This is territory that Big Al usually covers - and does a damn fine job of it. But while browsing through Tigers news at the Detroit News website this morning, I noticed a headline that read "Sheffield should call it a career." And it immediately occurred to me that there's only one columnist in this town - and maybe on this planet - who would take such a stand in a desperate attempt to provoke "controversy" and generate "discussion."
Rob Parker, ladies and gentlemen.
Parker's presumed premise is that Gary Sheffield's shoulder is so damaged that fixing it might require surgery during the off-season. And if that's what has to be done, Sheffield wonders if having the surgery - and working through the subsequent rehabiliation - is worth all the trouble, considering his age and how much money he's already made in his career.
There's nothing particularly outrageous with that speculation and opinion. We know how much Sheffield's shoulder has affected him over the last two months. A quick look at his production will tell you that. Maybe the possibility of Sheffield retiring is an idea Tigers fans need to consider.
And I'm not going to pretend I know how much pain Sheffield is really in. I'm not in that clubhouse. I don't get to talk to him. I can't talk to Kevin Rand or any of the other Tigers trainers, and ask what sort of therapy Sheffield needs to endure to get ready to play, and how much this injury has affected his ability to swing a bat.
But here's the thing: Parker didn't check on any of that stuff before typing out his column, either. And given the access his credential affords him, he could have. If there's one thing we've learned about Sheffield this season, it's that he doesn't mind talking. You just have to ask. Ask him why he's continued to play when other players probably would've shut it down. Ask him what his shoulder feels like when he takes a swing - or perhaps even worse, when he checks that swing.
Of course, it's a lot easier to just take some post-game quotes and speculate - this is about pain; Sheffield's made enough money - from there. The quote about Sheffield's family asking him when he's going to start thinking of himself is even notable. Maybe that will play a huge role in Sheffield's decision.
But isn't it also possible that Sheffield just wants a break after playing baseball for six months (two to three of which were pain-riddled)? Now that the 2007 season is almost over, any player in that clubhouse is going to be thinking more about taking some time off than getting ready for next season. And the majority of them don't have $28 million compelling them to come back.
Asking any of those questions, however, would've messed with Parker's premise. And if you've already decided what your story's going to be, before getting any information or corroborative quotes to back it up, that basic journalism stuff just gets in the way.
That's why hacking out a column is so easy for Rob Parker.