Leyland abandons logic in Sheffield mess

The announcement came out last night that Gary Sheffield’s switch to full time left fielder had come to an end after only 5 games. This latest turn of events isn’t surprising, but the aftermath makes no sense. The Tigers are relegated to carrying a player on the roster who can’t even DH everyday. If only there was some sort of way to deal with injured players so that they wouldn’t take up a roster spot and you could have a substitute for them…

When the news came out that Sheffield was switching to left, it made little sense from a baseball standpoint. Especially since it meant moving better fielding players like Matt Joyce to the DH role. But there was some merit in the move. Given Sheffield and the Tigers problems if there was a chance to get either going I’m all for it. Sheffield didn’t have any miscues in the field, and since the switch he hit 278/458/389 so it cost the team little.

The other reason to be in favor of the move is that it seemed like it would force an action one way or the other. Either Sheffield would respond and show he was okay and get rolling. Or he’d show that he’s not healthy finally prompting what seems to be an inevitable trip to the DL.

But instead we have a player who can’t take warmup tosses between innings and who by his own admission is restricted in his swing and that he “isn’t getting to certain pitches I’d like.”

Now let’s take a step back and look at Sheffield’s recent performance with the nice OBP and empty slugging percentage. In Leyland’s post game presser after Tuesday’s loss he said it’s nice that the Tigers have a good OBP, but he likes slugging and bringing runners around. And yet he continues to trot out a player who admits he can’t drive the ball, who Leyland recognizes can’t drive the ball.

This is bizarre, befuddling, and downright stupid. I understand that Leyland has respect for Sheffield and is trying to do what he can to get him going. But a quarter season of on the job rehab isn’t helping Sheffield and it isn’t helping the Tigers. DL him now. Call up Jeff Larish or Mike Hessman. Larish is left handed and is entirely capable of slugging. Hessman is right handed but can play a couple positions and is entirely capable of slugging. But don’t carry a player who is only capable of playing once a series.
Shoulder relegates Sheffield to the DH


  1. Matt in Toledo

    May 15, 2008 at 10:06 am

    The best part to me is this whole article is full of the “logic” behind the move back to DH, and how having to throw isn’t going to help his shoulder, but the end of the article adds how Sheff will play left against Arizona this weekend when there’s no DH.

    I can’t imagine being Ryan Raburn and not getting upset after reading that article.

  2. Luke

    May 15, 2008 at 10:15 am

    Amen brutha

  3. Sean C. in Illinois

    May 15, 2008 at 10:16 am

    OK, I’m on board the Fire Leyland train. This is just plain wrong. Consideration for Sheffield is taking precedence over consideration for the team and for winning. And maybe the rest of the team realizes it.

    The other reason to be in favor of the move is that it seemed like it would force an action one way or the other.

    Absolutely, Billfer. That’s why I thought it was OK – with a deadline for results. To reverse it now in this way…

    Nothing personal, but I want Gary Sheffield off the team, and quickly. DL, trade, release, whatever. Leyland can go with him.

  4. Spot Starters

    May 15, 2008 at 10:19 am

    It seems like Leyland is grasping at straws. Is there a chance that he’s just lost his mind a little bit? I know that after he left the Rockies he admitted that he just wasn’t feeling it any more, the drive just wasn’t there. Maybe it’s happening again? This team is not inspired and that is his job. This Sheffield mess just pounds home the point.

  5. Matt in Toledo

    May 15, 2008 at 10:21 am

    Oh, and something else about Sheffield. Remember when Leyland said he wasn’t going to drop him in the batting order because if he’s not hitting he just won’t BE in the lineup?

    Didn’t Sheffield hit sixth the last time he was in the lineup?

    I’m pretty sure logic and strategy that changes by the week or by the day isn’t the best course when running a team with a nine figure payroll – or a team with no payroll for that matter.

  6. charlie

    May 15, 2008 at 10:26 am

    i admire leyland’s honesty. what a difficult situation to be in. the owner spends bags of money to bring in big name players (and this started last year with the sheffield trade) and most of them aren’t doing their job well either due to injury or whatever (your guess is as good as mine). the media and fans and perhaps ownership are all raising the pressure to win and leyland can’t seem to get a break. the pitching has been lousy and when it hasn’t been bad there are no runs scored. layland can’t make his boss look bad by benching the high priced talent for minor leaguers who may perform better in the short term and the veteran laden club is watching very carefully to see how the sheffield situation is handled because it might show them how they will be treated if they continue to underperform. there are just no easy answers if there are answers at all.

  7. Mark in Chicago

    May 15, 2008 at 10:30 am

    I am all for giving Larish a shot in the DH mix. We could use another lefty bat and he’s been mashing pretty good at Toledo.

  8. Jeff

    May 15, 2008 at 10:31 am

    Yeah, sign me up for the DL Sheff, bring up Larish bandwagon.

  9. Sean C. in Illinois

    May 15, 2008 at 10:34 am


    I don’t think Leyland is under any pressure from DD or Illitch to play Sheffield. I don’t think he’s being especially honest in this situation, either. People who opt for “I can’t/couldn’t help it” rather than “I was wrong, and here’s what I’m going to do to correct it” don’t get any points for honesty in my book.

  10. Kyle J

    May 15, 2008 at 10:57 am

    The one thing I’ve always liked about Leyland is that he’s even-keeled. He keeps the team grounded when they’re playing well and doesn’t panic when they’re playing poorly.

    This season, though, it seems like we’re seeing signs of panic. The Guillen-Cabrera switch was the first one. There was no concrete rationale given and no back-up plan if Guillen couldn’t make the throws to first.

    The refusal to bench or send Sheffield to the DL is the second bad sign. Using the word “confused” when discussing the roles of your personnel is a bad thing.


    I still believe this team’s poor performance is primarily a function of a dozen random factors coming together at the wrong time, but there is reason to be concerned about Leyland’s management of the team at this point. 40 games in, why not put the guys in the lineup who’ve shown the ability to produce and hope Sheffield can contribute in the second half of the season?

  11. Sean C. in Illinois

    May 15, 2008 at 11:06 am

    Kyle J

    I agree. Well put. I’m done waiting for Sheffield myself, but I’d be satisfied with him on the DL and not wasting a spot on the team.

  12. Mike in CT

    May 15, 2008 at 11:07 am

    To quote Jim Leyland…

    “We’re screwed up.”

    It took you this long to figure that out?

    The most depressing thing about Sheff…he’s on the books for next year two. Good grief.

  13. Kurt

    May 15, 2008 at 11:26 am

    Leyland also said the Tigers are “screwed up” more than once.

    So at least he’s still perceptive.

    edit: 20 minutes too late in my reply!

  14. Mark J

    May 15, 2008 at 11:28 am

    I agree Sheff should be DL’d. He is not hitting, can’t throw (which hasn’t cost us yet but surely will at some point) and can’t stop complaining about his shoulder. They sent Robertson down last year for a “tired arm” but Sheffield, who just had surgery a few months ago and is obviously not right, stays on the active roster? Makes absolutely no sense, especially when we have other options for left field and DH that are performing much better.

    At some point the manager has to be questioned for this kind of decision. I was willing to try the Sheff in Left experiment to see whether it would snap him out of his slump at the plate, but there is little chance of that happening if playing in the field makes his shoulder worse. If he can’t hit as DH because he’s not “involved enough in the game” and he can’t play the field because throwing injures his shoulder, then there’s no other option than to sit him.

  15. David

    May 15, 2008 at 11:32 am

    On Opening Day I said he was injured and again I’ll say he is not playing healthy

    Now I think that it is either one of two things
    1) what I said above
    2) his career is over/ he is close to being done (ie what is said on wikipedia about Higgi totally applies here well except for the age)
    “At age 35 and with his best years far behind him, he was unsigned by another team.” – SHEF will not be signed by another team IMO

    Now what do I think now after we have seen the first 25% of the season and have 75% to go?

    1) This season and our teams hopes of making the playoffs are far from over
    They have gone 16-17 since their 0-7 start nearly .500 with all of this mess
    We are 5 games back of the division leading TRIBE who are themselves only 21-19 (they clearly have not run away with anything although Sabathia was dominant last night)

    2) Something(s) need to be done now, to start cutting into the deficit and getting to where this team is supposed to be (they have to start winning )and complaining and whining that the Tigers suck is only useful if you can offer a solution to how they stop living in their land of sucktitude

    IMO what needs to be done

    Starting Rotation
    No change cannot really do anything – kind of stuck with what you’ve got (hope they start pitching like we’ve seen in the past)

    No change (wait for Rodney and Zumaya) look at relievers on the block/minors or on a crappy team who could be effective

    I’ll say it again
    Inge needs to be planted at third, Guillen needs to DH, Shef to bench/DL, then you need a LF ( I say Hessman Clevlen Thames or Raburn)

    And Leyland needs to stop mucking the lineup up and yanking guys at the wrong time

  16. Sean C. in Illinois

    May 15, 2008 at 11:34 am

    After reading the article in Kyle J’s post, I’m surprised Leyland didn’t say the following:

    “We’re thinking that a switch from LF to DH might be just what Gary needs to get his bat going. Gary Sheffield is a DH. I will argue that with anyone. If you look at the history of baseball, that proves it. Guys who can’t find their swing belong at DH, just like guys with bad knees belong at third, guys brought in to replace your third baseman belong at first, good defensive third basemen should be referred to as ‘backup catcher,’ proven veterans shouldn’t need to earn their playing time, and good bench guys should be used by platooning as many of them as possible at one position. For instance, I’m thinking of a LF rotation of Thames, Rayburn, Inge, and Santiago against lefties on a bi-monthly basis. That keeps ’em fresh, and that way, when I give up on Joyce in a month and he gets shipped off to Texas, we can get Barry Bonds and Frank Thomas over here. Coupla veterans like that could really help this team.”

  17. stephen

    May 15, 2008 at 11:37 am

    I agree with everyone about Sheff, but Hessman is not the answer to any question. That’s how far this team has fallen, we think that a career .220 minor leaguer can solve the problem.

  18. Chris in Dallas

    May 15, 2008 at 11:39 am

    All I know is that they better start turning it around very quickly. The Tribe is starting to get hot – 40 some odd consecutive scoreless innings from their starters. Kind of like last summer when both teams were slumping and Cleveland broke out of it about 2 weeks before the Tigers did to run away with the Central. I’m not sure if I can take another shutout. Although, if I want to look for a silver lining I guess I can say at least they haven’t been no-hit yet. Yet.

  19. Sean C. in Illinois

    May 15, 2008 at 11:40 am

    Good Lord, I misspelled Raburn. Shoot me now.

  20. Sean C. in Illinois

    May 15, 2008 at 11:41 am

    But that’s probably how Leyland spells it on the rare occasions he has to, since he hardly knows the guy.

  21. ron

    May 15, 2008 at 1:00 pm

    I like how someone uses We when they should use I.

  22. T Smith

    May 15, 2008 at 2:21 pm

    The thing is:

    It looks like Leyland is walking the balancing bar on the Sheffield issue. Here are the variables:

    1. Bloated contract/No Trade Value
    2. Underpreforming/Downright NOT performing
    3. Wildcard in Clubhouse
    4. Potential Play Maker

    If you DL him you likely risk taking the full loss on the contract — even if its only a 30 day. You’re basically dissing him (in his mind) –deservedly so — but the risk is creating a monster, or as Billfer says, “erupting Mt. Sheff” and creating a cancer in the clubhouse of a team already in a huge funk. You have a guy who has every track record of shooting his mouth in public, saying the wrong things, openly criticizing the organization/teamates — whatever. All of sudden maybe Guillen starts to become disenchanted for getting his chain yanked all over the infield — maybe Raburn and Thames start become disenchanted for their red-headed stepson roles on the team — maybe Cabrera starts to regret the move to 1st — maybe Inge rehashes old wounds, and on and on. One bad apple could set off a chain reaction. In which case it forces your hand — you have to write of the bad investment. For sure he’ll likely never produce again cuz the baditude. Anyway, it’s absolutely ridiculous to be taken hostage like that, but this is what is in the back of Leyland’s mind when “coddling” the veterans.

    So… instead of going there, he’s basically playing yet another hunch. He’s hoping Sheffield’s bat will come alive sooner than later and the problem will go away by itself. Unfortunately, that’s not really happening.

    If I were Leyland, I’d just take him into my office (inbetween puffs) and tell him frankly and like it is: “…Sheff, you’re going on the DL. Until your shoulder is 110%, for both in field play and DH, this team can’t afford to rehabilitate you on the 25 man roster. You’re my best option for DL, if you’re at 110% — but until then, there is little margin for error.”

  23. David

    May 15, 2008 at 3:44 pm

    Hessman has hit a HR for AAA this year nearly every other game 18(so far) is hitting way above his career ave.

    Maybe he could give us a month or so of solid(Sheltion) production

  24. Mike R

    May 15, 2008 at 4:42 pm

    hahahahahahaha. Oh man. I can’t even get upset with this team, front office or coaching staff anymore. It’s just so damn comical. Jim Leyland is a joke and this front office is a joke. I guess the next step is to buy myself the FireJimLeyland domain and get it in full force. I’ll be accepting donations.

  25. scotsw

    May 16, 2008 at 8:53 am

    I haven’t been overly impressed with Leyland this year, but I don’t think he’s actually the problem.

    The first problem is health. Zumaya, Rodney, Bautista, Willis, possibly Bonderman’s elbow. That’s pitchers. Also Polanco’s back, Guillen’s knees, Cabrera’s quad (which I still think is bothering him), Sheffield’s shoulder, Sheffield’s fingers, Granderson’s finger….

    The second problem is age: Todd Jones, Rogers, Sheffield, PUDGE!!!, all declining a little or a lot.

    The third problem is simple, below-grade performance: Polanco for much of the season, Cabrera, Granderson, Cabrera, Renteria, Cabrera, Grilli, Jacque Jones, Verlander, Bonderman, Cabrera, Cabrera and Cabrera.

    Now, I’m not saying that Leyland has handled all of this ideally. But it might be a bit much to ask anyone to deal with that ideally.

    I do think that the team left Lakeland unprepared for primetime, and not mentally or physically ready for real games. But after a month and a half, that’s not the issue now.

    Much of this is on the players. None of these problems in isolation would hurt this team too much.

    But yes, put Sheff on the DL, let his body heal up for a few weeks, and give a kid a chance. DH Guillen and Cabrera to let them mend, and improve the defense at the same time.

  26. Sean C. in Illinois

    May 16, 2008 at 9:12 am

    T Smith

    What you say sounds right. But with the writing having been on the wall a few days ago, I wonder why Leyland hasn’t had that conversation with Sheffield already.

  27. T Smith

    May 16, 2008 at 9:42 am

    Sean C:

    Who’s to say you’re not Leyland? In which case you now know exactly what to do 🙂

    Anyway — I’m available for service at any time. We can discuss compensation later.

  28. Sean C. in Illinois

    May 16, 2008 at 9:47 am

    “T Smith”

    Gary, is that you? Damn it, I told you that you could come to my office any time. My door is open. Has it come to this, where two proud, stubborn men have to take their problems to a web log?

    Say, have you given any thought to playing first base?

  29. T Smith

    May 16, 2008 at 10:30 am

    Damnit, Skip! Ya got me. Now I have to change my alias on this site so I won’t be lynched.

  30. Chris in Dallas

    May 16, 2008 at 10:36 am

    I kinda find it hard to lay too much of the blame on Leyland. It seems like he’s tried pretty much everything he can try to get them going at this point. As some juncture, the players have to perform. Plain and simple. I do think maybe he should’ve pulled Rogers earlier than he did. It seemed obvious early on that he didn’t “have it”.

  31. Kathy

    May 16, 2008 at 11:09 am

    Leland seems to be admitting that he’s trying every scenario possible to keep Gary in the game and get him swinging again like he did so wonderfully last year when healthy. On the other hand, Leland wants Sheff to come to him and admit he needs to go on the DL. We all know how ugly Gary can get when he’s forced into doing something he doesn’t want to do and Leyland just doesn’t want to humiliate Sheff until Sheff figures out he just can’t hack it anymore.

  32. Sean C. in Illinois

    May 16, 2008 at 11:21 am

    Yes, Kathy, but is that worth the cost to the team? Maybe it’s already costing the team, beyond Sheffield’s struggles at the plate.

  33. Joey C.

    May 16, 2008 at 12:33 pm

    Sheff is cooked. I was worried last season that this would be the injury to do him in and I had no faith in his ability to perform. Yet another reason I was happy about the Cabrera deal (even I am starting to wonder about the deal at this point.) I don’t really know what we could have done with this guy, but he really is causing problems with figuring out the best configuration for this team.

    As this team continues to sink into the quagmire I’m starting to feel like this team would be improved just by removing a few guys from the roster entirely. That’s depressing. When you start believing that your team would actually be better by cutting high priced talent.

  34. T Smith

    May 16, 2008 at 2:40 pm

    In all sincerity, Leyland is not entirely to blame, no. The truth is, it is mostly the players. But the poor play of his beloved veterans compounds his peccadillos. He did the same kind of bone-headed things in 2006 & 2007, but he was backed up by solid play and talent. So he must have been doing something right, right? Well that something right ain’t right this year. Now he’s just mismanaging.

    I know it’s tempting to finger a fall guy, and there is a lot of that going on here, but when all you have left at the end of the day are dubious decisions from the guy pulling the strings, those decisions will get called into question a hell of lot more when the team can’t win. This team played horrible in KC, but in my mind, I can honestly say without falling into the fall guy trap, that the Tigers should have taken at least one of the three games. Leyland blew it in the first game by pulling Robertson after 82 pitches. The series still would have sucked, but 1 of 3 is certainly better than being swept.

    I’m well aware the game may have turned the same tide if Roberston pitched in the eighth, but I honestly think the Tigers would have won that game with solid managing. They had the momentum the entire game, were hitting in every inning — they just didn’t get the key hit. If the game went into extra innings, the Tigers would have won. If the team is in a nasty funk in a vertical nose dive to suckitude, it can’t afford a much as one game-costing mistake in managment if it hopes to turn it around before it’s too late.

    Aside from that, Leyland is simply not getting it done motivating these guys. Yesterday the KC camera crew focused in on the Tiger dugout in the late innings, and all you saw were Maggs and Inge and some other guys joking and laughing. I don’t know about you, but if KC was throwing my team an ass whoopin’ for the second straight series, the last thing I’d be doing in the dugout is laughing and joking without a care in the world. Have ’em study film, send them to a yoga retreat, bring in Tony Robbins as a consultant, I don’t know. Anything! If you’re not utterly embarrassed by being dominated by the KC “friggin'” Royals (to quote Kevin in Austin, I believe), please hide it a little better. Leyland could and should set the tone just a little better.

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