photo illustration by Samara Pearlstein
Gary Sheffield. My nemesis. We meet again.
Tonight Gary Sheffield did not like a call that the homeplate ump had made. He jawed around some, which is what Gary Sheffield is prone to doing. He then broke his bat on a ground ball and chucked the remaining chunk of it so furiously that the homeplate ump was gloriously inspired to get him the hell off the diamond, and shared that inspiration with Sheffield in the form of an ejection.
Sometimes, when I am not actively avoiding thinking about him, I wonder what it is like inside the mind of Gary Sheffield. The dude has played on 7 teams so far, which is not so surprising when you consider his 20 year career, but IS surprising when you consider the fact that of those 20 years, only 4 saw him hitting .250 or under by year’s end. Four! Two of those were years where he barely got any playing time!
He batted under .290 only 6 years, out of those 20.
That’s not the kind of hitter you expect to see getting moved around the league a lot. Yet Sheff’s run through 6 teams and is onto his 7th. What kind of TERRIFYING THINGS has he done?
Now, I have faith in Jim Leyland, and I have faith in Jim Leyland’s ability to scold the pants off of wayward players. I’m sure that if Elijah Dukes were on the Tigers right now, Jim Leyland would be giving him more than a few stern talking-tos. Although he did have him early, it still bears pointing out that Jim Leyland is one of the few people in baseball who managed to gain Barry Bonds’ respect by telling him to, basically, sit the hell down and do what the manager says. Sheffield has a lot of respect for Leyland, and I think that maybe if there’s ANY manager who can handle him, Jim Leyland is the guy.
So in that sense, despite his clubhouse-killing ways, Sheffield might be a perfect fit for Detroit right now.
But, like, tonight… what was he THINKING, you know? Did he really think that would accomplish anything? Throwing his bat around like a larger, scarier version of a kid throwing a tantrum… He’s been in the league 20 YEARS… it hasn’t mellowed him at all? Not one tiny smidge of a mellowing? He didn’t maybe stop to think to himself, “You know, self, we’re winning this game, but not by much, and we could really use a win, especially against our
racistly named divisional rivals, and I have a big bat that could help us win it, maybe… so I should hold my tongue and stay in the game as best I can…”
I’m guessing he didn’t think that. You know, just judging from the actual outcome and all.
Do I want a guy on this team who has a temper? Sure. A temper, in and of itself, is not a bad thing. If there’s a brawl, I want someone out there kicking spleens and pile driving people into the grass. I want someone tackling the pitcher and trying to eat his eyeballs.
But do I want a guy who gets himself thrown out of a game for bad behavior when we’re in the middle of what is basically an over-week-long losing streak (discounting the brief run bonanza that, right now, seems out of character) and we only have a two run lead in the game? Against our biggest and toughest current rival? No.
Yelling at the pitcher: sometimes happy ending. You can rattle him, or maybe start a brawl.
Yelling at the umpire: never ends well. You would think he might’ve learned this by now.
edit: OK, so upon reading this through I realize that it makes me sound like a surly, disgruntled Sheffield-hater. Which I am! But he’s no longer on the Yankees… he’s a Tiger now… and I must accept it. I must come to terms with the fact of it. I must tell the part of my mind that looks at him and screams “FOUL YANKEE CRETIN” that it must tone down the invective a notch or two.
So here’s my attempt at a positive spin on this… behavior.
1. I like the spirit of getting that mad over something that results, eventually, in one out. Some may call it getting mad over small things, but in reality it shows that Sheff fully appreciates the worth of each strike, and by extension appreciates the worth of outs, and the importance of not giving them away. That’s not just experience; that’s plain old good baseball.
2. It’s possible that Sheff’s long experience in the game, instead of teaching him to calm down about such things, has actually made him madder. He’s seen so many strikes and so many balls in his lifetime by now that perhaps when he sees a call on the edge, he doesn’t just have an opinion about it… he KNOWS whether it was a strike or not. So when he sees an ump making bad calls, calls that he KNOWS are wrong, it’s got to irk him much more than calls he himself is not sure about. It’s his experience that gives him the ability to get in such a furious snit.
3. He’s just what we need to replace Kyle Farnsworth in this town.
4. Frustration happens, especially if you’re already kind of high-strung to begin with. It’s just his personality. At least it shows that he cares about the game in some way. I’d rather that than some guy who stands there like a lump and only moves out of the batter’s box if someone pushes him.
5. What the hell do I know, Sheffield’s been playing Major League Baseball for almost as long as I’ve been ALIVE, and he’s been IN baseball (the big leagues + minor leagues) for significantly longer than I have existed upon this planet. I should probably cut him some slack.