Trading in the pinstripes for tiger stripes?

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.

DEEP BREATHS.

10 responses to “Trading in the pinstripes for tiger stripes?

  1. One word for you.
    Leyland.
    When the Tigers brought Leyland in a year ago, it was wondered about how he would handle the Tigers’ supposedly bad club house (cough, Pudge). It was pointed out by many that he has has handled such characters in the past. One example was Bonds, with whom Leyland developed a close enough relationship that the relationship alone sits in the corner and comes up with “Bonds to Detroit” rumors. The other example is Sheffield.
    I think Leyland (and DD) can actually fit Sheffield in the clubhouse so everyone stays happy.

  2. You do bring up a good point, Mike. It would be really nice if we could rely on Leyland to have that kind of effect on the clubhouse and assume that it wasn’t just winning creating winning chemistry. Although what does that say about Joe Torre? :P

  3. Geeeze, it’s not like they traded for Jeter.

  4. By the way, what’s wrong with being on the “wrong side of 40?”
    (suddenly feeling old)

  5. Nothing at all, unless you happen to be a professional baseball player at the major league level in a position other than pitcher and your name is something other than Julio Franco.

  6. Mike F has a point – Leyland’s already managed the sweet, caring, sharing personality that is Gary Sheffield, so he knows what he’s getting into.
    But I still feel for you, Sam, having to root for him. Good luck with that.

  7. Sheffield will make the Tigers a better team. He loves Leyand and DD and is happy to be coming to Detroit. Leyland has a powerful personality. He’s a man’s man–at the risk of sounding over the top–and he can handle Gary Sheffield. Just repeat this affirmation:
    “Every day and in every way Gary Sheffield is seeming better and better to me.”
    We miss you over at motown by the way.

  8. What does it say about Torre? Absolutely everything. For three seasons, until he got hurt and replaced, Sheffield was kept in check for Torre. And in his two healthy seasons, Sheffield had a rough season average line of 154 games played and a line of .290/.385/.520 with 35 HR and 122 RBI. Sheffield’s discontent this offseason has absolutely nothing to do with Joe Torre and everything to do with Sheff just being a whiny person who’s unhappy that he lost his job due to Shea Hillenbrand and a freak accident.

  9. Leyland can handle guys like Shef, but your point about having some DH flexibility is valid. The Twins won the division (or had it delivered to them, if you prefer) without a DH. They tried the washed up Ruben Sierra and the washed up Phil Nevin and got pretty much nothing out of them. But they did use the DH to give Mauer and Rondell White a break now and then. Of course, it can be done the other way with Thome, Ortiz, Frank Thomas. But Sheff isn’t on a par with them.

  10. Iain, thanks. :/ Yeah, not particularly looking forward to even nominally having to root for the Sheff. Sigh and such.
    Bert, I know there are a lot of positives… maybe even overwhelming positives (on paper). But I just hate the guy. I can’t really help it; he has spent the past few years being an exceedingly irritating thorn in my baseball side and I can’t get over that all of a sudden. Grargh.
    I’ll pop into motown from time to time. I wish I could be around more but this semester, to be wholly honest, is kicking my rear right now. Grargh again.
    Ooooo, Ben, nicked a tender spot, did I? :P Personally I think that if Sheffield wants to get cranky Sheffield’s going to get cranky regardless of who’s at the helm. S’all good. Except for the Yankees. They aren’t.
    Yeah, Jim, it seems like a little thing, but with everyone one year older and guys already showing some frailty over the past couple of seasons, I just was kind of enamored of the idea of having that spot available. Sigh. I guess they know what they’re doing up there more’n I do. *crosses all crossable extremities*

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