photo illustration by Samara Pearlstein
I don’t want to talk about Gary Sheffield again. I really, really, REALLY don’t. But… I keep talking about Gary Sheffield.
Part of it is because HE keeps talking. You shut up, Sheff, and I will shut up about you. Fair is fair. Part of it is because I am generally happy about most of the team. I mean, most everyone’s having a pretty good year, except for certain bits and pieces of the bullpen (but EVERYONE in baseball has problems with the bullpen), and Mike Rabelo keeps getting beat up for unknown reasons (current working theory: tendons made of licorice), and Craig Monroe is still on the team. Other than THAT. Happy, yes.
Of course it ALSO doesn’t help that, between vacation and yesterday’s offday, I haven’t really seen Tigers baseball in a while.
And the remarks Sheffield is making are SO absurd, SO inflammatory, that you just HAVE to grapple with them. I don’t want to. I know you’re probably all bored to tears by this stuff. But Gary Sheffield is a trainwreck alongside a forest fire, in the midst of which is an inexplicable giant squid, slowly writhing its enormous tentacles and smashing more train cars, and dying by fire. It’s hideous, it’s outrageous, and you absolutely, positively, cannot for one second look away. It’s so insane that I had to INVENT THAT SCENARIO, which is absolutely not anything I have seen in person or had really worrying dreams about, in order to make you understand how insane it is.
I feel this almost compulsive need to look at what Sheffield has said and break it down, piece by ridiculous piece. I mean, you see a giant squid fighting with a trainwreck in the midst of flames on the side of the road, and you kind of REALLY NEED TO LOOK AT IT, right?
I am getting all of these quotes from this Detroit News article, because I am lazy.
Sheffield said he doesn’t consider Yankees manager Joe Torre a racist, but Torre “treats black players differently from white players.”
When asked how strong his feelings about Torre are, Sheffield said: “It started off rocky. I was getting disrespected for almost a month and a half.
“When you’re hearing from your manager that they should have gotten Vladimir Guerrero, that’s disrespectful, but nobody ever came to my defense and said it was.
“I’m not making waves. I’m just telling it like it is. But I tried to keep it behind closed doors at the beginning. A lot of things happened over there I didn’t talk about.
“I was always put in situations to fail — like making my contract situation public. I tried to handle it in a professional manner. I could have handled it a lot worse.”
“I had a lot of one-on-ones with Joe,” he continued. “I don’t just jump to a conclusion on every issue. When he called me out in meetings, I tried to take a positive out of it. I talked it over with my wife and she said maybe he was doing it to make me an example for everyone else. I told her she might be right.
“But when it hit the papers, that he called me out in meetings, then it’s a different ballgame and that’s what happened.”
Isn’t…. that… I mean… treating someone differently based only on their race is maybe THE hallmark of racism. Now, IS Joe Torre racist? If he really does treat black players differently from white players (what of Latino players? Asian players? As usual, Gary Sheffield does not concern himself with these fake minorities), then yes, he would be. But… does he? That I can’t say. I have never been in the Yankee clubhouse (thank cats), and I don’t personally know Joe Torre. There are however these points to consider:
a) Just because Kenny Lofton seemingly agrees with Sheff does not make it any more or less likely to be true. If Gary Sheffield declared that the moon was a giant ball of Mexicans hanging in the sky, and he got a couple other ballplayers to agree with him, would that make it true?
b) Joe Torre has been a manager, in some capacity or other, for what is basically 30 years. Thirty years. Is baseball truly so archaic that a racist manager can exist within the league for 30 years without anyone making any comment about it? Maybe I just want to believe that this is not the case. :/
c) Is it possible– just barely possible– that Joe Torre’s problems with Gary Sheffield stemmed not from Sheffield’s skin color, but instead were related to the fact that he’s Gary Sheffield, which means that he’s irritable, prickly, and occasionally insane?
Mostly I take issue with his insistence that Joe Torre treats black and white players differently, but isn’t racist. If you’re going to make the statement, why not go whole hog with it? Why hang back at the last second? If Joe Torre treats players differently based on their skin color, and he’s not a racist, what the hell does that make him?
Also, the Yankees acquired Gary Sheffield for the 2004 season. In 2003, Vlad Guerrero hit .330/.426/.586 with 25 home runs. In 2003, Gary Sheffield hit .330/.419/.604 with 39 home runs. If Torre really was griping that the Yankees should have gotten Vlad, Sheff certainly would have had reason to be sour about it. Of course, Vlad Guerrero isn’t bouncing around the league because of his unhandle-able personality.
Sheffield also said Derek Jeter, who’s from a mixed-race marriage “ain’t all the way black.”
“My son is half white and half black, so it doesn’t matter to me. He’s the same as Jeter. I say the same thing about my son. He gets the same treatment.”
a) Why, exactly, does it matter to Sheffield if Jeter is “all the way black”, or half black, or half pink, or one quarter marmoset, or WHATEVER? Was this wonderful statement prompted by someone asking Sheffield why, if Joe Torre was racist (or whatever it is that Sheff thinks he is), he treats Derek Jeter so well? And Sheffield said, well, Jeter gets past Torre’s black man sensors because he ain’t all the way black? IS THAT WHAT HAPPENED?
Because if it is, maybe Sheffield should consider the fact that Derek Jeter gets treated “like a man” by Joe Torre because Derek Jeter IS the Yankees, and Torre knows this full well, AND Derek Jeter PROBABLY ISN’T AS INSANE as Gary Sheffield is, and is probably GOOD FOR THE CLUBHOUSE and is by most accounts BELOVED BY HIS TEAMMATES, maybe THAT informs his treatment at the hands of the manager a BIT more than his skin color.
b) Good thing Gary Sheffield is making a lot of money, because he’s going to need to spend quite a bit of it on the therapy his kid will require when all his self-identity issues come roaring to the forefront.
Of his relationship with Jeter, Sheffield told reporters in the Tigers’ clubhouse Friday, “We’re best friends but they hate the fact that a player like him respects and likes me. They don’t understand how I can be so this way, and he’s so that way, and we can get along. But I know how to switch. If I need to be like Jeter sometimes, I know how to do that, too. I’m versatile.”
I won’t even get into what I thought when Gary Sheffield started talking about his relationship with Jeter and switching.
“If I took what Barry Bonds took, why don’t I look like him?” Sheffield also told Kremer, he never took steroids because, “The bottom line is, steroids is something you stick in your butt.”
We already got into the sheer wrongness of the second bit in the previous post. As to the first bit, well, Sheff, you know who else used steroids? JUAN RINCON.
But he isn’t as freakishly swollen as Barry Bonds, so it must not be true.
As for the Tigers’ racial atmosphere, compared to the Yankees’, Sheffield said: “It’s totally different. We don’t see race here, that’s the thing. That’s how I grew up. All my friends were white. We didn’t see color. I’m about right and wrong. If I see something that’s wrong, I’ll let you know it.
While I’m glad to hear him say that race is not an issue on the Tigers (and I think that’s true), I can’t stop laughing at the “all my friends were white” bit. It’s hilarious because it’s an old rallying cry of people being accused of being racist, or homophobic, or whatever. “I can’t be ______, because some of my friends are _______,” where you fill in the first blank with racist, homophobic, etc, and the second blank with asian, black, gay, feminist, or whatever it is you’re being accused of hating. This is OLD stuff, it’s been around forever, and it just makes me giggle to see Sheffield embracing it. “LET ME TELL YOU, NEWSPAPERMEN AND LADIES, I LOVE WHITE PEOPLE. I HAVE NO PROBLEMS WITH WHITE PEOPLE. ALL MY FRIENDS GROWING UP WERE WHITE PEOPLE.”
Sheffield said he was surprised at the way the Yankees operated.
“I went into it naïve, thinking classy,” he said. “Everything is first class — only to find out it’s not. It’s not different than most organizations. It’s just that they’re the Yankees.”
This is maybe the first thing he’s said that I wholeheartedly agree with.
Anyways, the most infuriating thing about Gary Sheffield is that while he’s saying all this stuff, all this crazy insane stuff, while he’s busy being the squid that makes you pull your car over to the side of the road to stare, he’s also busy doing things like slamming in runs and stealing bases (!!) and generally being pretty good at baseball. You can’t avoid thinking about him any more than you can avoid thinking about a giant squid when a giant squid suddenly intrudes itself into your otherwise quiet and normal life.
I really hope something big happens in the game tonight. Maybe Nate Robertson can get in a fight with Nick Punto or something. I really need to be distracted from Gary Sheffield. It is for my own sanity, and yours.