As I'm sure many - if not all - Tigers fans were, I was thrilled when the team traded for Gary Sheffield last fall. I've always been intrigued by that distinctive bat waggle, the one I sometimes tried to imitate (of course, not very successfully) at the batting cages.
And after news of the deal broke, I had kind of the same feeling as I did when the Pistons signed Larry Brown as their coach and the Tigers got Pudge Rodriguez's signature on a free agent contract. I can't believe that guy's playing (or coaching) for my team. After spending years watching these guys do their thing so well for other teams, they were going to work their magic in Detroit.
Sheff didn't start out so hot, as you well know, but since the weather warmed up, he's been hitting the ball fiercely again and shown a surprising aggressiveness as a baserunner. But if I was only going to write about what he was doing on the field, I probably be watching Michigan play Vanderbilt (GO BLUE!) live on TV right now, instead of opting to post a blog entry and watch the game on DVR later.
First, there was Sheffield's blow-up at umpire Greg Gibson on Friday night in Cleveland. Fortunately for Sheffield, his tirade was somewhat lost in the clutter of all the managerial explosions we saw over the weekend. (By the way, it's probably been at least an hour since you saw Philip Wellman crawl on his belly. Go on and check it out again. I'll still be here.) Or at least it probably would've been had someone not stuck a microphone or tape recorder in front of him.
Sheffield called Gibson "a bald-faced liar." Okay, probably not the best choice of words pending an appeal of his three-game suspension. But then Sheffield went kind of Fox Mulder on us, and told Jon Paul Morosi he'd have plenty more to say if MLB followed through with his suspension.
But it looks as if Sheffield might have already shared his theories with GQ magazine, the latest issue of which will hit newsstands tomorrow. Say, Gary, why aren't more black people playing baseball?
Before the season, I was kind of wishing that I still had access to a press credential. Because of all the people in the Tigers' clubhouse who might have a comment on the shrinking number of African-Americans in Major League Baseball, Sheffield would surely offer quote-worthy gold. Now, after reading that quote... I really wish I had that credential. I suppose I can at least tell myself my instincts were correct. You win, GQ. Dude probably had to spray his recorder with a fire extinguisher afterwards.
When I first read those remarks, I thought to myself, "Boy, I wish he hadn't said that." But that's kind of his point, isn't it? And you know what? If that's what he truly believes, I'm glad he received the forum to do it.
No matter what you might think of Gary Sheffield, you can't say the guy is boring. He's shown almost from the very moment he joined the Tigers in Lakeland that he wasn't shy about sharing his thoughts. And to some extent - whether you agree or disagree with what he has to say - I think we should applaud that. We're deluged with boring, practiced quotes from athletes every day. So what's wrong with saying something interesting? I have a feeling some of his former and current Latin teammates might have a problem with being classified as easier to control, but that's something Sheff has to deal with in his own clubhouse.
It might be a good idea, however, for Sheffield to keep hitting home runs. And not necessarily because it might defuse this stuff. If anything, more people might want to hear what he has to say if his production on the field can't be ignored, either.