If you're using words like "flabbergasted," "blindsided," or "shocked" to describe any aspect of your dealings with another person, the relationship probably isn't going very well. Maybe it's just frustration bubbling to the surface, but judging from Jim Leyland's response to Gary Sheffield's remarks in Sunday's Boston Globe, there might be reason to consider turning on the trouble siren.
"... I'm shocked, because this caught me totally off-guard."
"Nobody's a voice leader. You lead by example, by playing the game right. That's how you lead."
"You feel like a caged Tiger? What are you talking about?"
What's also concerning is that this conversation is taking place through the media. Leyland clearly feels that Sheffield should've raised his concerns privately in the manager's office, rather than to Nick Cafardo's recording device. And maybe Leyland should have then tried to bring it back in-house, but since this dirty laundry was aired out publicly, who could blame the Tigers' manager for using the same forum to address what seemed like an attack? To not do so likely would've made Leyland look weak to his own players, his bosses, the fans, and maybe the media, as well.
At the very least, there's a troubling lack of communication. Maybe there's just a "you say po-TAY-to, I say po-TAH-to" disagreement between Leyland and Sheffield over the definition of a "platoon" system.
Here is such an arrangement, as defined by Mr. Leyland:
"Who the hell is talking about platooning?" Leyland said. "Gary Sheffield hasn't been platooned here. Platooning is when you have a left-handed hitter and a right-handed hitter. One plays against a right-handed pitcher, the other plays against a left-handed pitcher. That is a platoon, to make it perfectly clear.
Mr. Sheffield, your response:
"Some days I play, some days I don't play," he said. "That's platooning to me. If I'm not playing every day, I'm platooning. If you're an everyday player, you play 59 out of 59 unless you can't play. Call it what you want, I call it what I want.
"He might think it's different. We might disagree on that. It's not a big deal. It's a matter of that's the way I see it."
Each side says there are no hard feelings. Leyland "isn't mad." Sheffield "doesn't have to argue anything." And maybe this is the type of thing that causes a momentary stir in the clubhouse, but player and coach move and it all blows over a day or two later. Maybe this happens more often than we know, and this particular exchange just happened to get caught in the media net.
However, doesn't this seem like something that could develop into a more serious dispute? Sheffield's history indicates it's possible. And that makes me wonder if this is a relationship that needs to end before it truly becomes sour. It may already have, as far as the fans are concerned. Though that can turn around. How many Tigers fans wanted Pudge Rodriguez out of town after 2005?
But when you see that Tampa Bay has lost Carl Crawford and Evan Longoria to injuries, with the knowledge that Sheffield might want to play for his hometown team in a pennant race, do you make a phone call to see if they're interested? What about Houston, whose owner still seems to think they're alive for a playoff spot, and just lost Carlos Lee? Maybe the Phillies would like another bat. Or their AL East rivals, the Mets or Marlins.
Sheff has surely cleared waivers, due to his salary. If some team claimed him - even to block him from going to a competitor - wouldn't the Tigers have said, "Okay, you can have him"? To get a deal done, Detroit will probably have to pick up a chunk of that contract, and maybe that will prevent anything from ultimately happening.
But if this has the potential to end badly - and with Sheffield almost certainly set to be the Tigers' designated hitter next season, it very well could - isn't swallowing some money a preferable headache to dealing with an unhappy Sheffield for another 200 games?