Author: Craig Calcaterra

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What’s in a name? “Big Game” James did not come up big for Kansas City



Last night’s game was not exactly riveting. The personal highlight for me was making an astute observation about pitcher’s names when Madison Bumgarner and Danny Duffy were on the mound. Other noted scribes helped add to that august discourse. It was the sort of thing that made me proud to be a member of the greater baseball community.

Of course the reason we had the time to tackle those weighty issues was because the game was more or less over moments after it began. The Giants jumped all over Royals starter James Shields, putting up three in the first and adding two more before Shields could even record an out in the fourth. That led to some more musing about names. Specifically, James Shields’ nickname, “Big Game James.”

Shields is said to have gotten that name in high school based on his admiration of the original “Big Game James,” James Worthy. Even so, one can assume that he came up big often in high school or else he wouldn’t have been drafted by the Rays. I don’t think most of us heard that name, however, until the 2008 World Series when he had a nice start against the Phillies in Game 2. Since then, he has been called that just about every time he’s been mentioned by national broadcasters as if it was the game his momma gave him.

Whatever the name’s source, it has stuck with him. And because it has stuck, Shields’ postseason struggles have led to no small amount of nickname mockery. Among the many, many variations I saw from fans last night were “Big Lame James” and “Three Frame James.” Of course there were more. Which is understandable when you realize just how poorly Shields has pitched in the postseason. By the time he was done last night he had an ERA of 7.11 this postseason, with opponents batting .346 against him.That is tied for the 3rd worst ever by a pitcher with four or more starts in a single postseason. Not a huge sample, obviously, but not a good sample either. Overall he now has an ERA of 5.74 in 53 and a third postseason innings.

This is not the stuff of a guy with the nickname “Big Game,” but far more importantly, this is not the stuff of a guy who is supposed to be the number one starter of a pennant winner and who is seeking a big multi-year deal on the free agent market. Shields is still a fine starter, but he would not be the first free agent pitcher to take a haircut in the market due to his perceived inability to get it done in big games. The Yankees and Red Sox need a pitcher, for example. Can you imagine what the fan and media reaction would be in those towns the first time Shields got beaten up in rivalry game?

At any rate, there has been some suggestion that Shields has shied away from the name “Big Game.” And there is certainly some defensiveness on his behalf in some corners of the media, even if the broadcasters can’t stop themselves from implying that Shields is, in fact, a big game pitcher. Indeed, after Shields left the game, Tom Verducci said, while interviewing Raul Ibanez, that “we’re certainly not used to seeing James Shields pitch like this in the postseason.” Except, no Tom, we most certainly are used to it by now. And while that undercuts a catchy nickname, it has undercut his team’s chances to win its first World Championship in 29 years even more.

World Series Reset: The Royals look to pick themselves up off the mat

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The Game: World Series Game 2. San Francisco Giants lead Kansas City Royals 1-0
The Time: 8:07 PM Eastern
The Place: Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City, Missouri
The Channel: Fox
The Starters: Jake Peavy vs. Yordano Ventura
The Upshot: Well, that was certainly ugly for the Royals last night. For the Giants, it was shades of 2012, when they jumped all over Justin Verlander en route to their sweep of the Tigers. To avoid that fate the Royals need a big game from Yordano Ventura. They also need to buck recent history: In the past 17 World Series, 15 Game 1 winners have gone on to win the thing. Only the 2002 Angels and 2009 Yankees overcame a Game 1 loss in that time to come back and win.  Overall it’s not quite as dire — in the previous 108 World Series, 63 percent of Game 1 winners went on to win the title — but it’s certainly not the start the Royals wanted.

[MORE: Bumgarner’s dominance and what it means for the World Series]

The Royals have three closers, really. And they’re closing things out at an amazing rate

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Our Joe Posnanski writes about what I feel is the single biggest factor in this year’s World Series: the Royals’ bullpen. Specifically the three-headed monster that is Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland.

We all know that they’ve been dominant, but Joe shows us just how dominant they have been, even compared to other bullpens in an age of bullpen hyper-specialization. He also talks about how the Royals got them and how much a part luck, as well as recognizing opportunities, has played in putting together this beast.

A good read, especially for the numbers which show us just how crazy today’s bullpens have become.

Funding approved for a new spring training complex for the Nationals and Astros

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The Nationals and Astros have been trying to get funding for a new spring training complex in Palm Beach for some time. As Mark Zuckerman of reports, they may finally be getting what they want:

The Nationals’ longstanding search for a new spring training home took a potentially significant positive step forward Tuesday when Palm Beach County commissioners voted to approve funding for a complex that would house both the Nats and Houston Astros.

By a vote of 5-2, the county commissioners approved to allocate $108 million in hotel tax revenue for a proposed $135 million, two-team stadium complex.

The clubs must first find a site. If they don’t do so in 90 days, they lose the money. If they do, the new complex will be ready for spring training 2017.

The Palm Beach location is important for more than just these two teams. If they had left the east coast of Florida for either the Gulf coast or for Arizona, it could have imperiled spring training on that whole side of the state. The Marlins, Cardinals and Mets are on the east coast, but they need some other teams to make things make sense logistically. While the Astros would be leaving central Florida for the new facility, the Tigers and Braves remain there and are still relatively close to the several teams around Tampa Bay.