Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Waiting for a Sheff

I’ll admit it: I can’t wait for Gary Sheffield to get back on the field. Hearing that he was activated from the DL before last night’s game has me kind of giddy. Despite his mood being comparable to a snobby teenage girl, he freakin’ produces, and is one of the most intimidating players in the league. You just can’t quantify the fear he strikes in the heart of pitchers as he violently wags his bat.

So, when Jason Giambi was removed from the game, I was pretty psyched to see Sheffield. Unfortunately, Joe went with the increasingly uninspiring Craig Wilson. It’s understandable to a degree, but I don’t understand why Joe is reluctant to use Sheffield at this point. He says he wants to wait until the Yankees clinch, but at one game away, there is no reason to hold him back right now. Especially after an injury to Giambi.

Accordingly, I expect Sheff to start at first base tonight. He may be rusty from missing a few months, but as we saw with Matsui, that doesn’t take the expected toll on a true competitor. Sheffield, at this point, seems hungry to play, and sitting him on the bench while active is only going to upset him. The regular first baseman is injured; it’s time to give him his shot. And really, with a few games of experience, will he be that much worse than Giambi defensively?

The only question is of his slot in the lineup. As we’ve witnessed over the first two years of Sheffield’s tenure in New York, he doesn’t take kindly to hitting anywhere but third. But that’s Abreu’s spot, and rightfully so; he’s a prototypical No. 3 hitter. A-Rod is entrenched in the fourth slot, so the fifth spot may be logical. However, with the lefty-heavy Yankees, it wouldn’t be advisable to hit two righties in a row, as that sets up the rest of the lineup to be lefty-heavy. My proposal, considering Giambi is out for the next few games:

Damon – CF
Jeter – SS
Abreu – RF
Alex – 3B
Cano – 2B
Sheffield – 1B
Matsui – DH
Posada – C
Cabrera – LF

Normally, I’d swap Matsui and Cano, but Cano is a machine, while Matsui is still in the reacclimation process. Even without Giambi, that is one scary freakin’ lineup. Just imagine how it’s going to look in the playoffs, when the ever-capable Cabrera is relegated to substitution and pinch-hitting duties. Lord, the opposing pitchers are in for a fit.

As for last night: Bobby Abreu is my hero, Jeff Karstens is better than Jaret Wright and Cory Lidle, and Matsui just might be breaking through another level of his recovery. In other words, it may have looked like just another 6-3 win on paper, but to me it was a sign that the Yanks are really progressing towards the postseason as THE dominant force.

In case you don’t read other Internet sites, I cannot endorse Tom Verducci’s piece on A-Rod’s struggles enough. It answers the question we fans were asking all summer: what is the team doing to address Alex’s newfound shortcomings? It’s the cover story for this week’s Sports Illustrated, though I’m glad I read it online first; I can now read the “Inside Baseball” section and file the issue away for safekeeping. I like to save all the Yankees covers, and not only is this one Yankee-centric, but it’s beautifully designed (much like most of SI’s covers).

P.S. Still lazy, still no standings update. Magic Number is 1. You all know this.