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Tuesday, August 17, 2004

The Homer

Jay Jaffe launches upon a defense of Gary Sheffield in his blog of late. Here:
"There aren't five hitters I'd rather see swing the bat than Gary Sheffield, but there aren't five ballplayers I'd less rather root for..."

Back in December, as his handshake agreement with George Steinbrenner appeared to unravel, I wrote those words about Gary Sheffield, along with several others even less favorable. I stand by the first part of that statement. ...

As for the second part of that statement above, it's as gone as a Shef homer. Watching him play on a daily basis has forced me to re-evaluate everything I know about Gary Sheffield. The bottom line is that the guy can play for my team any day, and despite the occasional off-the-cuff remark that has generated controversy, he's been a model citizen since donning the pinstripes and a pleasure to follow.

Ah, but what of the intentional throwing of balls into the stands when he was in Milwaukee? What about his late season meltdown in 2001 (hitting .274/.382/.453, 3 HR) with the Dodgers in September/October in the midst of a pennant race? What about his psycho act when he almost turned down the Yankees' bid? Jaffe in one sentence discloses the unfortunate disease that crosses all of us from time to time, and perhaps Yankees' fans more so than others: the problem of seeing players through the beer-goggles of homerdom. Sheffield might have impressive numbers, but his performances at Milwaukee -- and to a lesser extent, LA -- make him a questionable character not unlike proto-supercreep Hal Chase, tempered only by the fact that Shef never threw a game for money. The lines Bill James wrote of Chase apply equally to Sheffield: "That he was a manipulator nonpareil is clear. That he was a great player is not."

Jaffe actually addresses the errors and what have you a bit later in his piece, and he also incorporates James's comments on Sheffield.
My problem is that I completely disagree with Jaffe about Sheffield's performance. He's supposed to be a professional; he has a contract; he can deal.

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