One of the major reasons touted by the Royals front office for bringing in James Shields this offseason was his ability to bring positive leadership to the clubhouse. Shields is widely known as a great guy who helps young players develop and works hard to stay on top of his game. But on Monday, Shields’ former teammate Evan Longoria said things are better now that Shields and former Rays outfielder B.J. Upton are gone.
Here is what Longoria told the Tampa Bay Times’ Mark Topkin on Monday.
Pausing, searching for words, prefacing his comments that he wasn’t speaking negatively, Longoria said the scarring that Shields and Upton endured in the rough Devil Rays days remained a clubhouse issue, and the current team is in “a better mental state” with them gone.
“There was a lot of history with B.J. and Shields and this organization, and I think there were some things that it was tough for them to get beyond,” Longoria said. “They were really the only ones that were left in here that were here before the Rays were (renamed) in 2008, when we started to be the team that we are now.
“And I think some of those things kind of stuck around, and as much as you try to instill the new way, some of those things, it was tough to get some of those thoughts out of their head. And so, I think, obviously they were great players, but as far as an over-arching belief in what we try to do here, I think with the new people that we have now, it’s a completely new belief in what we’re trying to do here.”
Longoria said there were no specific incidents involving the two previously longest tenured Rays, just more of a general feeling.
“Bottom line, we don’t have guys in here anymore that knew how it was. There’s no, ‘It was … It used to be …’ It’s all here and now. And what we’re doing now. And that’s the biggest thing.”
Tampa Bay has made a World Series once, playoffs three times, four seasons of 90 or more wins, and five seasons above .500 in the five years Longoria has been with the team. I would think on-field performance wasn’t the issue so there would have to something in the clubhouse Longoria is not discussing. The idea Shields and Upton were not buying into what the Rays were doing, as Longoria references, also seems out of place.
Frankly, I think this says more about Longoria than it does about Shields or Upton. Here is how Longoria tried to explain what he was saying above.
“It’s kind of like a long-term girlfriend that you’ve gone through a lot of tough times with and you’ve had your good times, but when stuff starts to go bad again then you just only remember the bad times. It’s tough to see the bigger picture, it’s tough to see what’s happening right now.”
I have no idea what Longoria is trying to say. It would seem like maybe Longoria was getting tired of the “don’t take things for granted” kind of message. But comparing it to a long-term girlfriend with whom he’s had bad times completely throws me off. I wonder if he was upset by the amount of adulation given to Shields and Upton upon their departure, and Longoria wants more recognition or attention for what he’s done for the Rays.
This is a strange situation that appears to have thrown Shields off, too. Bob Dutton quoted Shields this morning as saying the comments were “disappointing.”
He was later a bit more forward with the Times saying, “I feel like he ought to be worried about his own team.”
Upton has declined comment.