September 27th, 2007

Sheffield has a decision to make

There’s a difference between players who should retire and players who want to retire. Rob Parker wrote a good column in Wednesday’s Detroit News detailing why Gary Sheffield should call it a career now rather than put himself through another surgery. The reasons are understandable, and it should remind everyone that there’s no guarantee Sheffield will be back next year. He has a visit to the doctor coming up once the season’s over, and if they recommend major (i.e. reconstructive) surgery, that might be more than he wants to do.

Sheffield has said that he doesn’t consider a shaving of his shoulder a major surgery, because he has done it before without too grueling of a rehab. But he said after Wednesday’s game that he doesn’t want to go through surgery and rehab and be stuck in the same condition he is now, trying to fight through more shoulder pain. If he can heal his shoulder through offseason workouts without surgery, that’s his ideal solution. Realistically, though, that’s hard to imagine.

He has said before, when he was taking cortisone shots this summer, that his family worries about what he goes through to keep playing a game when he’s already financially set for life.

"They’ve asked me before," Sheffield said Wednesday. "The thing is, I love this game. When they told me this before, it’s just something about having a great year and you can’t handle [going out with] 30 home runs or 40 home runs and a .330 batting average. You feel like you can just do it one more year, and one more year turns into a multi-year. Then, next thing you know, here I am."

Asked how determined he is to keep playing through the end of his contract, though, he said, "I really haven’t thought about it. We just finished our last home game. Those decisions will be made in the offseason. But right now, we have three games to go, and that’s all I’m focused on."

For all that has been said during Sheffield’s career about contract issues, he has given the impression this season of a loyal person who wants to live up to his deal. In any case, his decision shows why it’s not just pitchers who have to weigh whether to play with pain.

Other thoughts while trying to figure out how the best of Saturday Night Live’s 2006-07 season ended up on a DVD at Starbucks. …

  • Should the Tigers go after Barry Bonds if Sheffield were to retire? Before you answer, consider that while the DH spot would open up, it also brings up a new debate: Would Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Guillen benefit from DHing every once in a while, like they did when Sheffield was on the disabled list in August?
  • Stop asking what the Tigers would give up for Johan Santana. Just stop it. The Twins control his rights for at least another year. If they decide they can’t possibly sign him, they’ll deal him, and not to a team in the same division. They could try to grab him in free agency, but the sky’s the limit for him if he hits the open market, and this is not a franchise that wants to do long-term deals at the going rate for free agent starting pitchers. That’s the point of the Tigers’ investment on pitchers through the draft.
  • Satellite radio and baseball on a driving trip rules, especially when you can channel flip between games that mean something in the playoff picture.