In Support of Gary Sheffield
Congratulations to all you members of the media and other pundits who were so “right” about Gary Sheffield.
Just for the record, though, let’s make clear what you all were so right about.
Back in early April, when the Mets pulled the no-brainer of picking up Sheffield for the MLB minimum, people bashed the move, saying, among other things:
– he is a clubhouse cancer, and will break up the harmony in the Mets’ clubhouse
– he is selfish and cares only about himself, he’s a terrible teammate
– he’s a malcontent, and his temper tantrums will be a distraction all season
– he’ll complain about playing time and be more of a problem than he’s worth
– he has a big mouth and will disparage the team in the newspapers
– he’ll be a bad influence on youngsters like Dan Murphy
– he doesn’t hustle
– he’s too old and fragile, and will be hurt all the time
– he doesn’t play with mild injuries
– his bat speed is gone
– he’s going to take away at-bats from Dan Murphy, Nick Evans, etc.
– he’s awful in the field
– he did steroids, isn’t that reason enough?
– he’s a bad, terrible, evil person for reasons I can’t explain
Likely I missed a few of reasons so many people were dead-set against bringing Gary Sheffield to Flushing. But you get the idea: somehow, some way, Gary Sheffield was going to ruin the beautifully assembled New York Mets and sabotage the team’s chances of going to the offseason.
Here is one direct quote from a popular NYC rag that succinctly captured the feelings of many on the day the Mets signed Sheffield:
“… whatever happens in leftfield, Gary Sheffield should never, ever don a Mets uniform this season.
Sheffield is a toxic clubhouse presence, someone who was barely tolerable when he was among the better players in the game. Nowadays, he’s a slow, aging player who has lost significant bat speed. All you need to do is remind yourself that the Tigers are paying him $14 million this season to stay away from their team. That should answer your question … he’ll make a full-time job out of making everyone around unhappy.”
Correct me if I’m wrong, but that was pretty much the gist of it, no?
So now here we are in the dog days of summer, with the Mets 14 games out of first place, no chance of getting the wild card, and even 2010 is beginning to look bleak. Gary Sheffield has a conversation with management regarding a contract extension, things don’t go well, Gary gets angry, says he wants to clear his head. That’s all we know — everything else is conjecture at this point.
But the people who have been waiting to say “I told you so!” since April 4th are screaming from the rooftops, beating their chests, pounding their keyboards, and re-labeling Sheffield as the selfish malcontent we all knew he’d turn out to be.
Let’s get real, folks. First of all, for five months, Sheffield was the complete opposite of how his detractors described him. If anything, he helped save the Mets from complete embarrassment, and allowed the Wilpons to sell more tickets long after the season was realistically gone. If Sheffield’s bat isn’t around, you don’t hear Omar Minaya spewing nonsense about being “buyers” in early July. May I remind everyone that Sheffield replaced Marlon Anderson on the roster. Do you think the Mets would have won as many as 50 games by now if they didn’t make that move?
But never mind all that — what’s important here is to bury Gary Sheffield, because goshdarn it, we said he was bad and he finally proved us right. One “journalist” went so far as to term Sheffield a “loaded gun” (I won’t post the link, because I refuse to give that article the value of a link). Another journalist — ironically, Adam Rubin, had this to say:
“And while Sheffield shouldn’t be begrudged for requesting a 2010 contract, when it was spurned, how about going back out on the field that night and proving you merit it?
Clearly, the Mets have no business bringing back Sheffield for next season given his persistent right hamstring troubles, which have left him unable to regularly be in a lineup that desperately needs him. Anyone faulting the Mets for this mess, other than for bringing in someone with a known history of tantrums, doesn’t have much of a firm grasp of reality.”
Adam, how about getting the facts straight and the whole story from both sides before you make judgments? Leave the unfounded opinions to us amateurs. And tell me why playing in a meaningless August game is any more meritous than what Sheffield’s done for the team over the past five months? Further, if the Mets “clearly … have no business bringing back Sheffield for next season given his persistent right hamstring troubles …” then I suppose they also have no business bringing back Jose Reyes, right? Maybe Carlos Beltran, too. Why should anyone who was injured this year return in 2010?
In Sheffield’s case, Citi Field has become the Hotel California – you can check out, but you can never leave.
Given the way this season has gone for the Mets — and never mind the players on the DL, I’m talking about the way this club has handled everything — they should be ecstatic that Gary Sheffield wants to return for 2010. Between the Tony Bernazard / Omar Minaya / Adam Rubin fiasco, the Jerry Manuel / Ryan Church debacle, and the state of the farm system, I’d be surprised if anyone would make the Mets their first choice this winter (as in, other than for money). Personally, I’m looking at next season as another disaster in Flushing. Someone who sees something optimistic about this Mickey Mouse organization in the near future is a person to embrace, not cast aside. Sheffield obviously sees something worthwhile, something he wants to be part of, and he asked for an extension now, rather than going on the open market and going to the highest bidder. And there WILL be bidders for his services this winter.
We don’t know what exactly went down, we can only guess. Likely, Sheffield was rebuffed and became surly. Perhaps he went so far as to consider retirement. In any case, he was emotional enough to not be of the proper mindset to be in the starting lineup. Why is that a crime? If the Mets were in second place, fighting for the NL East title, I’d be the first to call him on the carpet for being selfish and unprofessional. But where the Mets are right now, in a lost season, playing meaningless games, I’m willing to cut him some slack. His passion and volatility are part of the package — part of what makes him who he is. So far those traits have done nothing to sabotage the Mets’ season — it’s already long gone.
But hey, congrats again to all the pundits who hung around long enough to see this through, and reminding us of how right you were about Sheffield. Be careful you don’t break your arm patting yourself on the back, though.