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.