Apr 4, 2013

Longo misspeaks, Shields responds

by Aaron Giddens
Longoria made some interesting comments the other day and now they've reached one of the two subjects of said comments. Before we go any further, let's get what Longo said what here in front of us. You can read the full comments at TampaBay.com.

Evan Longoria said what he is most excited about going into today's season opener is the camaraderie of the club.

Part of that, he said, is bringing in new players who have quickly become well integrated into their clubhouse culture.

But another, he said, is parting ways with some of their longtime teammates, specifically James Shields and B.J. Upton.

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.

His point seemed to be that while the new Rays organization is known for its tremendous on-field success and, under manager Joe Maddon, as somewhat of a top destination spot for players who are thrilled to be there, that Shields and Upton would, at least occasionally, be stuck in the dark past.

"Obviously they've never said anything negative in the media and I've never really felt it from them, but I think that is kind of the difference in the team this year," Longoria said. "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.

"In this game, we always talk about how important it is to play in the now and be in the moment, so to speak. It's tough to do that when you're thinking about the past."

I wanted to put more because the whole then is relevant, but I had to pick just a small portion. If you want to read the rest before we continue. I'll wait.

Okay, well those comments don't sound very flattering. In fact Longo admits they were likely coming out in a way he didn't mean them. And well, they reached Shields and he responded. Again the following is just an excerpt, if you want to read them in full, head over to TampaBay.com.

"I'm a little disappointed Evan would say that," Shields said Wednesday from Chicago. "I think my time over there was great. I think I was a pretty decent leader over there."

"I feel like he ought to be worried about his own team," said Shields, a 16th-round pick of the Rays in 2000. "I think Evan is trying to take the (Rays) team on and lead in his own way. It is what it is."

The pitcher said he and Longoria had a solid relationship, adding to his surprise at the comments.

"Evan and I have known each other a long time, we've gone through a lot of good experiences together," Shields said. "Evan's a great player. … I'm sure he'll be a good leader."

Ouch. So what is to made of this? Clearly, Longo shouldn't have said anything at all unless he knew he was gonna say it the way he meant it. And even then it's questionable to whether he should have said it. With the national media now picking up on this, this could get worse before this gets better.

The Rays go to Kansas City at the end of the month, I would personally expect Longo to get booed heavily and the comments to get more play time when April 30th comes around as a "storyline" for the series. Some commentators on the articles say that Longo might get beamed with a pitch, I don't expect that as Shields doesn't strike me as the type of a guy to do that. Again he pointed out their friendship. And personally, I see April 30th as Longo's chance to clarify his comments directly to Shields. But for now, just gonna have to ride the roller coaster Longo has placed himself on.

Upton has declined to comment through a representative.


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