Gary Sheffield still isn’t happy with his DH role. In a Boston Globe article Sheffield was his typically candid self.
“I can be in the outfield and play every day. I don’t want to DH. I don’t feel like a baseball player when I DH. I don’t know how to be the leader that I am from the bench. I can’t be a vocal leader. I can’t talk to guys from the bench because I don’t feel right about it.
“I’m in a role now where I don’t know what to do, really. The guys are out there busting their butt for nine innings, they come in and they hit and they grind. I just sit down and hit. That’s all I do, so I can’t be in a leadership role from that position.”
Sheffield has drawn a lot of ire this year for his lack of production. But he has been uncharacteristically quiet – by his standards anyways.
We all remember the left field experiment earlier in the year that didn’t go well when Sheffield couldn’t actually throw the ball. Supposedly he is healthier now, and the production has been increasing. Since the All Star break he’s hitting 247/333/493 (not including today’s suck-fest).
And I can’t be upset with a guy who wants to play more, and do more, and contribute more. But he’s not the same hitter he once was. He goes on to talk about how tough pitchers are pitching him:
“I don’t get pitched the same like everybody else. I get pitched very carefully. Now that I’m a lot better physically, I can handle tough pitching. I can be the player that I know I am.”
“They work it down and away or up and in, and it’s always on the edges,” Sheffield said. “That’s how I’m getting pitched, but I can handle that.”
But he isn’t handling it. For the season he’s striking out in 22% of his at-bats. That is well beyond his career 12.5% average. And it isn’t just a product of his injury early on. Even since the All Star break when he’s been moderately productive, he’s still fanning at a 20% rate. As for pitcher’s pitching him tough, they can’t be pitching him any tougher than they had in past.
I’m not going to say that Sheffield sucks. Hi skills are fading, but if he can maintain his post All Star pace I have no problem with an average OBP and a solid slugging percentage. He came back too quickly, and he should have gone on the DL.
But in terms of being a vocal leader? Maybe it’s best not to lament not playing for a different team:
“The Yankees knew I wanted to go to Boston,” Sheffield said. “They picked up my option so I wouldn’t wind up there. I would have loved it because I love that atmosphere. It means something.
“At this stage of my career, I want to feel that again. That’s what I play for. That’s what gets me revved up.”
Yes the Tigers are a long shot for the playoffs at this point. But there still is a shot. And baseball is a big deal here in Detroit. The Tigers will shatter their attendance record and night in and night out in Detroit Sheffield is playing in front of sell out crowds. And the boos that Sheffield received from the home crowd today are indicative of the fact that the fans are “revved up.” I know the atmosphere in Detroit doesn’t rival Fenway, but it’s not like he’s playing in front of a bunch of empty seats.
I’m sure clarifying remarks will be coming out in the next day or so, and Sheffield will talk about how happy he is in Detroit. But this doesn’t play well, especially from a guy who’s lack of production this season has been a part of the problem.