Saturday, April 04, 2009

A Conficker "Mine" Field

. It's not a wonderful life.
Do you find it somewhat ominous that while the Mets first ever game at Citi Field was delayed by rain for over an hour while the Yankees got to break in their new Death Star uninterrupted? In the Bronx? Less than ten miles from Flushing? It's like God's weather vane was equipped with a scope. And why not? Mother Nature, of course, is trying to tell the Mets that signing Gary Sheffield is an affront to mankind.

I don't like Sheffield. I never have. You thought the conficker worm was supposed to hit on April Fool's Day? I got news for you: Gary Sheffield is the conficker worm, and he's about to hit Flushing with the distinct possibility that he will act like your garden variety file sharing virus and eat the Mets from the inside out. I could probably count on one hand the players I've seen play the game that were more about "me" than Gary Sheffield. For the Mets, who take great pains in avoiding/getting rid of players who cause a touch more than the slightest problems, to sign Sheffield is baffling.

He's been accused of and even admitted to (though he later denied it) intentionally making errors when he was in Milwaukee. Whether he did it to get himself traded or whether he did it to show up the official scorer, I can't get the word despicable out of my head when it comes to describing that. Has he ever done it again? Probably not. Can I be sure? No.

It only seems like everywhere he's gone he's complained about something. It's not true. He's probably only complained in half his stops. But the complaint is always the same. My playing time ... my money ... my contract ... my respect. For a team trying to craft a locker room environment which is pristine, is this a guy you want around? And is the specter of that outweighed by outrageous talent? Not at the age of 40, and not after an injury plagued season and a spring training that can best be described as: ewwwww. But don't tell that to Sheff, who after being released by Detroit reflected on his favorite subject: himself.
"Jim [Leyland] said, 'We're going to go with versatility.' When he said that word I thought to myself, 'I'm probably the most athletic guy on this team.' But they're entitled to their opinion."
Oh yeah, that's a guy who'll settle into a part time role nicely.

Of course, just like conficker worm, the effects of Sheffield aren't going to be seen immediately. He'll be a good soldier as he plays for a contract next season. He'll hit a big home run here and there and we'll all be seduced into thinking that this is going to be a marriage made in heaven. He might even earn himself some real playing time and put up numbers that are halfway decent. Most 40-year-olds who come to the Mets have a tendency to do this at the beginning.

But then, most likely while you're driving to Philadelphia to check out the Mets in Citizens Bank Park, you'll hear Joe Beningo and Evan Roberts on the radio talk about Gary's latest soundbite, where he's complaining about he's not playing enough ... or that people love David Wright too much ... or that Alex Cora is hogging the post game spread.

We'll go crazy. The Mets clubhouse, already fragile after two straight collapses, will spontaneously combust. Ryan Church, who in the span of one spring training has become the Jan Brady of the New York Mets, will shake his head in disdain ... most likely causing him to miss the following six games because of dizziness that Omar Minaya will misdiagnose as a sprained knee.

And for what? For a few home runs and just as many adventures in right field which may or may not include an altercation with a fan?

And why? Because the Mets think they're getting a comparable bat for $400,000 than they would have gotten for $5 million with Adam Dunn? Because Manny Ramirez's antics aren't worth all the money, but Gary Sheffield's antics are okay because he comes cheap? Don't tell me this. Don't tell me any of this.

As always, I hope I'm wrong. Please, prove me wrong. I'd much rather be stupid and be drinking champagne in October (that sweet champagne that Willie Randolph likes) than be proven prophetic and have to write "Manifesto Part III" where I have to rationalize another collapse and another season come crashing down during the late innings of game number 162. So go ahead and prove me wrong. I don't think Sheffield can do that. The only hope for me is that Minaya will have the stones to pull the plug on this experiment if and when it finally does explode.


steve said...

Signing Gary Sheffield is an "affront to mankind"? Could we be anymore dramatic?

Tell me where the problem is with this signing? If Sheff produces,then all we paid for his services was 400K and everything is cool.If things go sour,we cut him and don't owe another penny.It's a classic "low risk/high reward" signing.

Also,the "clubhouse cancer" tag is full of holes.Any problems he's ever had were with management or ownership(and going off half cocked),not his teammates.Relax,the sky is not falling...

coffee maker said...

i was surprised to hear that Sheffield is still playing

Unser said...

I really, really hate this move.

Don't tell me that they only paid $400K to get a decent right-handed bat off the bench and to spell Church or Murphy once in a while. Please. That's not why they got him. They expect him to play rightfield, just about everyday. This means less playing time for Church, whom the Mets. for some unknown reason, have lost all confidence in. Church must feel great right now. After being the Mets' best player for two months last year, stopped only by a concussion sustained in a team-first aggressive slide into second-base to break-up a double-play, he's been told he can't hit as well a rookie who hasn't played even half a season in the big leagues or a 40 year old malcontent who hit .220 last year and may not remember how to play the outfield.

At the very least, they want him to platoon with Church. This means less playing time for Tatis, who was great last year. He hit almost .300 and had several clutch moments. And he actually played the outfield a few times since 2006. I guess that's not quite as good as a .220 hitting DH.

I have no idea if he's a "good clubhouse guy", but I do know he's intentionally made errors when unhappy with his situation and complained at just about every stop he's made in the majors. He's played the race card when it has suited him. And when he feels he's not getting his rightful playing time? Yes, they can just release him, but not before some uncomfortable incidents ensue. And Omar will give this veteran every chance in the world before releasing him.

Oh, yeah, and the steroids issue. Ah, never mind. We gave Mota a second chance so what's the big deal?

I want players on my team who I like to root for. I'm going to have a tough time rooting for Sheffield.

Anonymous said...

No wait, I've got a great idea to improve our team, check this out:

Let's take the waning skills of Shawn Green....

...and combine them with the injury proneness/age of Moises Alou...

...then surgically remove all their baseball smarts, humility and intelligence, and replace w/ Bobby Bonilla's personality...

...and throw in a helping of racism (remember how "latinos are easy to control"?). Voila!

Bonus points if you can simultaneously alienate three nice guys: outfielders already vying for two corner spots who have done a lot for this team and can be considered something of fan favorites in their short tenure here.

Yeah, that's the ticket.

Sheffield isn't just an affront to humanity, he's an affront to my sweaty, wrinkled nutsack.

Tommy Calzone said...

What's with the MICRO font?

dave crockett said...

You lose a LOT of cred when you imply that the incident in Fenway wasn't a case of a nutjob fan taking a swing at Sheffield. The same play featuring Bobby Abreu wouldn't even come with an insinuation that it was anything else.
Metstra, I respect you but damn. Drop your skirt and climb down off the table already. There's a difference between "not very likable" and "clubhouse cancer". They often go hand-in-hand, but just because your not likeable doesn't make you a cancer. You may have missed that subtle distinction while you were in the throws of that hissy fit.

Sheff may not be the guy to run the team Bible study, but find me some quotes from former teammates--and there are lots of them--that say he damages the clubhouse. That Yankee clubhouse is anonymous quote central, and yet you never heard anything like that about Sheff. David Wells and David Justice would have certainly told you if Sheff were a cancer. Matter of fact, what I remember most is the part of David Justice going off on A-Rod that everyone forgets. Justice said Gary Sheffield--not A-Rod, not Jeter--was the guy universally regarded as the man you wanted at the plate late and tied or close.

You don't think the Mets need some of *that* in the clubhouse?

Listen, I don't know if Sheff can still play. His offense was always about his ridiculous bat speed and an impeccable eye. I know he still has the eye, but everyone's bat slows down eventually. Still, the guy has always been an outstanding athlete. So if he doesn't have to play everyday he may have a good season or two left. He might bring us the 85-95 games we were hoping to get from Alou last year. That's optimistic, but not utterly unrealistic--certainly not for $400k.

As for his attitude... Gary Sheffield is unlikeable. Gary Carter is a cancer. He purposely, and underhandedly, undermines other people out of petty spite. Sheff may be a lot of things, but he's not underhanded. He can be unlikeable because he always thinks he's the best player on the team. (And usually wants to be paid like it too.)

Sheff may be an a-hole, but never backs down. Almost as much as another mid-rotation starter, the Mets need a guy who doesn't back down.

You know I'm right.

Dan said...

Initially, I was going to side with you, Metstra. Sheffield will be very difficult to root for; superficially, this move is puzzling. But after reading Dave Crockett's argument about the Mets needing a guy who "doesn't back down," I think I've been swayed. This might be a worthwhile experiment after all.

I don't think Church deserves the Jan Brady treatment (great line btw), but, more than any other regular, he cost the Mets a playoff spot. He showed a lot of holes in his offensive game down the stretch.

By the way, Francesa, Ron Darling, and Joel Sherman have indicated now that Church has fallen out of favor with either the team or the manager. Wonder why there so down on him.

Demitri said...


You and the Mets should have gone Mac.

Anyway, I didn't like the deal, but its minimal risk from a financial standpoint. I hope that if he doesn't deliver that Omar cuts him sooner rather than later

Anonymous said...

Please. I don't know how Sheffield will measure up, but the 2007--2008 Mets were passive. And chokers. A bit of nasty attitude can't hurt. If it does, just dump him.

Anonymous said...

This can only be bad.

MetFanMac said...

HOLY ****.

I go to my first baseball site after Sabbath is over and this pops up.

I now officially now what the term "blew my mind" means. For the next several minutes I could do nothing but stare at the screen in horror and make choking/whimpering sounds. Swear to G-d.

Goodbye 2009 NL East title. Hello, Bobby Bonilla/Terry Pendleton Redux!

Yadier from Queens said...

I don't think I can take another manifesto !!!!

Anonymous said...

Hopefully he gets hurt quickly. I don't want to have to root for him no matter what he does, even if he's not affecting the clubhouse.

Berbalerbs said...

I really love how we talk about ballplayers like they are fragile 10 year old girls with unloving parents. THESE ARE GROWN MEN BEING PAID HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS (MOST OF THEM MILLIONS) OF DOLLARS TO PLAY A CHILDREN'S GAME. You know what? I work with assholes. Really unlikeable people...and...guess what? I still find a way to do MY job.

If Ryan Church can't handle less playing time, that's a Ryan Church issue. If you somehow believe that David Wright's OPS+ will go down if Sheffield calls him cornbread, that's a Metstradamus issue.

BTW I love how you dismiss the phrase "low risk/high reward" as if it were some abstract idea like "grinder" or "true leader." Sheffield is (perhaps was) a right handed power hitter, which the Mets have been on the lookout. We are paying him league minimum. Our payroll is top 5 (maybe 2nd or 3rd) in baseball. We can afford him, and if he doesn't come through we can cut him.

I understand that there is a bit of obligatory worry that comes along with being a Mets fan, but it doesn't help to go looking for things to be miserable about.

Metstradamus said...

"I love how you dismiss the phrase "low risk/high reward" as if it were some abstract idea like "grinder" or "true leader.""

When "low risk/high reward" is used to describe both Gary Sheffield and Fernando Nieve in a span of three weeks, then guess what? Low risk/high reward is the new grinder is the new 20 is the new pink is the new black is the new true leader. If Omar wasn't scourging the waiver wire for these players all season, maybe this phrase wouldn't have started to drive me nuts, but that's where we're at.

You know who "low risk/high reward" is? J.J. Putz. Acquired for next to nothing, if he bombs you decline his option for next season, buy him out for $1M and he's gone. If he is what he is supposed to be, his $8.6M option gets picked up and he's either your 8th inning guy in '10, or he's an AL closer because you've traded him there for parts and prospects for the future. And if he helps this bullpen, that's a high reward. The risk might have been higher than low before we knew that Putz was okay with pitching the 8th inning but now that he is, it's all good.

Nieve was a waste of time. Sheffield? What really is the best case scenario for a 40 year old pinch hitter? He's going to take Church's job and produce like the Gary Sheffield of 10 years ago? I just don't see where this high reward comes from.

And if Sheffield wasn't a guy who rocks the boat then why is everyone talking about it? Yes, he's ire is usually directed at management and authority figures and almost never players. But that doesn't mean that if Sheffield starts barking about Jerry Manuel and playing time that it isn't going to affect the team. In New York? With a million reporters in that lockerroom?

Yeah, you'd like to think that these players don't need to be coddled, and that they can deal with their co-workers just as we have to deal with our co-workers in our ho-hum everyday lives. But guess what? it happens. And GM's have to account for that.

And to that end, if Sheffield becomes a galvanizing force in that lockerroom, wonderful. I'd be shocked. I mean, for someone who goes and talks about "me" all the time, can you really imagine him giving a Shawon Dunston type speech in the lockerroom down the stretch in September? Honestly?

Look, "give him a chance" people will say. He gets the chance because there's really no choice, is there? He might work out. But let's be real, by "work out", that probably means he keeps to himself, keeps his yap shut, and hits a big home run every once in a while. But people are hinting/throwing around that he's going to be the lockerroom prescence the team needs and that he's going to be a dominant force in the middle of the order.