Jay Jaffe at FanGraphs is writing a series of articles on players eligible for the Hall of Fame this coming year, and No. 1 in my heart on that list is James Shields.
In honor of his nomination, which is unfortunately and most assuredly a one-and-done, Jaffe has penned a wonderful retrospection of Shields’s career, concluding with the following:
Shields lacks the numbers for Cooperstown. But this isn’t about framing his case for election, it’s about recalling the mark he left on the game. In his case, the workload stands out, particularly at a time when starters’ innings are so limited. In this millennium, only two pitchers have totaled more 200-inning seasons [Mark Buehrle, 14; Justin Verlander, 12].
Among active pitchers, the only one who might catch Shields  is Gerrit Cole, who has six such seasons. Of course, Shields probably paid a price with those workloads, as he was done at 37 and didn’t even reach 3,000 innings, which until recently was a benchmark for longevity. Still, Shields prioritized answering the bell and keeping his team in the game for his long as he could, attitudes that left a mark on his teammates.
“My no. 1 goal was outwork everybody. I was always the first one here; I was always the last one to leave. I didn’t allow anybody to outwork me,” he told the Tampa Bay Times‘ Mark Topkin last April. “If that translated into a winning culture or a different culture and people, and it was contagious, great. My goal was to win for this team and win for this organization and try to be as unselfish as I possibly can.”
Go check out the whole thing here: JAWS and the 2024 Hall of Fame Ballot: James Shields
It’s James Shields. It’s worth every minute of your time.