Gary Sheffield as enormous fiery squid


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.

18 responses to “Gary Sheffield as enormous fiery squid

  1. Who knows what Sheffield really thinks? It’s so easy to get baited..especially if you’re as vocal as Sheffield is..that I just don’t know what to believe. I know that if you ask the Tiger players who the greatest addition was last year..to a man they’d say Sheffield. I find it absolutely amazing that he can even hit the ball swinging like he does.. Do I wish he’d tone it down a bit..yep..but I’d take Sheffield over a lot of other “so called” superstars. Besides, I’m not sure he doesn’t feed on all of this..kind of raises the bar, so to speak..

  2. Jeff, as a Red Sox fan, I still kind of root for Sheff to get drilled every time he’s up to bat. That way he gets on base (good for the Tigers) but I don’t really have to cheer for HIM (which appeases my Sox-mind). Let the record state that while I am not racist, I have to admit that I am rather Yankee-ist.
    ivan, but every steroid user has to come out looking like Barry Bonds! Or Jason Giambi! SWOLLEN HORRIFIC MANBEASTS. And I thought that too re: having his cake and also consuming it, but it seems so unSheffieldian. He shies away from nothing; why from that? Weird.
    tiff, yeah, it was clever of them. Isn’t it on while the game’s probably going to be happening, though? THAT wasn’t the best planning…
    Carl, he himself admitted that these kinds of insane rants do fire him up. There was a quote about how sometimes it’s a little boring to come to the ballpark every day (which I can understand), and how he needs to spice things up for himself. In his own belligerent way, I think he’s having fun with it on some level… which allows us here at RotT to have fun with it too. :P

  3. How about if Gary Sheffield just so happens to get hit in the jaw with a slow, slow breaking ball, but it’s still enough to break his jaw. Yet it’s not enough to keep him out of the lineup. Ooh, and it’s with the bases loaded in the 9th inning and forces in the go-ahead run. But most important, yes, MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL, the injury must require that his jaw be wired shut until November. Yes, THIS is the big thing that simply must happen tonight.

  4. ivantopumpyouup

    Juan Rincon looks like an elf! He can’t be on steroids!
    And I think Sheffield wants to have his cake and eat it too. He says that Torre treats players differently based on race, and then tries to say, “Oh, but I’m not calling him a racist!” Shut up Gary.
    I would like a brawl too. I would like to see Nate maul Joe Mauer in the face. And kick Jason Kubel in the nads.

  5. I can’t wait til they actually air this stupid interview. Curses to HBO for releasing these controversial statements, knowing fully well that they would completely blow up, so that people would watch the interview, because otherwise no one would watch.
    Crazy Uncle Sheff.

  6. Has it ever occurred to you that Sheffield may be on to something: baseball has had such a great history with race and all?
    And, what’s a BoSox fan doing writing about the Tigers anyway? Sheesh! What happens when they meet for the AL Pennant with the winner the favorite for the Series?

  7. Just because it’s history doesn’t mean it’s going on right now. Boston was the last team to integrate, and the most popular player in Boston right now is a black Dominican. O noez! Progress!
    Anyways, I said that I don’t know Torre and I’m not intimately acquainted with the ways of the Yankee clubhouse, so of course I don’t know if Torre really is or is not racist. But just as a pure logic kind of thought experiment– which is more likely: that a blatantly racist manager has been working with players of all colors for 30 years and NO ONE HAS SAID A SINGLE THING? Or that Sheffield and Torre (and possibly Torre and Lofton) had problems unrelated to race, and Sheffield thinks that anyone having problems with him=racism?
    I’ve explained the Sox fan/Tigers fan thing several hundred times around these parts, but in short, I grew up in MA, my dad’s from MI and pushes Detroit sports hardcore in the household, and I go to school in MI. This combination has made me a fan of both teams. If they meet in the pennant race, I fully expect my head to explode.

  8. Dave B Wagner

    for the sake of my sanity, I’m going to have to start assuming that Sheffield has been pulling an Ann Coulter his entire career – i.e., saying ridiculous things for the sake of attention despite knowing full well that the things said are utterly ridiculous and possibly untrue.

  9. I’m trying to figure out what Sheffield is trying to accomplish with these accusations. Will Shef only be able to move on in life if Torre’s name and legacy is shamed? What a bitter, self-absorbed man.
    In your previous post someone mentioned the commercial of Sheffield turning into Paws. I also thought of you immediatly when I saw it.
    Baseball players on steroids = swollen horrific manbeasts??? Oh my gosh, that’s a hysterical (perfect) image.

  10. Yeah, Samara, you’ve got it when you say it fires him up. He likes it. He likes to talk and he likes attention. He’s just a big child, like plenty of either people who play sports for a living. (And plenty who don’t.) We’re all spending way too much time trying to figure out what exactly his reasoning is, when there really isn’t a thought in the guy’s head. Torre didn’t know how to handle him, his little feelings got hurt, so now Torre=Racist. Luckily for us, Leyland apparently has always known how to handle him, which may be the most important skill Leyland’s has.
    Because Sheffield can hit. A little bit. My stars.

  11. Yeah. It’s the Rodney Harrison school of sports life. He has to fire himself up with this crazy stuff. However, so long as he keeps coming out with it, I am totally going to keep blogging about it. Because crazy statements make for crazy blog posts, and crazy blog posts keep me from dying of boredom while I’m writing them.
    I NEED TO SEE THIS COMMERCIAL WHERE SHEFFIELD TURNS INTO PAWS. SRSLY. SOMEONE YOUTUBE THAT SUCKER.
    And I just want to say how much I love the fact that you’re all so used to me that no one even so much as bats an eye at the ridiculousness of the whole squid thing.

  12. Oh, absolutely. The squid I took in stride. Next week: dinosaurs! Or maybe something with clowns? Polanco in a clown suit? I dunno. You’ll think of something.

  13. Wow, Samara is right. I didn’t even blink an eye when I saw the Sheff Squid.
    Here’s a link to the commercial of the Sheffield/Paws morphing: http://www.beatigerforkids.org/

  14. Jules, I see the link there…. and, my goodness, it is awesome. THAT IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN I WATCH HIM BAT. It’s like they piped it directly from my soul.

  15. Sheff nealry won and MVP with the Yanks
    He played one year with great stats even though he was injured and could not lift his glove hand above his shoulder.
    It hurt when he swung the bat, but boy did he swing the bat.
    He re-negotiated his deal to help the Yanks with the salary cap. Later he discovered he was not being given interest on the money he let them postpone. The NY press reported this as Sheff asking for more money. Seriously… Last year he injured his wrist in a freak base-running accident. He tried to come back early but reinjured it. Then he said he’d not play unitl he was 100% Guess what? The press dissed him for that too – selfish, not like Jeeter who plays hurt. . REALLY. When the Yankees were unsure if Sheff would be ready for the playoffs they went out and got Abreu making Sheff instant trade bait. Really STUPID Yankees. After all this how would YOU feel if YOU were Sheff? And this is only his experience with ONE team. Sheff is back with Leeland who he respects. Still he has all these experiences and when people ask him, stuff comes out. Can you blame him really? A Squid? You are a real idiot. It’s easy to diss him but why go for the cheap shot, unless you’re just lazy like lifting quotes out of the D-News? Try and really find out something about Sheff. Give him a real FAIR hearing. At least Sheff is professional and has the extra thing that makes him untouchable – he also has intergrity. Think about it. It’s something your article lacks.
    At least when Hunter S Thompson made stuff up there was somet truth behind it or it was exaggeration that taunted someone who deserved it. Not with you.

  16. Bob, honey, all I did was write down Sheffield’s quotes– which he himself said, which were not misquoted– and look at them logically. And with a sense of humor. This blog is a place for people with senses of logic and humor. People who lack these two crucial things will simply not understand anything written here. And it seems that this entire post has gone right over your head, so… thanks for playing!
    (By the by, your long and rather rambling justification of why Sheffield has every right to hate the Yankees simply proves further that you either didn’t read anything here, or started to read and went on a defensive rant instead of sitting back and having a laugh. I hate the Yankees. Most people ’round here hate the Yankees. I never justified anything the Yankees did in handling any player, because in many instances I think their behavior is unjustifiable. The ONLY thing I said here that could be seen as pro-Yankee was that maybe, just maaaaybe Sheffield’s problems with Joe Torre are not as race-related as Sheffield thinks [or at least says]. Reading comprehension: it’s not just for the SATs!)

  17. Re: the Jeter comment
    The context of the conversation regarding was initiated by the interviewer. She asked Gary about Torre being able to get along with the best Black player in baseball. And he asked who. She said Jeter. Sheff responded by saying Derek is black and white. He ain’t all the way black. It makes perfect sense. He said absolutely nothing derogatory about Jeter. Of course Jeter is perceived to be different because he’s the son of a black doctor and white mother. What if she had referred to Jeter as being white? He would have said the same thing: he ain’t all the way white.
    You are twisting his remarks and using them out of context. He is a very sensible man. I have a mixed child who is not considered Black because he’s half white and that is how he refers to himself and all the other mixed kids of his generation.

  18. //and all the other mixed kids of his generation.//
    That’s the problem. You can’t speak for other people. Sheffield can’t speak for other people. I know kids (when I say ‘kids’ I mean people my own age; I’m thinking especially of people I know at school who are in various activist communities) of mixed race who would be incredibly offended if someone suggested that they were somehow “not all the way black”.
    I know kids of mixed race who consider themselves effectively black; kids of mixed race who consider themselves effectively white; kids who are half Latino and consider themselves, without reservation, Latino; kids who are half Native American and consider themselves, without reservation, full members of their respective tribes; and kids of mixed race who consider themselves effectively mixed.
    It’s cool if your kid embraces an identity and culture based on being of mixed race. It’s cool if Sheffield’s kid is able to do that. It’s not cool for Sheffield or anyone else to assume that people of mixed race have to or should do this.
    As for the interviewer, that’s a dumb question for her to ask anyways, because even if we consider Jeter “all the way black”, I don’t think I’d consider him the best in baseball right now. I mean, just lookin’ at career stats, I’d be inclined to put Ken Griffey Jr. up there. If we look at this year, I think Sheffield, actually, is better. If we ignore ‘roids, you’d have to put Bonds up there. And if we look at overall players, not just hitters, I think you’ve gotta consider CC Sabathia, among others. So that was a pretty cruddy line of questioning to begin with. :P

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