Thursday, August 12, 2004

Iron Sheff Hurtin'

This piece in the Times reports that the pain in Gary Sheffield's left shoulder has gotten so bad, he's considering retirement after the season.

Gary's been one of my favorites last year, coming full circle in a career cycle where I coveted him (as he was coming up in the Brewers' farm system, Sheff was the prospect I always wanted the Yankees to trade for), was angry at him (when he revealed he dumped plays in the field in order to get traded out of Milwakee), envied him (when he went near triple crown as a Padre), was disappointed with him (the rest of his Padres career, having to be moved off of third base as a Marlin), and was disgusted with him (constant contract squabbles in L.A.).

His reputation took a turn for the better with me, when he played with an injured thumb for Atlanta last year. This year, the thumb still hasn't healed, and the pain in his shoulder has been palpable. You see Sheffield at the plate or in the field, and you can see how bad he hurts. He resists any play that would have him lift his glove hand over his head, opting instead to catch the ball at the belt.

For all that, he hasn't whined, and he hasn't begged out of the lineup, even though the Yanks have a substantial division lead (9 1/2 games). Last night, at the pool hall, JJ and I saw Sheffield make a painful play near the end of the Yanks' win over the Rangers. JJ asked "isn't he supposed to be on the DL?" No DL for the Iron Sheff. No DHing, after the tongue-lashing George gave Joe Torre for starting Kenny Lofton in right earlier this week.

At the bat, Sheff has been a monster. His 26 HR and 83 RBI lead the team. His OPS is second only to Hideki Matsui's (.927 to .928). You look at some of his swings, and it looks like his arm might just fly off in the follow-through. But he's never stopped swinging hard.

I hope we get 2 more years of Gary Sheffield. I hope even more that we get him another World Series ring, this year. But even if we don't get these things, I want to say that Gary Sheffield has made a strong impression in his time in pinstripes. I'm glad George got him.

JJ, TJ, what do you guys think? (BTW, I think TJ has no more excuses not to post here.)


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