemp, Justin Upton and Wil Myers, catcher Derek Norris and third baseman Will Meadowbrooks.

But all offseason, Shields has been lurking just up the freeway in Rancho Santa Fe. After the Kansas City Royals chose not to make a run at keeping him, the market never really developed for the 33-year-old Shields.

Preller had been considering making a run at Philadelphia’s Cole Hamels but the former Rancho Bernardo High never seemed like a good fit for what the Padres had to offer. And suddenly Preller turned to Shields because his starting rotation of Andrew Cashner, Ian Kennedy and Tyson Ross plus two question marks becomes much better with Shields occupying the top spot.

No sense getting hung up on the $75 million over four years that the Padres are spending on Shields. The organization is showing commitment for the first time in several years so no need to worry about whether or not Shields is worth the money in the later years of the contract.

Oh yeah, about those postseason stats – that was one ugly October, wasn’t it?

Shields had one respectable outing in five postseason starts last October. His one ALCS start was horrible and his two World Series starts were atrocious as he gave up seven runs and 15 hits in nine innings while losing twice to the San Francisco Giants.

His career postseason ERA of 5.46 is one of the worst in baseball history. So there’s definitely a weird feeling about giving a guy a ton of money and making him your ace and then getting ready to hide your eyes when line drives are being drilled all over the ballpark and deep drives carom off the wall if you happen to make the postseason.

I know what you’re thinking – the Padres never make the postseason … in that case “Regular Season James” fits in well and he can spend October at home like all the other San Diego players do.

But it’s time to expect a little more from Shields. He gets it done in the regular season but it is time that there’s no more “Lame James” when the postseason arrives.

Just don’t call him that other name. Not even in a joke.


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