Certain things in this universe swirl and surface with such consistency that at last they permeate my being and I am left pondering or theorizing or at the very least becoming aware of their existence very much against my will.
For instance, I have been made aware that my neighborís 19 year old cat has stopped using the litter pan. 19 years into the gig and the little guy just up and quit. I am sure this is indicative of many other afflictions that are creeping on the horizon for a cat of this age, but, perhaps cold- heartedly, I prefer not to know of them. A huge amount of such incidental knowledge fills my semi-valuable brain space, from the terrifying realities on the News to simply knowing that the show ìVeronicaís Closetî once existed, and at some point was cancelled. Now add to this perilous list of peripheral information the recent spewing of Gary Sheffield and the tantrum with which he currently disgraces New York.
Baseball has been a nice story of late: Itís purging itself of drug abuse. It settled on a labor agreement that ensures my summers will be enjoyable through 2011. Fans are enjoying an impossible outcome to the World Series. All in all we are lucky to be part of a true golden-era on many levels of the game. But then thereís Gary Sheffield’s bone-chilling whine rising above it all and serving as a reminder and the very personification of all that is rotten within our current culture of sports.
Poor Gary. The New York Yankees picked up his $13 million option for 2007 and he doesnít like it. For starters, he doesnít want to play first base.
ìIf Iím just going to a team for a year, thereís going to be a problem. A big problem. I donít want to be a Yankee to play first base and DH for one year. If I do, thatís what I become (a problem). It ainít going to work. I ainít going down that easy. If you donít think much of me, someone else will.î
But it gets worse for poor Mr. Sheffield. The likely reason the Yanks picked up his astronomical option was in hopes he would bring about astronomical trade value.
ìHereís some friendly advice. If you want to trade for me, you have to deal with me directly. Trust me, you wonít want me to be there if Iím not happy. I donít care if I love the owner, if I love the GM, if I love the city. Iím going on my terms.î
Some of the most enjoyable moments of baseball fandom come when an event occurs that strips the game down to its rudimentary elements. Then we are reminded that at its core, beneath all statistics and punditry lies the fact that baseball is nothing more than a magnificent game.
Conversely, at its worst, we can be reminded that lurking somewhere deep in the soul of the game is the fact that often we are studying the achievements of businessmen who happen to be athletes. Gary Sheffieldís comments are one such reminder.
Here is a man who has made $130 million dollars over his career in baseball, and yet in all that time he has never bought a clue. And being ìoutspokenî has long been a cover for common idiocy.
Sheffield has the right to have a say in which direction his remarkable career will head. But how could an 18-year veteran lack the foresight to realize that barking threats to the media will just go to further cement his legacy as baseball’s reigning philistine? It is absolutely baffling that he would choose to include the rest of the world in this aspect of his employment. Even more mind blowing is that he would pick a fight with the organization that has elevated his career to its current crest and can only help in his bid for the Hall of Fame.
And it was bashing this same team in 2005 that placed Sheffield at the forefront of the highly competitive race to become the Worldís Richest Moron in 2005 when he said of his Yankee team:
ìDerek Jeter ain’t the leader of this pack. I know who the leader is on the team. I ain’t going to say who it is, but I know who it is. I know who the team feeds off. I know who the opposing team comes in knowing they have to defend to stop the Yankees. Why shouldn’t I tell the truth? I ain’t trying to get no Pepsi commercial.”
My ideal outcome for Sheffield is that the Yankees get stuck with him and he gets stuck with the Yankees. Let them deal with his childish discontent. Let him make a fool of himself trying to play first base. Let him be the financial burden that prevents the Yankees from acquiring a pitching staff. How big is the market for an incredibly expensive, aging outfielder who is not afraid to attack his own organization on a regular basis anyway?
Sure there is plenty more offense to come from this guy. But for a batter whose power originates in his wrists, it seems the current market would be quite hesitant to sign him, especially on his terms, after this yearís surgery-necessitating wrist injury. After all those years of snapping his wrists, they have begun to give up on him. In 18 big league seasons, he has played more than 100 games 13 times. In 2006 he played in just 39. Injuries have and will continue to plague his career.
It has long been discussed that Gary Sheffield would like to run out the clock on his career in Tampa Bay (as would seemingly the rest of the world.) Heís from Tampa and you know that song-and-dance. Under Naimoli the prospect may have seemed terrifyingly plausible. But if there is one giant upside to Sternberg and Co.ís crafty penny-pinching, itís that there is no worry that a scourge such as Gary Sheffield will ever defame a Devil Ray jersey.
This being said, I can now enjoy the events of this offseason that will actually mean something. Meanwhile, I will file Sheffieldís talented stupidity to the seldom visited outposts of my mind, where he can hang out with Kirstie Allie, the WNBA and feline incontinence.
Jon Wolfson is a writer for Rays of Light