June 30, 2005

Sheffield -- Biggest Tool In The Shed

Upon hearing about a possible trade from the Yankees to the Mets (something that apparently was never even seriously discussed), admitted steroid user Gary Sheffield showcased more of that restraint for which he is so well-known:
I would go play for them. It doesn't mean I'm going to be happy playing there. And if I'm unhappy, you don't want me on your team. It's just that simple. I'll make that known to anyone. ... I have to deal with what they dish out, they got to deal with what I dish out, period. ... You're going to inconvenience me, I'm going to inconvenience every situation there is.
Such a class act. And this comes only a few days after bumping an umpire while screaming about being called out at first base. I've seen no news of a fine or suspension, though when "Yankee Bob" Watson is in charge of MLB discipline, current Pinstripers have little to worry about.

In his ESPN blog, Buster Olney writes:
[W]hen Sheffield is unhappy, he simply shuts it down, like flipping the switch on a motor. I covered Sheffield in his last days with the Padres, in the midst of their 1993 fire sale, and angered by the situation, the man stopped competing, like a 100-meter sprinter who decides he's only running 40 meters.

Ground ball just to his left? He wasn't diving; ole. Runner at third base and one out? He wasn't worried about contact; he just swung as hard as he could, and if he struck out, too bad. ... [W]hen he wanted his deal renegotiated or when he wanted an extension and he wasn't getting his way, he went from All-Star to Also-Ran.
Sheffield had similar attitude problems in Los Angeles, Milwaukee and Atlanta. Wasn't there some incident in which Sheffield admitted intentionally making errors while playing in Milwaukee? I did some digging on the internets.

According to a post at Bronx Banter, the Sheffield quote appeared in the Los Angeles Times on September 1, 1992. About his time in Milwaukee, Sheffield said:
The Brewers brought out the hate in me. I was a crazy man. ... I hated everything about the place. If the official scorer gave me an error, I didn't think was an error, I'd say, 'OK, here's a real error,' and I'd throw the next ball into the stands on purpose.
Sheffield later backed off, saying he had spoken "out of frustration" and innocently wondering "Why would a player purposely make mistakes?"

Times writer Bob Nightengale did note in that 1992 article that "Sheffield said the only time he may have made an error purposely out of anger was when he was in the Brewer minor-league system."

May have? ... Either he did or he didn't. There's very little middle ground.

Jay Jaffe at Futility Infielder has a lengthy post about Sheffield from last August which discusses all of this stuff in greater detail, including what the Brewers play-by-play data reveals about Sheffield throwing games.


Rebecca said...

This guy's attitude really disgusts me. I can accept that this happens sometimes with athletes, losing steam for their game in a hopeless situation... but to come right out and say publically, as a professional athlete, that he will not play well intentionally if he is put in a situation he does not like is shocking to me. Who does this guy think he is? That's the kind of attitude you'd expect from an eight-year-old picked for the wrong kickball team, not a grown adult who is being paid handsomely based on an expectation of performance.

I brought this up with my sister, a yankee fan, yesterday. She was familiar with Sheffield's comments and yet did not seem to have a problem with them at all. She seems to think it is in his right to behave this way. Maybe it IS within his rights, but it doesn't make it right.

The man is contemptible. I do not say this as a red sox fan, I say this as a human being with a moral code. I am shocked that my sister accepts this, and all I can think of to explain it is this: Her yankee fan ego is currently so fragile that she needs to feed off the idea that the yanks are the only team Gary Sheffield will play for... as if it's a validation of the yankees' superiority.

L-girl said...

Having been a Yankees fan for 25+ years (but no more), I can confirm that your sister's attitude is all too common - at least when speaking to non-Yankee fans. Yankee fans (generalizing here, so of course there are always exceptions) can only criticize their players to each other. To anyone else, they circle the wagons, and all criticism is met with hostility. We are perfect, say no more.

Until, that is, a player is shunned from the fold - then it's safe to turn on him, because everyone else is.

Sheffield is a sad excuse for a professional athlete, not to mention a generally gross human being. He's one of the many reasons I can't stand that team any more.