• BIG GAME HAS NO GAME — If the Kansas City Royals are going to be a legitimate playoff contender instead of a pretender, James Shields has to start pitching like the No. 1 man in the rotation rather than the No. 5.
Right now, “Big Game James” has no game and is the low man on the totem pole. Jason Vargas, Jeremy Guthrie, Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura are far exceeding Shields over the last two months in terms of effectiveness.
Shields was spot-on early in the season when he was challenging for the American League lead in wins with eight. But in his last 12 starts, he has been peppered for nearly nine hits a game and almost five runs. He should thank his teammates for the support they have given him, as he’s in the top five among AL starters. He’s also left some games trailing, but the bats have garnered him a no-decision with comebacks.
Shields is the Royals’ pitching version of Eric Hosmer. His mechanics seem all askew as he looks terribly off balance at times. He’s been generous with the home-run ball, as his changeup is floating in like a zeppelin. He’s making marginal hitters look like superstars.
The biggest problem, though, is that Shields is an impending free agent. He’s going to be one of the best on the market (at least if you go by his track record) and the Royals in all honesty can’t afford him nor should they pony up about id="mce_marker"5 mil a year for a guy who might win 12. Somebody is going to give him a bloated contract that he can’t live up to, but he’ll receive big bucks for his meritorious service, not to mention he’s a high-character guy in the dugout.
Hopefully Shields will get it turned around, but his funk has polluted the better part of the last two months. He’s like a barometer of the Royals’ season — up, down, good and bad.
• U.S. OUSTED AT WORLD CUP — The World Cup has been all the rage for the last month.
But now that the United States has been ousted, how far will TV ratings fall? The numbers have been off the charts, but will those in the U.S. keep watching now that their horse is out of the race?
I’ll be honest. I tried and tried, but just could never get wrapped up emotionally in this even though this is pure patriotism at its best. I did watch the highlights of the tourney-ending loss to Belgium and goalie Tim Howard appeared to be spectacular. But I didn’t don my red, white and blue colors and hang on every play like a lot of people did.
That’s just me. Maybe someday I’ll learn to get into it, but for now, I’m ready to move on.
• WHAT’S UP AT WIMBLEDON? — Another sport on TV that’s going to take a ratings hit is Wimbledon.
Most of the first-name players have exited, stage left. Serena, Rafa, Maria, Venus — gone. Novak Djokovic and aging Roger Federer are being counted on to prop up the men’s side. I couldn’t name you three women who are left.
A lot of viewing hours have been allotted to Wimbledon over the next few days as it’s been a Fourth of July staple. But will anyone be watching?
• DOG DAYS – June is a chockfull month, but the pace definitely slows in July.
It’s about time, however, to start working on the latest edition of the Mid Kansas Sports Magazine, one of four produced during the year by Davies Communications.
It’s hard to believe that questionnaires will soon be going out for the fall sports season. Our magazine will feature stories on all the area high schools, along with remarkable pictures by contributing photographer Kendall Shaw.
Remember, we’re just about six weeks away from the first fall practice. Hard to believe.