With the certain string of injuries seemingly wiping out the entire Mets team the past month (are muscle injuries contagious?), the Metropolitans and their fans must spend nights counting lucky stars that General Manager, Omar Minaya, had the cahones to take a flyer on a man who prior to signing with the team was a quickly fading star, with achy shoulders, who was stuck at 499 home runs.
Gary Sheffield’s reputation as a clubhouse cancer has followed him his entire career. But it’s very important to remember that this label never seemed to come to Sheffield while ON the team (at least over the course of the last 10 seasons, it rarely has). It was always after an ugly divorce with the teams who decided to let him go that has been the foundation of his reputation (wow sounded like Jessie Jackson there). That reputation strings from verbal punches at teammates, managers, general managers, fans, children, puppies, and the ground crew, after he left a city.
The Yankees, for whom Gary spent 3 strong seasons with in ‘04 to ‘06, all seemed to like having Gary around, when he was on the team. He was arrogant and cocky and called himself the best hitter on the team, but no one seemed to mind someone with some swagger on the team. Gary proved the Yankees with the sort of attitude that was missing from their everyday line-up, a real tough guys. After getting beamed by a pitch by then Red Sox, Pedro Martinez in ‘04, after the game Gary, who at the time was dealing with a very bad shoulder, was quoted as saying, “He (Pedro) is lucky my shoulder is in pain or I’d see him out in the parking lot right now”.
The problem with Gary was when he was dealt by the Yankees after a disappointing end to the ‘06 season, Gary called Joe Torre a racist (which is almost laugh out loud funny). Torre, at the time, was mired in a very difficult situation. That season the Yankees had exceled with a more athletic lineup featuring Melky Cabrera in centerfield. Gary missing almost the whole year with injuries was available for the playoffs. It was then that talks sparked about Gary possibly moving to first base, to get his bat in the lineup. Sheffield agreed to try it out and Torre inserted him in there in the playoffs. That experiment failed miserably. Torre, seemingly trying to appease Gary and get him into the lineup, was two months later called a racist, by Gary.
With that being said, after his time with the Braves was through, Chipper Jones said he was the best teammate he ever had. And after his time with the Yankees was done, Gary still had positive words for Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter. And seeing Gary hugging and smiling with people on the bench as a Met, it’s seems that Sheffield is not as difficult as the media makes him out to be when he’s on a team. But let Gary go, and you’ll be hearing him howl on his way out the door.
Upon the news the Mets had signed Gary Sheffield right before Opening Day, Mets fans seemed worried. Worried Sheffield would bring down the youth that he was competing against for playing time. They worried that Gary wouldn’t take well to sitting on the bench, getting less at-bats, and not play where he wanted to in the field. But it’s always important to remember that over the course of a baseball season, problems in your teams’ depth often solve themselves. Players get hurt, go into prolonged slumps, and fall in and out of favor with their managers. And now the depth that Omar Minaya added to his Mets team is paying off big time. Case and point- Gary Sheffield’s play of late.
Gary has an 8-game hitting streak after Friday night’s extra inning win vs. the Marlins. A win in which he scored the game winning run. Going into Friday night, in the month of May, Gary was hitting .362, with 19 runs scored, 4 home runs, and 15 RBI. He’s proved important in the batter’s box, and has played a very solid outfield. He had quite a few big hits in the Red Sox series, and tonight, he ended the game with some nice base running. Gary’s helping the Mets separate from the pack in the National League East, and hopefully for Mets fans, stay healthy and happy.
And for all the Gary haters out there, here’s a cool picture of him I stumbled upon on the Internet.