Posted on: February 18, 2011 4:52 pm
Gary Sheffield once told me he really wanted to get to 3,000 hits.
I can't say I believed him.
Pudge Rodriguez told me last year that 3,000 hits was a goal.
I did believe him.
So I can't say I'm surprised at this week's developments for either Sheffield (who announced his retirement , more than a year after he last played) or for Rodriguez (who was named by Nationals manager Jim Riggleman as the team's starting catcher).
And if Rodriguez is able to play a full season's worth of games this year for Washington, at age 39, he could get close to that 3,000-hit goal. He begins the year with 2,817, and while it's been 12 years since he had 180-plus hits in a season, even a 141-hit year like he had in 2007 with the Tigers would leave him within easy range of 3,000.
Rodriguez keeps himself in great condition, and barring a major injury, I have little doubt that he'll want to keep playing, especially if he's close to 3,000. And I'd be surprised if no team gave him a chance to get there.
Sheffield, meanwhile, told George King of the New York Post that he wanted to retire after finishing the 2009 season with the Mets, which means he wanted to retire about four weeks after telling me that he was focused on getting the 311 hits he still needed to reach 3,000. Anyone who has followed Sheffield's career can't be surprised by that contradiction.
Of course, Sheffield also once told me that 500 home runs was more impressive than 3,000 hits, because "anyone can hit singles."
Sheffield did reach 500 home runs, and when you combine that with 2,689 hits, 1,676 RBI and other numbers, he's at worst a borderline Hall of Fame candidate. He could be hurt by his inclusion in the Mitchell Report, but who knows how the electorate will feel about that by the time he's on the ballot in 2014.
Rodriguez, one of the best catchers ever, is a sure bet to make the Hall of Fame, unless enough voters lay off because of steroid rumors (he wasn't in the Mitchell Report and never failed a test, but he was in Jose Canseco's book).
Rodriguez won't be on the ballot for quite a while. He's still not ready to retire, and he may not leave for a few more years. I have no doubt he wants to.
I believe him.
Posted on: August 21, 2009 12:08 pm
Gary Sheffield has a way of putting teams in the position he seemingly has the Mets in now.
You're tired of him. You want to get rid of him. But you can't stand the idea that he's going to get his way.
Sheffield, by all accounts, asked the Mets for a contract extension on Thursday, then raised a stink when he didn't get one. And now, of course, he wants out.
The Mets, you can bet, don't want him around any longer, either. But you can also bet that the thought of giving him what he wants -- his release -- bothers them just as much.
As one rival executive pointed out this morning, if this were September the Mets could simply sit Sheffield on the bench and let him stew. But this is August, and sitting him on the bench means playing the next 10 days with a 24-man roster.
The Mets can hope that manager Jerry Manuel -- with whom Sheffield has had a good relationship -- can smooth over the hurt feelings and put Sheffield back in the lineup. But that means looking at Sheffield for the next six weeks.
This is all very strange, because it was just three days ago that Sheffield sat in the Mets clubhouse and told me how badly he now wants to get to 3,000 hits (he's 314 short). This is all very strange, but this is also all very Sheffield.
The Mets could have avoided all this had they just allowed Sheffield to go to the team that claimed him on waivers earlier this month (SI.com's Jon Heyman reported it was the Giants). But it's easy to understand why the Mets didn't simply let Sheffield go for nothing. He's basically costing them nothing (the Tigers released him this spring and are responsible for all but $400,000 of his $14 million contract), and with all their stars on the disabled list Sheffield had become their third-place hitter.
Even though the Mets are out of the race, keeping Sheffield gave them a chance to win a few more games the rest of the way -- as long as there weren't any blowups.
But there was a blowup, a predictable blowup, to anyone who knows Sheffield.
Now the Mets are in the same position so many of Sheffield's teams have been in before.
They're tired of him. They want to get rid of him. But they don't want to let him get his way.
Posted on: April 18, 2009 10:47 am
Edited on: April 18, 2009 10:48 am
Surprisingly few members of the 500-homer club spent an entire career with one team.
But no one before Gary Sheffield had needed eight stops to get to 500.
It's no certainty that Sheffield will get into the Hall of Fame, given many voters refusal to vote for anyone tainted with steroid allegations. If he does get in, though, what hat would be on his plaque?
Sheffield isn't really associated with any one team, because he never stayed anywhere long enough. He hit more home runs for the Dodgers (129) than for anyone else, but he's not really a Dodger, is he? He won his only World Series with the Marlins (1997), but do you really think of him as a Marlin?
Before Sheffield, no 500-homer club member had played for more than five teams. And Eddie Murray, who played for five, is clearly associated with the Orioles. Reggie Jackson played for four teams, but most think of him as a Yankee. Sammy Sosa played for four, but he's a Cub, right? Jimmie Foxx played for four, but who remembers his time with the Cubs or Phillies?
Sheffield's travels weren't always of his own making. The Padres dumped him in 1993 as part of their fire sale. The Marlins tore apart their entire team after 1997. But often, Sheffield moved because teams got tired of having him.
He's been a great player, one of the most feared hitters of our era. He's one of just four players with 500 home runs and 250 stolen bases (joining Mays, Bonds and Alex Rodriguez), and one of 10 who reached 500 home runs with more career walks than strikeouts.
He's also been a baseball nomad, always in search of a new home.
That's what makes him unique.
Oh, and those 500-homer guys who never moved? Here's the surprisingly short list: Mike Schmidt, Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams, Ernie Banks and Mel Ott.
Posted on: April 3, 2009 5:28 pm
Does Gary Sheffield to the Mets make any sense?
Posted on: April 3, 2009 12:17 pm
Edited on: April 3, 2009 12:58 pm
The Tigers decided they were better off without Gary Sheffield.
Could the two best teams in the National League East both believe they'd be better off with him?
The answer is yes, because major-league sources said both the Mets and Phillies have serious interest in signing Sheffield, who the Tigers released with $14 million remaining on his contract. The third team known to have interest is the Reds.
The Mets see Sheffield as a part-time player, but one who could be a more imposing presence off the bench than Fernando Tatis. General manager Omar Minaya has always liked big names, and Mets officials believe that the 40-year-old Sheffield has something left in his bat, to go along with his name. Sheffield can't be that big bat all the time (his .225 average last year and .178 average this spring are evidence enough of that), but the Mets believe there's a chance he could thrive in a part-time role. For now, the Mets starting corner outfielders are Daniel Murphy and Ryan Church, and Tatis is the main option off the bench.
The Phillies, meanwhile, have been searching for a right-handed all spring. Sheffield represents a better option off the bench than Miguel Cairo, whose roster spot he would likely take. And while the Tigers determined that Sheffield can no longer play the outfield, the Phillies figure that they won a World Series with Pat Burrell in left field, and that Sheffield couldn't be much worse than that.
The Mets also believe that Sheffield is healthy enough to see some time in the outfield. Last year, Sheffield played just six games in the outfield, all in a short stretch in early May.
Sheffield, who was primarily a designated hitter in his two years with the Tigers, has never had many pinch-hit opportunities. According to baseball-reference.com, Sheffield has only 34 pinch-hit plate appearances in his entire 21-year career. The Tigers used him as a pinch hitter just four times in the last two seasons, and he pinch-hit just twice in three seasons with the Yankees before that.
One important factor for the Mets and Phillies is that they would be getting Sheffield without any long-term commitment. They would have to pay him just the prorated $400,000 major-league minimum for the number of days he spent on their roster. If they later determined that he can't play, or if he complained too much about not getting enough playing time, they could release him without owing him any more money.
Posted on: March 31, 2009 11:17 am
Edited on: March 31, 2009 4:13 pm
It's not easy to admit you were wrong.
It's not easy, even when the numbers are staring you right in the face. It's not easy, not when the mistake was yours.
So good for the Tigers, who released Gary Sheffield this morning, despite the $14 million remaining on his contract. Good for the Tigers, who never planned to keep Dontrelle Willis on their roster, despite the $22 million left on his contract. Willis went on the disabled list with an anxiety disorder, but DL or no DL, he wasn't going to be on this team.
We can't give general manager Dave Dombrowski and his staff too much credit, since they were the ones who signed Sheffield and Willis to the toxic contracts in the first place. But as Sparky Anderson always used to say: "You've already made the first mistake. Don't make the second mistake."
Among the many things that went wrong for the Tigers in 2008, one of the biggest was their insistence on sticking with big-money players who didn't deserve it. Sheffield got 418 at-bats despite his .225 average and .400 slugging percentage. Willis was somehow allowed to start seven games, when he barely earned the right to start one.
By sending them out there, day after day, management gave the rest of the players the impression that contracts mattered more than giving the team the best chance to win.
The Tigers said it would be different this year, but many teams say it'll be different. Now, at least, the Tigers have taken a step (or a step and a half) towards proving they meant what they said.
Think of it this way: Would you rather give at-bats to Sheffield, who showed no signs this spring that he was better than he was last year, or to Marcus Thames, who hit six more home runs than Sheffield in 2008, in 102 fewer at-bats (and who is eight years younger)? Would you rather give innings to Willis or to big-time prospect Rick Porcello?
General manager Dave Dombrowski and his staff still get the blame for wasting $28 million on Sheffield's November 2006 contract extension (for which they got 19 home runs and 57 RBIs). They get the blame for spending $29 million on Willis (for which they have zero wins) and $21.25 million on Nate Robertson (so far, seven wins).
But they also get some credit for admitting a mistake.
It's not easy to dispose of toxic assets. And the Tigers did it, we have to assume, without any government help.
Sheffield will likely get another chance, especially since a team can sign him for the major-league minimum. It's hard to imagine him playing for a National League team, since he can't play the outfield and has never been a pinch hitter. Even the Phillies, who have been looking all spring for a right-handed hitter, would be a stretch, although general manager Ruben Amaro told MLB.com that the team has been in contact with Sheffield's representatives.
Sheffield would be a better fit for an AL team, although it would have to be one that isn't already set at designated hitter.
"I would think he can hit .250," said one scout who watched him regularly this spring. "He tries to pull everything, and he's up there swinging for the fences. He's more of a mistake hitter now. But I don't see his bat falling off the face of the earth the way his defense did."
One side note on the Tigers' release of Sheffield. It means that the Tigers still won't have ever had a player hit his 500th home run while wearing their uniform.
Sheffield, who has 499 home runs, would have been the first.
The Tigers' all-time leader in home runs is Al Kaline, who finished with 399. Eddie Mathews, who had 512 career homers, played for the Tigers at the end of his career, but hit No. 500 as a member of the Astros.
Posted on: August 20, 2008 3:51 pm
We rip others for their mistakes, so we'd better be willing to take the blame for ours. And as two readers noticed, I had at least a couple in the last couple of weeks.
From Steve, who noticed that I typed "no-nothings" when I meant to type "know-nothings": "It really bothers me as a former journalist and a current teacher that they're seems two be know copy editing being done anymore. Unless of course you're no-nothing comment was tongue-in-cheek, as was this e-mail?"
You know, I'd love to blame the copy editors. And I'd love to say that I was being clever. On this one, I have to admit I was just being careless. We'll try to do better next time.
From Dave: "You said that (Orioles 2007 first-round pick) Matt Wieters is at Double-A Erie. The Orioles' Double-A affiliate is in Bowie, not Erie. Same last two letters, same league, but not the same team."
And no chance this was tongue-in-cheek, either. Just another careless mistake. Can't blame the copy desk here, either, but I will blame my fingers. I covered the Tigers so long that when I type "Double-A," my fingers then type "Erie" without even asking me. You laugh, but it took me years before I stopped typing "Sparky Anderson" after "manager."
From Jay: "You leave the D and get a national blog and all you have been doing is ripping the Tigers apart. Coward!"
How did this one get in here? Not my mistake at all. Not only that, but if you ask the Tigers, I ripped them pretty good in 2002. And in 2003. And in 2004. And in a whole bunch of other years. Not that they didn't deserve it.
From Amy: "Why was Gary Sheffield not allowed to say in spring training that his shoulder was still weak and he needed more rehab time?"
Not my mistake, either. I'll blame this one on Sheffield, because he's allowed to say anything he wants. And what he said in spring training was that his shoulder felt fine, which may or may not have been true. But anyway, this wasn't a mistake. At least not by me.
From Mark: "Any scout who says the following is either plain ignorant or fooling himself, given the quality of the Cubs: 'This league is awful. Toronto would win the National League. The Yankees would win the National League.' "
Not a mistake at all. The Cubs have a fine team, but the National League is awful. Besides, the Cubs were 6-9 in their 15 interleague games. Six and nine! That's a .400 winning percentage. That's worse than any AL team besides Kansas City. So it was a mistake. What the scout should have said was that the Royals would win the National League.
Posted on: June 26, 2008 2:56 pm
"Not a Braves-type player."
I heard exactly that a couple of weeks back, when I asked a Braves person about Sidney Ponson. I knew the answer, but I asked, anyway. After all, the Braves were looking everywhere for starting pitching help.
"Not a Braves-type player."
When Ponson had his trouble with the Rangers, causing disturbances and causing Texas to designate him for assignment, officials from several organizations predicted that he wouldn't get another job. Of course, he did, and now he's scheduled to start for the Yankees Friday night against the Mets.
I wouldn't have done it. They did. And when a team like the Yankees is willing to sign a player with as bad a track record as Ponson, you start to figure that almost anyone can get another chance these days.
Anyone but Barry Bonds.
"I feel like our story's just as good as theirs," Cards outfielder Ryan Ludwick said. "There were people picking us to finish fifth. We saw one magazine that said we'd only win 56 games. That'll get your blood boiling."
The Cards survived their two weeks without Albert Pujols, who returned today (a week earlier than expected).
That's three guys who each have 2,000-plus career hits (and two who have 2,500-plus). That's 897 combined home runs, 3,591 combined RBIs.
Sheffield hadn't hit lower than sixth since 1989, according to research through baseball-reference.com. Before this year, Renteria hadn't hit lower than seventh since 1996. And before this year, Rodriguez hadn't hit lower than sixth since 1995, and hadn't hit ninth since 1992.
In case you're wondering, it's not unheard of for a future Hall of Famer to bat near the bottom of the order, even in the middle of his career. Johnny Bench actually hit eighth for Cincinnati two times in the 1979 season.