Archer remains an indispensable Rays’ player

by Gary Shelton on March 24, 2016 · 1 comment

in general, Tampa Bay Rays

Archer struck out 12 in absorbing his 10th loss./JEFFREY S. KING

Archer is leader of the Rays' pitching staff./JEFFREY S. KING

Thursday, 6 a.m.

The face of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays has a quick smile and darting eyes. It likes to laugh, loud and unbridled.

The face of the Rays has a furrowed brow, questioning, interesting. It listens when other people talk, too.

The face of the Rays is framed by hair, glorious, free flowing hair, like a child of the 60s. He has gone up hat sizes because of his hair. He does not seem interested in cutting it. Nor should he. It is his trademark.

The face of the Rays, of course, belongs to Chris Archer.

And how on earth is this team ever going to let him go.

Watch him. That is Archer, comfortable chatting with the president, folding his arms over the railing and talking to the first lady. That

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is Archer, reading to schoolchildren. That is Archer, dumping another jug of Gatorade over another teammate and delighting in the routine of it.

Archer values games started./ANDREW J. KRAMER

Archer values games started./ANDREW J. KRAMER

These days, the Rays are as much about Archer as they are the Ray tank. He is engaging, inquisitive, charming. He has been this way since his first win, and this way since his first loss.

There are a lot of players who come and go on the Tampa Bay roster, but there aren't many essential Rays. Evan Longoria is one of them. Kevin Kiermaier is one of them. And Archer is one of them. Pretty much, everyone else is just holding down the position for the next guy.

Eventually, of course, the Rays will have a decision to make on Archer. Former Rays pitchers are scattered across the league so much that Jim Hickey must feel like Johnny Appleseed. Some of them have better records, and some of them have more impressive accomplishments. But none of them are the well-rounded ambassador that Archer is. None of them have been a better team representative.

Did you get a load of Archer on the Cuba trip? He was everywhere, giving flowers, swapping jerseys, seeing places, experiencing people.

So how does a club turn that loose? How do you not grab him with both hands and hold on? How do you not make that special athlete who gets a bigger contract? How do you let him be a Dodger, or a Cub, or (gasp) a Red Sox? If a team wants its players to mean more than just game performance, how to do better than Archer?

Granted, if you still care a smidgen about won-loss records, Archer's needs some work. He's 32-32 lifetime, and he didn't finish last season well on his way to a 12-13 record. But pitchers shrug at the mention of a won-loss record, a statistic out of 1958 and reserved for Hall of Fame arguments. There is too much about the record that is uncontrollable. No one knows what kind of hitting support you'll get, or what kind of defense, and other stats are thought of as much more reliable.

Personally, I still think that wins matter some. There are times when a pitcher needs the big out in the bottom of the seventh with the tying run on third and the big bat from the other lineup is coming up. But, yes, there are other stats that matter more. Still, it is certainly permissible to want Archer's record to match his stuff.

A little white back, Archer and I fell into a conversation about stats. No, he doesn't think at all about wins. Even innings pitched can rely on a team trying to protect the arm of an investment.

Want to know the stat that does matter to Archer? No, it's not strikeouts or average against or ERA. It's games started. To Archer, it means something to be able to take the ball every five days and give your team a chance. He started 34 times last year, more than anyone in the game.

Somewhere along the line, Archer went from being a Rays pitcher to being the Rays pitcher. There is a different feel to this team with he is on the mound, when he is staring down a hitter, when he is turning lose of that slider.

Somehow, the Rays need to hang onto this. Tampa Bay is better because of Archer.

Even Obama would agree.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Jim Willson March 24, 2016 at 2:24 pm

Loved this column… Archer…..sure hope that we can keep him.


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