Sheffield Hits The Road

As the last days of spring training wind down, teams will begin to pare their rosters down in order to finalize their 25 man opening day roster, and sometimes, those cuts are rather interesting. Today, the most interesting of all comes down, as the Tigers decided they’d rather pay Gary Sheffield $14 million to go away than to keep him around in 2009.

Sheffield, at age 40, might have a tough time finding another job. He hit .225/.326/.400 last year, good for a .323 wOBA. As a DH-only, that’s not particularly valuable. His 2008 season was worth 0.3 wins above replacement, and given his personality, teams aren’t going to be knocking down his door to get that kind of production when his mouth comes along with it.

After all, this is a market where Jim Edmonds, Frank Thomas, and Ray Durham can’t find a job, and all three were more productive and less annoying than Sheffield last year. Upon being released, Sheffield claimed “this isn’t it” for him, but he’s not in a position to make that call. This very well could be it for Sheffield – he’s now joining a glut of Hall Of Famers looking for work and finding slim pickings.

So, if this is it for Sheffield, the question now becomes whether he’s accomplished enough to get into Cooperstown. He’s a career .292/.394/.516 hitter, racking up an impressive 570.9 wRAA and a 62.80 WPA/LI. His wRAA total ranks 34th all time, just ahead of Larry Walker and right behind Jim Thome. According to Sean Smith’s Wins Above Replacement from 1955-2008, Sheffield ranks 52nd among position players in that time frame.

Sheffield was a great hitter in an era of great hitting. Did he do enough to get into Cooperstown? I’m going to guess the answer will turn out to be no. Much like Larry Walker and Edgar Martinez, I think he’ll be viewed as a good but not great player, and the baseball writers will keep him sitting on the sidelines.

Does he deserve to get in? If you had a vote, is Sheffield going to Cooperstown?




Print This Post



Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.

40 Responses to “Sheffield Hits The Road”

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
  1. Gary Sheffield says:

    I will get in, there is no doubt about it.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Reality says:

      Didn’t you get caught with the cream and the clear? Aren’t you permanently associated with Barry Bonds?

      Good luck with that, chum.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  2. Erik says:

    I’d vote yes.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  3. Bill says:

    Yes, absolutely.

    I also believe the writers will put him in eventually (assuming no PED silliness comes out), and Edgar too.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Josh says:

      Well he already admitted in court to unknowingly taking steroids during the BALCO stuff. I assume writers will hold this against him to some extent.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • B says:

        He admitted in court to unknowingly taking a substance that was, in fact, completely legal at the time – though obviously trusting the BBWAA writers to make a sound decision when it comes to PED’s is a fool’s errand…

        As for Sheffield’s case, I tentatively say yes based on his OPS+ numbers throughout his career. I’d call him the definition of borderline, though.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Matt B. says:

        B – completely legal? Steroids in any shape or form are and always have been against the law. If anybody even buys that he “didn’t” know what he was taking. The 5 cent juicers at my gym know what they are taking let alone a million dollar athlete who solely relies on his physicallity to make a (good) living.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • B says:

        Yes Matt B. – completely legal. He admitted to taking THG (the steroid in the clear). Dr. Catlin is the person who came up with a test for THG, and was extensively used as a medical expert by the prosecution during the BALCO testimony. There is grand jury testimony from Dr. Catlin in which he says THG was not classified as a steroid and therefore not illegal. It has been classified as a steroid since, starting around 2005 or so (I forget the exact year), but the point is at the time Sheffield was taking it it was a legal substance. There is also grand jury testimony from others (including Giambi and Greg Anderson) where they say the clear was an “alternative to steroids”. Hope that clears things up.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Matt B. says:

        Goto steroids.com and you can read about both the ‘clear’ and the ‘cream’. Both were highly toxic, highly effective steroids.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Matt B. says:

        Yes, of course it was an alternative to steroids, these were undetectable!

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • B says:

        Matt, I’m just relaying the facts to you. You can go to a website that appears to be trying to sell steroids to you, or you can listen to testimony under oath from a respected medical professional to a grand jury…the fact is the clear wasn’t illegal. The effectiveness of the clear is also very debatable, multiple people claimed they didn’t think it was effective to the grand jury (guys like Giambi who obviously aren’t medical experts, so take it with a grain of salt), and the actual effectiveness to my knowledge hasn’t been studied very extensively (or at all). As for the cream – it’s not actually a steroid – it’s a testosterone based cream who’s purpose was to mask the THG (which is why the clear was undetectable).

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Bill says:

        Not to further bring this into a steroid debate, if I’m a BBWAA writer, I won’t care if something is technically classified as a steroid or not. He took a performance enhancing drug. Just like Clemens, Bonds, and Big Mac. The hall of fame isn’t a court of law, so they can use common sense when voting people in. The fact of the matter is, he took a PED – the writers may well hold this against him, and they have every right to do so.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • B says:

        Bill I agree with you that the writers will probably hold it against Sheffield. However, I don’t see how you can possibly take the side that it’s justifiable. The substance Sheffield admitted to taking wasn’t illegal, nor was it against baseball’s rules, so how can a rational person justify holding that particular “offense” against him? It’s no different than taking any other legal supplement.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  4. Matt B. says:

    I’d vote no. I don’t think he’ll ever get in.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  5. Heath says:

    Without really looking at the career numbers, I would say yes. He’s probably up there among the great hitting outfielders of his era…

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  6. Does anybody else think GM Dave Dombrowski walked up to a clubbie and asked, “hey, kid, wanna make fifty bucks?” instead of telling Sheff himself about his walking papers. I would’ve loved to have been a fly on the wall of that meetingplace. I have a slight intuition that Sheff was none too pleased.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  7. Jeremy says:

    I’d vote yes. Now what hat? I’d think it’d have to be Marlins.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  8. Joe says:

    With 499 home runs, you would have to think some team may throw a bit of cash his way to see 500 hit in their balk park.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  9. Ed Nelson says:

    10 years with an OBP of over .400 gets you in. He was way better than Jim Rice. Another reason putting Rice in was probably a mistake because it lowers the quality of the applicants in the future. Every hitter will now be using him as the barometer.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  10. Jim Ed Rice says:

    Jim Rice was awesome! Led the league in scaring people.

    Sheff won’t get in. He cheated. And he was a dick to the press which is why Rice probably didn’t get in sooner.

    Sheff has the stats but his connection to BALCO will keep him out.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • B says:

      It’s been noted that Sheffield didn’t “cheat”. That said you’re probably right that the writers will hold his BALCO connection against him.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  11. CptSpandex says:

    He was mouthy, he struggled with injuries early in his career, and he has been linked with steroids. No way the BBWAA votes him in. If they’re taking a hardline approach to PEDs, I don’t see him getting in. Regardless of how I feel about his accomplishments or the BBWAA personally, the deck does appear to be stacked against him.

    If he had been as productive in his 20s as he was in his 30s, his numbers would be SICK!

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  12. Sass says:

    I really do think that character should be an issue when it comes to the Hall. I know this is a controversial idea, and it is completely subjective, but it is my opinion that the Hall should be for people who advanced the game. So, if you were a great guy and had a borderline career, but made thousands of kids fall in love with the game because you were the greatest on your team, you’re in. If you had such amazing numbers that peope in 40 years will forget you were a jerk (Ty Cobb, anyone), you’re in. Jerk and borderline, nope. Is this completely subjective? Sure, but who cares?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  13. Andy L says:

    Although Thomas, Edmonds, and Durham were all better last year, they are all free agents. Since Sheff’s salary is being paid by Detroit, any team picking him up only will owe him a roster spot and the major league minimum. Some team might think he’s worth that.

    And yes, he’s a Hall of Famer.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  14. Robert Paulson says:

    Yes, Sheffield could hit. He was also a corner outfielder who sucked at defense and struggled with injuries throughout his career.

    Dick Allen and Mark McGwire were both as good, if not better, yet neither one is making the Hall anytime soon. Why should Sheffield?

    The guy’s the definition of borderline. Just look at the names surrounding him on the top 300 WAR chart. Very few of those guys are unequivocal HOFers.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • JH says:

      The problem with the top-300 WAR chart is it ignores all performance before 2002.

      Sheffield is 34th all-time in WRAA. We don’t have advanced defensive data before 2002, but the data from 2002-2003 suggests that Sheffield’s truly ugly defensive numbers were the result of late-career deterioration of physical abilities rather than a career long suckitude in the field. You’d have to be really god-awful defensively not to deserve to be in the hall with Sheffield’s contribution over the years.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  15. Robert Paulson says:

    I was referencing Seth Smith’s top 300 WAR chart (linked in the original article), which goes up to 2008 and gives defensive ratings dating back to 1955. Granted, it’s just one source, but even BP’s metrics suggest Sheff has been a butcher for quite some time.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • JH says:

      Yeah, those aren’t good metrics. I was talking about good metrics. My bad.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • lookatthosetwins says:

        Those aren’t very good metrics, but if you get a large enough sample size, they can show a trend. Things like totalzone can be useful when looking at a players career, but not when looking at smaller samples.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  16. Mike Z says:

    In an offensive era he was very offensive but at his best could you ever say we was the best? Looking at his appearances on leaderboards he only led league 4 times in any category (including being a d*ck -which Bond had a stranglehold on). Never the most valuable player in the league with record of 2nd, 2-3rds, 6th, 8th, 17th, and 19th. 8 teams decided to part ways with him. .248/.401/.398 line in 161 post season at bats. What makes him worthy?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • B says:

      189,176,176,170,164,162,155,145,141,139,138,137,134,120,120,116,107,93,90,82,67

      Those are Sheffield’s OPS+ numbers for his career, sorted from highest to lowest.

      157,154,147,141,136,130,127,123,122,120,116,112,102,101,89, 70

      Those are Jim Rice’s OPS+ numbers for his career, sorted from highest to lowest.

      13 years of OPS+ of 130 or higher for Sheffield, 6 for Rice. 6 years Sheffield posted an OPS+ higher than Rice’s career high…you can look at the list and draw your own conclusions.

      I would vote yes for Sheffield, but as I said earlier, I think he defines borderline. I also don’t think Rice should be in, so comparing Sheffield to Rice doesn’t cut it for me. I’m just trying to answer the question to show there’s at least a case to be made for Sheff, whether you buy into it or not.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  17. sleepy in seattle says:

    Is Thames now worth a decent flyer pick up off the waiver wire? Full time DH??

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  18. Many Ramirezes says:

    If he doesn’t get in, it’ll be because he’s black….according to him. Sheffield plays the race card as much as he can.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  19. Brian Recca says:

    Sheffield is really stuck here, he can only really play DH. There really aren’t may teams that need a Designated Hitter right now. The only team I can think of is the Royals or Orioles.

    As far as him going into the hall of fame, really hard to say. Numbers wise he is a lock but taking into account that whole sportmanship rule I might be inclined to say no.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  20. Jordan Gillis says:

    Yes he gets my vote, but I’m a hall of very big guy.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  21. Blackadder says:

    If you take the neutral position that the hall is the correct size, but that it has many particular mistakes, Sheffield is easily a Hall of Famer. He will waltz into the Hall of Merit over at BBTF, for what it’s worth.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  22. Joe R says:

    Defensive liability, 90 OPS+ in 2008, not getting younger.
    GIVE ME $10,000,000 / YR.

    Kind of funny to see him get the axe right before #500.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Current day month ye@r *