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Jim Leyland's Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

Maybe someone writing a baseball blog shouldn't admit this (especially if he wants to be taken seriously), but sometimes I really don't understand this game of baseball. Perhaps more specifically, some of the thinking that goes into it baffles me.

Gary Sheffield hasn't been playing well. We know that. He's batting .202/.366/.315 with two home runs and six RBIs, and has had several games in which he looked like a guy whose best baseball days were finished. This week's decision to move him out to left field had a faint whiff of desperation to it, though if Sheffield insists he'll perform better while playing the field, the Tigers had to give it a try.

And maybe Sheffield showed he knows what he's talking about on Wednesday night. A three-hit night looked as if it could be the kind of breakthrough we've all been waiting for. But then Sheffield was scratched from the lineup on Thursday. To be fair, that was Jim Leyland's plan no matter what happened on Wednesday. However, it's Leyland's reasoning for giving Sheff the night off that has me rubbing my temples.

"You finally had a good night and are feeling good about yourself and then I throw you out against Beckett?" said Leyland, shaking his head. "There aren't too many guys around who hit Josh Beckett."

I just don't get that at all. Why admit defeat before you've actually been defeated? Maybe that's overstating it just a tad, but why make things easier for Josh Beckett? He's already a great pitcher; he doesn't need any help from the opposing manager. It's not like Sheffield is 0-for-20 lifetime versus Beckett. He's not fantastic against him either, batting .231/.375/.462 with one home run and five RBIs in 16 plate appearances. But Sheff could at least get in there and put up a fight.

Not to mention that maybe Sheffield should be right back in the lineup after a night in which he got three hits. If it's suddenly clicking for him, why sit him down? Wouldn't you want him right back out there so he can maintain whatever timing he may have regained?

I understand that it's probably better for the player if he knows in advance that he won't be playing the next night. I'm sure it also makes things easier for the manager too, so he can plan ahead and what-not. Ultimately, we're talking about one game on the schedule. And the Tigers didn't lose last night just because Sheffield didn't play. (Though it should be pointed out that Pudge Rodriguez and Edgar Renteria didn't play, either.) But for a team needing to string together some consecutive wins, why send them out of the dugout short-handed?