Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Hey Gary!

Since the beginning of the 2004 season, I’ve liked Gary Sheffield. I didn’t like him in 2003 when George thought it best to sign him over Vlad Guerrero, but it only took a few screaming foul balls down the third base line to change my opinion of Sheff. In fact, I think I can pinpoint the moment that I moved from “grumble grumble, we should have signed Vlad,” to “man, Sheff rocks!” I was on the phone with my father, and it was right around the time he rhetorically asked, “man, does anyone hit the ball harder than Sheffield?”

And I remember thinking to myself, “no, no one hits the ball harder than this man.” It just kept getting better from there, with Sheff putting up monster numbers, even trumping those of fellow new acquisition Alex Rodriguez, on his way to runner-up in the AL MVP voting. Actually, the downward spiral of Sheff began right there, with his misunderstanding of the meaning of Most Valuable Player.

[MORE]Gary Sheffield had a great season for the Yanks. He provided power, average, and OBP, and basically took over when we figured out Jason Giambi wouldn’t be coming back any time soon. His .290/.393/.534 (0.90 K/BB) was an impressive line, certainly MVP worthy. But in September, he lowered his averages by hitting .265/.336/.422 as the Yankees cruised into the playoffs. Vlad, however, came through in the clutch. With his team fighting for a spot in the postseason, Vlad hit .371/.431/.773 and led his team to the AL West crown, beating out the A’s by a single game.

When Vlad was announced AL MVP, Gary threw a fit. He went so far as to find out who didn’t vote for him and deny those bastards interviews. How could they not vote for Gary Sheffield? THE Gary Sheffield? (Easy; because Vlad was obviously more deserving.)

Fully entrenched in New York, Sheffield wasn’t too much of a distraction in 2005. His numbers dropped off, to the tune of .291/.379/.512, but he’s getting older and this kind of thing had to be expected. And even though he dropped a stink bomb during the first four games of the Angels series, I continued to defend Sheff, even though I knew in the back of my mind what was on the horizon.

And then in March it happened: the contract complaints began. Of course, Brian Cashman was smart enough to see this coming and attempted to preempt Sheff from crying to the media. And that worked, for all of a day. Soon after, Sheffield began his usual round of complaints, talking about ”always [having] to play with my back against the wall, and there’s just one more year of that and then I don’t have to do it no more.”

Why can’t Gary Sheffield just play baseball? Why does it always have to be about something else, about the respect shown him or his contract? Why can’t he be content batting fifth or sixth in the order; why does it have to be third, a spot he’s taking away from more deserving hitters?

This whole wrist injury is only fueling the fire with a bit more butane. I understand that he’s having trouble swinging a bat, and that’s fine. If he needs some more time out of the lineup, he should get it, no questions asked. It’s just his quote about playing hurt that irked me.

"I'm just not going to go out there and play injured anymore," Sheffield said. "Like I said before: Been there, done that, not doing it again.”

Once again, I understand the nature of a wrist injury and realize that he’s not benefiting the team by playing through it. But Sheff’s quote makes it seem like he wouldn’t play through, say, a hamstring injury later in the season. That’s what pisses me off. Part of being on a team is being selfless, playing through pain, and helping your team win games.

The entire Yankees non-personnel staff needs to get together and decide that enough is enough. Sheffield isn’t the hitter he was two years ago, and therefore should not be babied and handed the No. 3 spot in the lineup nightly. In fact, for every disparaging remark he makes about how he’s being treated or about playing in New York, he should be dropped a lineup spot. This isn’t so much to control his mouth, but to drop him in the order so Giambi, A-Rod, and Matsui can see more at bats.

In short, Gary, Fuck You. Acting like this will not push Cashman towards picking up your option; in fact, it will do the opposite. So if you want to see that $13 mil, you might as well shut your fucking cake hole. If you keep acting like this, not only will the Yanks not exercise your option, but you’re going to find it quite difficult to strike a favorable deal elsewhere in the league.