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Sheffield destroys the Dodger hopes for 2001 unless traded

2-24-01

On May 15, 1998, a “parasite” called Gary Sheffield attached itself to the Los Angeles Dodger system. This parasite was an asset to the Dodgers on the field while feasting on their tradition, class, and spirit. As with all parasite hosts the Dodgers did not thrive during this period, but everybody blamed other Dodger systems for their inability to thrive and not the parasite.  

Until this February when the parasite attacked Bob Daly, the CEO of the Dodgers, and specific Dodgers, it looked as if the Dodgers and Gary Sheffield could coexist.  Now obviously the Dodgers must get rid of Sheffield, or they cannot realize their hopes for the 2001 season.  Kevin Malone, the Dodger general manager, wants to look for a team who will give him “equal trade value” for the parasite.   However, Malone must understand no one wants a parasite regardless of what it did on the field in 2000.  The sooner the Dodgers free themselves of Sheffield, they can start thriving again.

When Gary Sheffield came to the Dodgers, they had an indication of the type of player he was, but they ignored it because they sought national attention and a world championship.  While Sheffield has worn a Dodger uniform, the Dodgers have had national attention, mostly embarrassment.  The Florida Marlins traded Sheffield in the first year of a high-priced six-year contract with a no-trade clause.  At first Sheffield would not come to Los Angeles.  The Dodgers convinced him to come by paying him $2.5 million.  Because Sheffield did not fit “the Dodger image,” the Dodgers did not make Sheffield change his image, but they changed their policies about facial hair and earrings.  In 1998 Sheffield was selected to go the All-Star game.  Unlike most players who consider being selected as an all-star as a great honor, Sheffield balked at going.  The Dodgers convinced him to go by paying airplane flights for his family to join him there.

The Dodgers accommodated him off the field, and Sheffield changed how the Dodgers played the game. Before Sheffield came, some Dodgers played baseball without worrying about getting injured.  However, they became more cautious as they followed Sheffield’s example.

When Sheffield came, many fans believed Sheffield could steal bases.  This was not so.  As a Dodger, he has stolen 33 bases.  Many Dodgers have stopped stealing.  As a Dodger, Sheffield has been a station-to-station runner meaning on a single he would advance one base.  Before Sheffield many Dodgers would go from first to third base or score from second on a single, but now even the speediest Dodger advances only one base on a single.  

Because Sheffield is afraid of hurting himself when he dives, he has never dived on artificial turf and seldom on grass.  Most Dodgers, except Adrian Beltre, Mark Grudzielanek, Eric Karros, and Shawn Green, do not dive for the balls.  Sheffield has not raced to catch a fly, and many Dodgers do not do this either. These have hurt the Dodger defense and cost the Dodgers wins.

On the last day of the 1999 season when the Dodgers played the Houston Astros who were battling for a place in the playoffs, Sheffield did not play citing injuries.  Sheffield played the day earlier, and he did not injure himself.  After that game, he had four months to rest and heal.  Many Dodger fans and reporters came to the realization Sheffield was concerned about his batting average dropping below .300. This act by Sheffield may have affected who reached the playoffs.

This spring the new Dodger manager Jim Tracy has been trying to stop selfish play, but Sheffield has been a prime example of a selfish player.  Sheffield always pulls the baseball to not go to right field even if the winning run could score on a ground ball to first base, second base, or right field.  Though he does not strike out much, he does strike out when runners are on base.  If the game looks hopeless for the Dodgers to win or the Dodgers cannot win their division, Sheffield does not run hard on ground balls or try to take an extra base.  Sheffield’s selfishness influenced the rest of the Dodgers.

Since Sheffield became a Dodger, he has criticized the Dodger management and his fellow teammates. He publicly said the Dodger management needed to rebuild the team during the 1999 season. He publicly disagreed with the Dodger management about the dismissal of Dodger manager Davey Johnson. Three times last season in the newspapers Sheffield criticized his teammates for not trying hard to win and said they did not want to win as badly as he did.  His attitude destroys the team’s morale and feeling of unity.

This February Sheffield got personal.  Apparently Sheffield wanted a lifetime contract extension with the Dodgers.  Sheffield has a contract through 2003 with a club option for 2004.  Therefore, it seems ridiculous for Sheffield to ask for any extension at this time.  No major leaguer has a lifetime extension. When Bob Daly said no, Sheffield must have gotten mad and said, “Trade me.”  Though Sheffield denies demanding a trade now, he is insulting Daly now.  Sheffield is calling the Dodgers “liars.”  He believes Daly has “set out to burn” him.  No Dodger fan believe this.  He is mad at the Dodgers, especially Daly, for portraying him as a “greedy athlete.”  Sorry, Sheffield, you did not need the Dodgers to help you.  You portray yourself as a “greedy athlete” when you asked for that extension.

Bob Daly tried to explain to Sheffield why the Dodgers could not give him a lifelong extension. Daly reportedly explained the Dodgers had lost $25 million, and felt there is a risk in giving him a lifelong extension.  According to an article that appeared in USA Today Baseball Weekly, Sheffield threw a temper tantrum.

"A risk? Come on, they're paying Brownie (Kevin Brown) $15 million a year until he's 41.  They just gave (Darren) Dreifort $55 million when he's only won 39 games in his career and had arm surgery. They gave Shawn Green $13 million a year. And how about Carlos Perez _ paying him $6 million a year?"

"And you talk about risk, that I'm a risk? That's an insult. ... I'm getting less than Dreifort? I'm getting just $3 million more than Carlos Perez? It's not my fault they signed Perez to that stupid contract. It's not my fault they gave Eric Karros a no_trade clause when he's got no value. It's not my fault they gave Greenie all that money."

"They give out all of these dumb contracts, and when it comes to me _ nothing. And I'm even willing to defer a lot of the money for that. They were saying how they lost $25 million. I almost laughed in their face.''


Nobody, except Sheffield, doubts the Dodgers lost a lot of money last year because the Dodgers had one of the highest payrolls in baseball in 2000 and their attendance fell.

Sheffield claims he was misquoted.  No reporter, who works for a national publication, misquotes that bad.

Every player that Sheffield mentioned signed his contract after Sheffield. He does not seem to realize salaries rise every year.  Of course, a star player who signs later will likely make more money than the star who was signed years earlier.  He also does not understand that baseball is a team sport.  It takes twenty-five players working together to produce a championship.  No player can do it alone.

Though Sheffield criticized his teammates, he never mentioned any names before.  Now he made it personal, even using nicknames.  Sheffield just insulted so-called friends.  These comments will hurt his working relationship with the Dodgers. Most Dodgers are trying to ignore the Sheffield situation, but it has produced a distraction.

Though earlier in the week Gary Sheffield said he would not report to Dodgertown next Tuesday (mandatory reporting date for all major leaguers), he reported to Dodgertown Friday and was greeted coolly by his teammates.  Earlier this week Jim Nader, Sheffield’s agent, said his client did not want a trade. On Friday Sheffield said he would rather not hit another home run for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Sheffield has said he would accept a trade to the New York Mets, the New York Yankees, or the Atlanta Braves.  If Sheffield gets traded, he can demand his new team trade him after the 2001 season because he will be traded in a multiyear deal.  Because Sheffield had 43 home runs in 2000, Kevin Malone believes he can trade Sheffield for another super star.  No team wants a player who criticizes his team’s management or his teammates. Hence, Sheffield’s trade value is low.  The Dodgers would be better off with six poor minor leaguers or a “Yankee hot dog vendor,” as a Dodger fan said, than Sheffield.  Malone needs to move quickly to salvage the 2001 season for the Dodgers.

© Sarah D. Morris

 

 

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