Alan Dell

DELL COMMENTARY: Rays pitcher Chris Archer has shown he can get through the tough times

TAMPA

When the ace of your pitching staff becomes bigger than life, it may upset the natural order of things for a baseball team.

For some it raises the question: Have we all been Archered?

Chris Archer is Paul Bunyan, Mahatma Gandhi, Socrates and at times the Mozart of baseball on the mound.

But of late, the off-the-field fame for the Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher has passed his on-the-field production. In many ways, Archer has become a rock star without a gold record.

It seemed as if the Rays trip to Cuba would have been meaningless without Archer explaining the dynamics of the visit.

President Obama called him Arch, paying homage to his baseball name.

He was on TV last year in the playoffs and everyone talked how he had a career in broadcasting unless Hollywood gobbled him up.

His smiles carry a sparkle and flare. He says

the right things and often acts like the White House Press Secretary when he does his postgame interviews.

His life is compelling; born to a white mother and black father and adopted by white parents. As he got older, he searched for his identity and identified with kids who dealt with the rejection you feel as a child whose biological parents abandoned you.

It made his life easy and difficult at the same time.

"Making the transition from life to baseball is easy. It's easy because the things I've dealt with in life are tougher than a tough ball game out there," Archer said in explaining his life.

Archer has been showered with compliments well deserved. He is articulate, a deep thinker, and he has gone above and beyond to help kids and help baseball.

He credits a lot of his success to Ron Archer, the man who raised him and Ron Walker, his high school JV coach who has been a mentor and sounding board.

"He (Walker) preached how important it is to know yourself, to be articulate, so that way you can express what you feel on the mound or in a certain situation in life," Archer said.

The people who raised him, Ron and Donna Archer, taught Chris to be polite, but they also encouraged him to speak his mind, which at times they might not be compatible.

They also showed him love and he has majestically carried that to his adult life.

Archer is a person of high character though flawed like the rest of us.

It makes the question every Rays fan wants to ask more difficult.

Hey, Chris, what have you done for us lately?

The answer is not much if you go back to the final month of last season.

In his two starts this season, both losses, Archer has a 7.20 ERA. He gave up four homers to Baltimore Friday night. He went winless in September of 2015 and has compiled a 6.15 ERA in eight starts since his last victory on the last day of August 2015.

He entered the season lauded as a Cy Young candidate with the best slider in baseball. But you can make the case he is not the best pitcher on the Rays staff.

During spring training Archer made headlines when he scolded two would-be rookie pitchers for showing up late for a morning workout though they were early.

It was fine, but former Rays ace David Price questioned Archer for going public with the incident.

It makes you wonder if Archer should maintain a lower profile.

You can't help but think if trying to save the world has taken the edge of Archer. It's the thing that separates the great pitchers from the good ones.

Some of the greatest were not known for being nice; guys like Tom Seaver, Roger Clemens and Pedro Martinez to name a few. And there were those nasty lefties like Randy Johnson and Steve Carlton who made life miserable for most around them.

Maybe Archer needs to slow down and let his production on the field catch up to his Hollywood persona off it.

In three full major league seasons he is 9-7, 10-9 and 12-13 and has a 3.33 ERA with 574 strikeouts in 570 innings (rounded off). Archer has his moments and streaks of greatness but everyone is waiting for the consistency that precedes true greatness.

You know Archer is a fighter. He spent seven years in the minor leagues and was 5-18 his first three years. He could've hung it up, but stuck it with and finally got the call up to the big leagues at 24.

He says he loves pitching because people are more willing to listen to him and it helps him inspire others to fulfill their dreams.

You tend to believe Archer would be success if his baseball career suddenly ended. But an early demise is unlikely. He has hit a glitch in the road, but his past shows he will find a way to get through it.

Alan Dell, Herald sports columnist/writer, can be reached at 941-745-7056. Follow him on Twitter @ADellSports

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