Sheffield backs players union’s right to drive that bus right off that cliff, dares Congress to step into the fray

February 28th, 2007 → 11:50 am @

Back in June, when Paxton Crawford, who played for the Crimson Hose back in ’00 and ’01, copped to using speed, ‘roids, and HGH during his time at Fenway, I wrote about how the mini-maelstrom illustrated nothing so much as how moronically power-hungry the players association was:

“Right now, that doesn’t seem likely, mainly because the power-drunk players union refuses to allow blood testing (or actual random testing, or storing of samples) because any of those steps would be an “invasion of privacy.” That’s a load of crap. Playing professional baseball is not a right afforded to citizens under the Constitution; it’s a privilege. Workplaces implement all sorts of policies–regarding drug testing or dress codes or proper language or decorum–that aren’t (and can’t be) mandated by the government. Unless the players union takes off its blinders and starts to see the big picture, a lot of its members are going to find themselves in a world of hurt.”

And here comes said world of hurt! George Mitchell — former US Senator, current member of the Red Sox’s board, and head of the MLB steroid investigation — is, to absolutely no one’s surprise, being stonewalled at pretty much every turn. He’s said that if that continues, it was likely Congress would take up the issue. There’s an implied threat there, sure. But more than that, there’s a recognition of reality. In the absolute joke of a Congressional hearing a couple of years ago — and to give you a sense of just how farcical it was, it seems as if Jose Canseco was just about the only person who told the truth — Senators said that if baseball didn’t clean up its act, they would. Thus far, the only real aftershock of those hearings was the assurance that Big Mac ain’t ever gonna sniff the Hall.

But now, thanks to Gary Sheffield, we know that the players association is doing everything they can to make sure that’s not the case for long. Sheffield recently told USA Today he wouldn’t cooperate with the Mitchell probe because it is a “witch hunt”; he then told the Detroit Free Press pretty much the same thing. Or, rather, he said that’s what his union had told him: “The [players’] association told us this is just a witch hunt. They don’t want us to talk to them. This is all about getting [Bonds]. If this was legitimate and they did it the right way, it would be different. But this a witch hunt. They’re just trying to collect a lot of stuff that doesn’t make any sense and throw the [expletive] against the wall.” (I’m pretty sure the expletive was “poopy.”)
It’s not surprising that Sheffield’s the guy who spilled the beans on the union’s behind-the-scenes campaign, just as it was no surprise that it was Sheffield who told SI that Barry was a snake who gave him “flaxseed oil,” just as it was not a surprise that it was Sheffield who told New York Magazine about the problems in the Yankees clubhouse: Sheff is known not only for being a prodigious hitter but someone who you can get to say pretty much anything. (Johnny Damon will now fill that role for the Yankees.) Nevertheless, it’s revealing. Once again, rather than work to take steps that will help convince the public the game is trying to clean up its act, the players association is doing everything it can to make it seem as if they’re defending their members’ right to use PEDs…which may very well be what they’re doing. Don’t be surprised in Congress does decide to step in before this is all over.

Post Categories: 2007 Spring Training & Gary Sheffield & Paxton Crawford & Players associatio & Steroids

Clearly, it was a bad weekend to go out of town.

November 11th, 2006 → 4:58 pm @

As expected, plenty of folks — including Buster Olney, the man who broke the story — are doing a bit of backpedaling on the whole “the Sox won the bidding rights to Matsuzaka” story. Yesterday, Olney said the Sox had won the right to bid for the Japanese phenom. (Today’s version of the story — which had been edited this morning at 11:44 — read that the Sox “may” have won the bidding; that’s not my recollection of how the piece read yesterday, but I stupidly didn’t save it.)

Today, Olney is making the whole thing sound as imprecise as exit polls (which, *cough cough* is a quip I made yesterday). “Nothing has been confirmed,” Olney writes. “No announcement has been made,” which, at the very least, is a far cry from the “according to Major League Baseball sources” we were hearing about yesterday.

Indeed. It wouldn’t be much fun to discuss if it wasn’t true (for Olney or anyone else); unfortunately (for me), some people who’ve made comments on my last post and Olney himself have already delved into some of the aspects of this supposed bid I wanted to make. The most relevant ones:

* The $40 mil the Sox may or may not have bid is a one-time cost; it’s not added payroll, which would result in: a) raising the Sox’s payroll to a new high, and with this fan base (and this media coverage) it’s hard to ever reduce payroll, b) putting the Sox well above the luxury tax threshold, which would mean every dollar they shelled out would cost much more than that at the end of the day.

* The notion that this is a worthwhile investment solely because of the prospect of increased revenues from the Far East is a load of crap: every dollar the Sox earn is only worth about 50 cents; the other 50 cents goes into the revenue sharing pot, which essentially means the Sox are paying teams like the Orioles and the Blue Jays to continue to run their clubs in a determinedly bone-headed way…the better to bleed the Sox and the Yankees. (Revenue sharing — and baseball economics in general — is a weird and confusing thing. There’s a bunch about it sprinkled in between shocking behind the scenes revelations and hilarious anecdotes in the book. Which, by the way, makes a great gift, and signed copies are available here.)

Without getting into all the ins and outs of Olney’s piece, he comes down on the Sox front office pretty hard, criticizing them for both not paying for players like Johnny Damon (or for trading players like Bronson Arroyo) while (maybe) dedicating a boatload of money to Matsuzaka. He also raises the possibility that the Sox are working without a plan. There are a lot of good possibilities; that’s not one of them…


In other news, Tony Massarotti has this take on Foulke’s departure. I need to confess, I’m a bit confused by Foulke’s not taking the $5 mil-plus he would have gotten by exercising his player option, because he ain’t getting anything like that kind of money from anyone else. One thing I disagree with in Tony’s column is this: “Now Foulke is gone and here is the truly amazing thing: No one is shedding a tear.” Fine: I’m not crying. But I think Foulke — along with David Ortiz — is the single most important reason why the Red Sox won the ’04 World Series. Without Papi’s superhuman heroics, he would have been a shoo-in for ALCS MVP; as it was, he sure as hell should have beat Manny for the WS award.

And finally, Sheffield is off to the Tigers in exchange for three pitchers. This whole thing was shrewdly done by the Yankees, and the fact that they’re re-stocking their minor league system — and really without losing anything in this case — has to be upsetting for the folks on Yawkey Way.

Post Categories: 2006 Hot Stove Season & Buster Olney & Daisuke Matsuzaka & Gary Sheffield & Keith Foulke & Red Sox front office

The Yankees might not want Sheffield, but reporters sure don’t want him to leave town

November 9th, 2006 → 6:05 am @

There was a player on the Red Sox — and I’m not giving any hints as to whom I’m talking about except that he currently plays for the Yankees — who was known around the league as a great interview, because he was usually open and available and more importantly because he’d pretty much say whatever it was any given reporter needed him to say at any given time. “So isn’t it awful that so-and-so keeps on putting himself above the team by playing while injured?” and “Aren’t you glad so-and-so puts the team first by playing while injured?” would both produce affirmative results, even if they were asked within minutes of each other.

Gary Sheffield has a similar reputation. I have no idea if it’s deserved…but in today’s paper, Sheffield once again shows why he’s a reporter’s wet dream, slamming Brian Cashman (“If George Steinbrenner was feeling better, my situation would already be resolved”), Bobby Abreu (“I’ve done more for the Yankees than he will ever do”), and the team in general (“I will tell you that not everything is rosy in Yankeeland. It’s all a facade — it ain’t real”). “Sheffield was soon talking about Alex Rodriguez,” the story goes on to say, in what could be code for, “Reporters then proceeded to press Sheffield on the Yankees’ most controversial and unpopular player; soon, we were asking why that jerk-face Derek Jeter didn’t stick up for his teammates.” The answer? Just what any good scribe would want: “When you have a teammate under fire like that, why would you keep your distance and just let people keep taking shots at him? If it was anybody else, their teammates would have stood up for them.” (Like Jeter?) “I’m not naming names, it is what it is, but it tells you a lot about the situation here. I like Alex, but we have different personalities. He doesn’t fight back because he wants everyone to like him, but that doesn’t work here. I will not let anyone take shots at me like that.”

Let’s see: shots at the team, the general manager, the new guy in the clubhouse, and the captain. Yeah, it definitely sounds like Sheff’s gonna be wearing pinstripes on Opening Day.

Post Categories: 2006 Hot Stove Season & Gary Sheffield & Sports Reporters & Yankees

And you wonder why Gary Sheffield’s on his sixth major league team

October 26th, 2006 → 5:55 pm @

Remember back in spring training when Gary Sheffield said the Yankees better pick up his 2007 option, or else? And remember how happy he said he was when Brian Cashman told him, yup, the team intended ot do just that? (“There was only one place [I want to play], and that still remains the same,” Sheff said at the time. “I don’t want to play for nobody else but the Yankees.”) Since then, Sheff has: 1. bitched and moaned when he was told that an intention to pick up a player’s option is different from actually picking it up; 2. said, after the Yankees traded for Bobby Abreu, that he didn’t feel threatened because he was a “team player” who wanted to help the team win a World Series.

Well guess what? The Yankees picked up Sheffield’s option…and he’s back to pouting the corner. “This will not work,” he said. “This will not work at all.” He then went on to say the team best not play him at first base or trade him to another team. (If only Gary had managed to stay someplace for five years he’d have that no-trade clause. Oh well.)

I know: this shouldn’t come as a surprise; players lie all the time, like, say, when they tell everyone who’ll listen they wouldn’t play for a team and that money doesn’t matter and then sign with that very same team in the offseason for marginally more money. And in a weird way, I can’t help but admire a guy who can take so many directly contradictory positions on one issue.

Post Categories: Gary Sheffield & Yankees