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?

Tim Smith gets it, but not many others. Smith calls it a “hostage situation“, and describes it thusly:

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.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. Steve August 21, 2009 at 11:15 am
    Joe Janish hits another one out of the park. I also think Rubin is kissing up to the Mets after his brush with the organization. How many negative Mets stores has be written since he and Minaya buried the hatchet?
  2. Brendan August 21, 2009 at 11:32 am
    In defense of Rubin – he wrote that on his blog. He’s giving his opinion of the situation on his blog, just as you’re giving yours on your blog. If this were an article for The Daily News I’d understand the gripe, but it wasn’t. It was given in the proper forum.
  3. joejanish August 21, 2009 at 11:42 am
    Brendan, good point. And unlike nearly every other sports journalist, Adam actually interacts with the readers in the comments section. Have to give him props for that.

    I still want him to explain why a sore hamstring is reason enough not to bring back Sheffield. I would argue that the main reason his hammy has been such a problem is because he chose to play with the injury while the rest of the lineup was on the DL. Age has little or nothing to do with hamstring problems, as a 20-year-old Jose Reyes taught us a few years ago.

  4. Mike August 21, 2009 at 11:46 am
    “Be careful you don’t break your arm patting yourself on the back, though.”

    That happened to me once, really ugly situation.

    Sheffield is pretty much the best thing to happen to this franchise all season, to cast him off is no different than bringing Oliver Perez back: it is only done because of perceived performance instead of actual performance. Gary Sheffield can be a very good bench guy and occasional starter for a championship team. Only a blind idiot would think otherwise.

  5. acoustic567 August 21, 2009 at 12:38 pm
    My first post here, so no disrespect, I just happen to disagree with some of what you said.

    I have nothing to add about Adam Rubin or the media’s incorrect claims earlier on about Sheffield being a “clubhouse cancer,” etc. He’s been a good citizen up to now. He’s been a good addition for this year.

    But there is no defense for Sheffield pulling the act that he undeniably *has* done during his entire career — try to dictate his own contract terms or to engineer his own trade by threatening to quit, etc. It’s incredibly selfish and unprofessional, and the Mets were under no obligation to do his bidding.

    You cite Tim Smith’s article, but all Tim Smith did was reveal how completely uninformed he is about the waiver process. Somehow Smith thinks that, because the Mets pulled Sheffield back after he was claimed, he was entitled to think he was in the Mets’ plans for 2010. That’s just ignorant. Players are constantly put on August waivers to determine whether something of value can be obtained for them. If a team puts in a claim solely for the purpose of keeping the player away from a competitor in the playoff race, or refuses to offer anything of value for the player, naturally the team requesting waivers will pull the player back. That says nothing about their long-term interest in resigning the player. It only means that they’re not going to just give him away, even if we’re only talking about a month or six weeks.

    Adam Rubin was imprecise when he said that the hamstring injury alone makes it silly for the Mets to re-sign Sheffield. But to compare this with Reyes and Beltran? Come on. The reason why re-signing Sheffield for 2010 makes very little sense is that he’ll be 41, he has the range of a postage stamp in LF, he’s a constant injury risk, and the Mets should leave LF for FMart or some other younger player. Plus, Sheffield is obviously going to demand millions in a new contract and that’s a poor use of resources for a guy who will be at best a part-timer.

  6. kenny August 21, 2009 at 12:54 pm
    “Hype ’em up and spit ’em out…” – Mets front office/propaganda team motto.
  7. joejanish August 21, 2009 at 12:57 pm
    acoustic, thanks for joining the conversation. Hope it’s the first of many insights from you.

    Smith did more than show how ignorant he was about the waiver process. I linked to him because he is so far the only media scribe I’ve seen with a viewpoint that off the “Sheff is the Devil” bandwagon.

    To say Sheffield is a constant injury risk when he’s the only one left standing is a head-scratcher for me. How are Reyes, Beltran, etc., NOT injury risks? Just because they’re younger? That’s my point — age is not necessarily a determining factor when it comes to injury. Reyes has been injured in his early 20s more often than most players in their 30s.

    As for his range in LF, I can’t disagree — especially since he has been playing on that bad hammy while everyone else has been healing (supposedly) on the DL.

    I’ve said from the beginning that Sheffield projects as a fourth OF / backup 1B / PH guy for 2010, so why is range an issue? His bat is what the Mets will need next year. Good luck finding someone for the bench this winter on a one-year deal who can hit like he can.

    As for it being “obvious” Sheffield will demand big bucks, I’m not sure I agree — I don’t think anything is “obvious”. From what I gather, the Mets completely closed the door on any possibility of a contract extension, and that’s what set off Sheff. No talk of money, terms, etc. — just a “forget about it”. If that’s the way it went down, then the Mets were irresponsible. But we don’t know what went down, and everything we’re getting is from journalists who have been waiting for the milk to spoil since April. The focus is more on “I told you so” and Sheffield’s issues from years ago than on the current state of the Mets, and what Sheff contributed, and how he conducted himself over the past 5 months.

  8. acoustic567 August 21, 2009 at 1:26 pm
    Joe, thanks. You’re right about the “Sheff is the devil” and “I told you so” stuff in the press — I think he turned out to be a pretty big positive for 2009.

    I guess we can’t know what Sheffield would demand in the way of salary for 2010 or beyond. His history makes me doubtful that he would settle for anything close to what I think is the maximum the Mets should expend on him, but I guess that’s speculation. As for the Mets’ simply shutting the door on an extension — let’s remember that the Mets would not have signed Sheffield at all but for the fact that it would only cost them the minimum. It was sensible, back in April or May, for the Mets to think that Sheffield could be a useful and inexpensive piece for a team that by rights was in the middle of the postseason discussion.

    2010 is looking different from how 2009 looked a year ago, and, while I commend Sheffield for playing well this year, it’s hard for me to see him being a part of the solution for next year. We can appreciate and commend him without having to invite him back. If the Mets’ financial situation is as uncertain as has been reported, I’d much rather have those millions (and they will be millions) go toward a quality starting pitcher.

  9. joejanish August 21, 2009 at 2:50 pm
    Acoustic, glad I didn’t scare you off.

    You may be right, Sheff may have demanded more than was worth paying for 2010. At the same time, I look at the free agent pool this winter and worry where the Mets are going to be spending all those millions. On more people like Tim Redding, Alex Cora, Oliver Perez, and Fernando Tatis?

    Don’t get me wrong — Cora was a nice player this year, but not worth $2M. The Mets have consistently overpaid for free agents, both the big fish and the small ones. And meantime they nickel and dime the Bobby Abreus of the world.

    I will be surprised if the Mets spend big bucks on anything worthwhile this winter. They were tightening the purse strings BEFORE the Madoff scandal came to light — so what will they do now, after a season of disappointing ticket sales and associated revenues?

  10. mic August 21, 2009 at 3:11 pm

    1. Acoustic has stumped us all. Gary gets $14M!!! how much would it take for the Mets to re-sign him…6M?
    2. On the hostage situation: I flat out disagree. The cost savings to the Mets is tiny. BUT The Mets should get a player back…Houston got TWO decent ones for I-Rod.
    3. If the Mets KEEP Sheff;
    -it gives them time to think about bringing him back…after all they like him…(though clearly not livian)
    – AND if they dont they COULD offer arbitration and get a compensation pick (if only they could draft)

    BTW: Macks Mets how a great post on the Mets drafting…

  11. joejanish August 21, 2009 at 3:25 pm
    Mic – Sheffield can no longer be traded. The 48-hour window is up, so the Mets can’t get anything for him now.

    Further, he doesn’t project as a Type A nor Type B free agent, so forget about a compensation pick.

    And, exactly what more do the Mets need to see regarding Sheffield? He’s proven that he still has good bat speed, decent power, and can get along in the clubhouse. The next 40 games will tell them what?

    Thanks for the tip on Mack’s Mets.

  12. gary s. August 21, 2009 at 4:26 pm
    joe, sheffield had every right to ask for an extension.his mistake was for asking for cash next year (it brought back memories of madoff).he should have negotiated a contract as a percentage of every burger and shake sold at shake shack.That is something the wilpons could relate to.We are the laughing stock of mlb.It’s hard for me to take anything seriously with freddie and jeffie in charge.
  13. mic August 21, 2009 at 5:49 pm
    I actually think the Mets are 50% intended on bringing him back. The waivers was to see IF someone woulde make them a worthy offer. If the Giants essentially blocked a trade it could have been one already brokered (Marlins) but essentially the G’s killed it.

    AGAIN: I’d put Putz, wags and Frankie on waivers and dare someone to claim them. Wags it appears WAS claimed..Giants again?