So, uh, Sheffield to the Tigers, huh?
I may need a minute here.
Most of you know that I am, as a Massachusetts native, every bit as much a Red Sox fan as I am a Tigers fan (and, conversely, every bit as much a Tigers fan as I am a Red Sox fan). This means that I have spent the past few years absolutely HATING THE GUTS out of Gary Sheffield. I mean not just the general disdain we all have for a player on some random other team who’s perceived as a malcontent; since I’m a Red Sox fan and he was a Yankee, I flat-out hated every bloody thing about him, from his incredibly infuriating bat-wiggle to his weak little is-it-there-or-not mustache. I wish I could say that I’m viewing this trade impartially and based solely on numbers, but that would be a lie. I freakin’ hate Gary Sheffield.
He is (when healthy) a good hitter, and we need those. The presence of a (healthy and up-to-snuff) Sheffield bat in the lineup probably improves everyone; guys like Magglio and Carlos are already good hitters, and if pitchers are a little wary of throwing to Sheffield, they’re more vulnerable to everyone else. I suppose all that’s mostly undeniable, although again, contingent on a rapidly aging Sheffield remaining healthy. As may be evident, I have my doubts about that. And so apparently did everyone else, since I got the impression that a lot of teams were not willing to deal with him mostly on the basis of the length of the contract he wanted.
And yeah, we’ve done OK with gambling on that sort of thing so far (Pudge, Maggs), but you can only gamble so many times before you eventually get your rump roasted by the casino.
I guess he’ll probably DH? I kind of liked the idea of having the DH spot flexible enough to accommodate whichever of our mouldering stars needed a break from the field at any particular time… Carlos could use it when his knee became entirely filled with engine oil, Pudge could use it when his back started screaming obscenities at Vance Wilson in the shower, Magglio could use it when we learn halfway through the season that his entire body is in fact made up of compacted gerbils, and the gerbils are angry. If Sheffield DHs, we’re stuck with that, more or less, because if you put him at first or, cats forbid, in the outfield, he’s going to degrade at an even faster rate.
Offensive and defensive numbers aside, though (and I know that’ll send some of you screaming for the statistical hills, but sorry, sometimes it’s got to be done), one of my biggest concerns with Sheffield is his unrate-able ability to eat away at any clubhouse. It wasn’t an issue so much in 2006, but I’m sure none of us have forgotten the way the Tigers fell apart in the clubhouse after the Farnsworth trade in 2005. Many of the same guys are still here and so, I assume, is the potential for massive dissent and discord. Again.
Yes, Kenny was supposed to be a bit of a wanker and he worked out OK. Yes, Pudge is a prickly, strange character who can work up a great deal of grumbling and has no qualms about buggering off to Columbia for a while if he feels like it, and he managed to (at least so far as we, the fans, were able to see) curb that sort of thing this past season. Maybe Gary Sheffield just resents the Yankees and New York as much as any red-blooded Red Sox fan would and he’ll behave better in the loving embrace of the Detroit media market. Maybe.
Or maybe he, like TO or ARod, is going to be a whining disaster of a personality no matter where he ends up. Which happens to be my personal opinion on the matter, but I am trying to be open-minded about this whole thing because I want to believe that Mr. Dombrowski knows what he’s doing and hasn’t just traded away a handful of decent-to-good prospects for a crotchety miserable old hitter who’s going to be on the wrong side of 40 before I can even legally rent a car.