Difference of opinion

So here’s an interesting question to consider in the wake of Gary Sheffield’s release: What if Sheff ends up signing with a National League team (the Phillies, perhaps) and playing the outfield? Will that make a difference in what Tigers fans think? Will that put Tuesday’s decision in a different light?
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Because at this point, there’s clearly a very big difference of opinion as to whether Sheff can still play in the field. The Tigers felt like he was a DH only, and told him so when they said they made the decision to release him based on versatility.

“When I heard that word, versatility, I’m like, ‘I’m probably the most athletic guy on the team,'” Sheffield said. “But at the same time, that’s their opinion and I have to respect that.”

Manager Jim Leyland conditioned his answer when asked if there’s a difference of opinion.

“I don’t question it,” Leyland said. “I didn’t question it ever. If you go back to what I said last year, I was worried about Sheffield getting hurt if he played the outfield.”

If you remember back to when Sheffield was injured playing the outfield, though, it was on a relatively freak play, a collision with second baseman Placido Polanco. And if it’s a shoulder injury that would be the worry, it would seem more likely to come on a swing than on a throw. The question might more realistically be whether there was a fear of Sheffield breaking down physically if he played the outfield regularly.

More realistically, given the roster situation, the Tigers could keep Sheffield or Marcus Thames, but not both. Given the economy and the thinking of teams around the league right now, neither was a strong trade candidate, though the Tigers tried. And if the Tigers were going to keep Sheffield over Thames, they had better be sure they could get a good season’s worth of production out of him. Because it wasn’t just an Opening Day decision, but a longer-term decision. If Sheffield got hurt in late April, there would be no Thames to which to turn, unlike years past.

And at this point in their careers, the Tigers made a decision that they had a better chance at getting more out of Thames, not just in the field but very possibly at the plate.

“He’s got the best home-run ratio in baseball, or one of them, the last few years,” Jim Leyland said.

Yes, those Thames prognostications we all were building pretty much ended up off. That’s how much financial considerations, and an owner’s willingness to look past them, can make a difference.

“Mr. Ilitch has always listened to our opinions on what gives us the best chance to win,” Leyland said.

That said, Leyland added, “I don’t make the decision to cut contracts. I manage the team.”

And the prevailing opinion among club officials was that Thames was their guy. It does not mean they concluded that Sheff was done.

“He will get it,” Leyland said of Sheffield’s 500th home run. “And more.”

Sheff certainly believes that he will.

“I’ve got a lot left. I know that,” he said. “If one person doesn’t think you can play in the field, that’s their opinion. I know I can. Nobody understands my body better than me. Unfortunately, I got hurt here and never been able to show what I can really do. But I fought real hard to get back to this point. I just feel like I’ve got more to give.”

That includes the outfield. And if you read the quotes, you can detect a twinge of regret that Sheffield accepted a DH role a few years back when the trade was made.

“I can go out there on an everyday basis and play in the outfield,” he said. “That’s what I yearn for. I want to be in the outfield. At the same time, it kind of puts you in a box when you accept the DH role, because people start labeling you as that’s all you can do. And that’s not the case. I accepted this role because this was pretty much the only opportunity that I had at the time of leaving New York and going to a place where I was comfortable. So I had to take the DH role. I could’ve not come to Detroit and waited on another situaiton and played the outfield. But I chose to come around people that I know.”

11 Comments

Some people got their wish. I just hope they don’t become complainers when the Tigers DH makes an out in a close game. Remember, Sheffield was pretty good at making an out himself. I’ll be busy eating my words from a previous post. “I doubt that the Tigers will let Sheffield walk away with all those millions.” I think now that Tiger fans should support Illitch’s tough decision by going to more games to help pay for that. I wish I could get there more often but I live 400 miles away.

I never thought they would eat the $14m. Would love to know how much the Rangers were willing to swallow last November. Many of us have been calling for a rotation of the DH role to preserve Carlos and preserve/improve our RF capabilities. My hat off to Mr Illich. Wonder if the chess moves made the past 48 hours were DD’s alone.
It seemed that Sheff was never comfortable in the DH role, becoming an issue he could latch onto rather than his age and declining and random production. I am surprised they didn’t let him have a go back at LF or RF as he wished and if he became injured, they were no worse off.

Greatttt !!
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Back after a longgg time .. and I know I was a complainer of his performance. I am really glad that we made this move.
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I like it that the guy is competitive and respect that … but at the same time, that in my opinion, was a negative for the Tigers. Playing hurt, problems in the clubhouse, killing our rallies etc.
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When I saw him with the Yankees, I always wished that we had a fearsome slugger like him. I was so happy that we obtained him back then. But based on his performance last year, and JL’s insistence to play him hurt, esp batting him 3rd , before finally moving him lower … was a major reason for our failure.
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I know pitching wins games, but we lost a bunch of them cuz of Sheff killing rallies. It’s easy to look at numbers and think otherwise, but when you follow him game to game .. you get a better idea.
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I know Rich tried to reason with his critics :) .. but as he said .. it’s over now. I am with Dan on this one.
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The most important thing, that I liked about this is that the team made a decision based on performance, and kudos to Mr. I on approving this… I admire him as an owner … who spends money in a market like Detroit, involves himself with the teams just enough but doesn’t interfere at the same time.
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Even if Sheff plays better elsewhere, and I wish him the best, I am glad that we have moved forward.

Are we seriously at the point where playing hurt is being held against a player? If Sheff stayed on the DL all year, he would’ve been ripped last year for staying home and collecting his money.

This is probably a sign of things to come for the Tigers this season. Last season the player payroll was at about 95% of revenue. This season, revenue is projected to be at best 75% of 2008, which will bring the payroll to about 115% of revenue.

This is not sustainable in any business.

Expect major trades and possible a Marlins-like fire sale come June/July…

No Jason … I am not holding it against him for being brave. That shows some grit … but at the same time, if we had not allowed him to play hurt, our lineup and offense would have fared a lot better. Maybe JL was soft on him, cuz even he thought Sheff was playing everyday while Sheff complained that he wasn’t.
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Either he should have taken time to get better, or should not have been a starter to say the least. A hurt Sheff rarely in the lineup and a healthy Sheff in the lineup would have helped the tigers more, than a hurt Sheff playing everyday.

Sheff was a real lightning rod, but I looked upon him as just another player on the team. He ticked me off with something he said once, but not enough to hate the guy forever. I tried to remain neutral, which meant having to defend him quite often.
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My answer to the original question here is, yes, I always thought he could play outfield for us. In fact, I never understood the fixation on having him DH constantly. I fully expect him to land with a club and play some outfield. Now that he’s gone, I choose to remember the first half of the 2007 season. He was all that and more. You all saw a great ballplayer plying his craft during that stretch. The Tigers had the best record in baseball at the break, and Sheffield had a lot to do with that.
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Although I think he could play outfield this year, Jason hit upon the crux of the matter. It came down to choosing between a 40-year old Sheff and Thames. That’s a tough call, one I’m glad I didn’t have to make. And as I said yesterday, at least I don’t have to defend him anymore.
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And I wholeheartedly agree with the kudos for Mr. Ilitch.
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–Rich

Now maybe this release of Gary Sheffield will be a blessing in disguise and he will get his real wish and that is to play the outfield and become the complete player again that he always wanted to be. It’s always been fun for me to follow Gary Sheffield play and I will be moving on from here to watch him play wherever he ends up. MLB Network had him live on the phone this evening and he said of the teams that have called him since his release they’re all in the National League, ironically where he would have to play in the outfield. He said the Phillies, the Marlins. Could be just what he needs to get back out on the field as an outfielder which I think will help his hitting. Good luck to Detroit. Hope you have a great team this year. And for Gary Sheffield I’m looking forward to the announcement of who his next team will be and watching him all year playing in the field, back where he wants to be.

Hopefully .. he does better where ever he goes, except against us:)… and is successful in the field ..
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Bottom line … he was probably a bad fit here … esp with the DH/LF thing … If he feels that he is not a good player being at DH exclusively, and Tigers felt otherwise … it was best for everyone concerned to move on.
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Tough for Tigers to swallow his contract . It should be easier for him to move on, cuz he gets his money and he uses such instances to fire himself up … and perform better.

The other day, while I was at work, my cousin stole my iPad and tested to see if it can survive a 30 foot drop,
just so she can be a youtube sensation. My iPad is now
broken and she has 83 views. I know this is entirely off topic but I had to share it with someone!

You could definitely see your skills within the article you write.
The sector hopes for even more passionate writers such as you who
are not afraid to say how they believe. All the time go
after your heart.

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