Former New York Yankees and New York Mets slugger Gary Sheffiled called it quits Wednesday. The nine-time All Star, who played for eight teams over 22 seasons, decided to not only retire, but begin his campaign for baseball's Hall Of Fame Class of 2014.
"I am sure it will be mentioned and debated but from my standpoint I know who is in the Hall of Fame," Sheffield told The New York Post. "A lot of them don't belong in the Hall of Fame. If someone wants to debate me, check the stats."
Alright Mr. Sheffield. Let the debate begin. You go first. (Writers note: This is not a real interview with Gary Sheffield.)
Gary Sheffield: Okay. Nine-time All Star... (silence).
Me: Correct. Your resume has you making the All-Star team nine times, five of those appearances came in different uniforms. That's pretty impressive. I'll give you that.
Sheffield: I have a career batting average of .292, knocked in 1,676 RBI and, here's the kicker, smashed 509 home runs. I've heard that 500 homers gets you into Hall Of Fame.
Me: Correct. In the past, the 500-HR milestone basically was a one-way ticket to Cooperstown. However, steroids and other performance enhancers are inflating stats, so the bar is being raised a bit. Yes, 509 is a lot of home runs. Heck, you had six 30-HR seasons and two 40-HR campaigns. Admittedly, that's impressive.
Sheffield: Thank you.
Me: Look, I am not saying you weren't a good player. Actually, you were a very good player, but is very good Hall Of Fame worthy? Especially, since you add that you've had run-ins with the law when you were younger, didn't get along with the media (the guys who vote on the Hall of Fame) and sometimes teammates? Not many people actually rooted for you unless you were smashing balls over 400-foot fences.
Me: You've also said that the reason MLB teams sign more Latin players than black players is because they're easier to control.
Sheffield: That's the truth. What's that have to do with my Hall Of Fame stats?
Me: You also once said that being a role model is tough (Boston Globe, July 1992) and you wont live your life by 'doing things by the book'.
Sheffield: Yes, I did. I've also said that I take being paid to play baseball seriously (Palm Beach Post, Aug. '96). Isn't that a Hall Of Fame-like mentality?
Me: Hey, I am just playing devil's advocate. If you want to make your case, I need to ask the tough questions. What about the Mitchell Report? Your name came up as a positive test and voters have made it clear to players like Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro and Barry Bonds that they won't check their name on the ballot.
Sheffield: That's their prerogative, but when you look at my credentials I am in. I was five-time Silver Slugger winner and the '92 National League batting champion. I also finished third in the NL MVP voting in '92 and '03, and second in the American League MVP voting in '04.
Me: Your resume is missing an MVP award. Should that matter?
Sheffield: Roberto Alomar never won an MVP and he got in this year. I don't think that will matter.
Me: No offense Mr. Sheffield, but Alomar was the best defensive second basemen in baseball for more than a decade. How many Gold Gloves did you win? In fact if you look at your right field range factor numbers, they're very average (1.96).
Sheffield: I came up as a shortstop, then was a third basemen and then was placed in the outfield. You know why? Because I could hit. That's what it comes down to. I was one of the most feared hitters for a solid 10-year period. Heck, I even made it difficult for myself by wagging my bat 100-mph before the pitch.
Me: Every kid growing up did imitate your swing all the time.
Sheffield: See. Love me or hate me off the field, but on the field I was great. Hall Of Fame worthy.
Me: Well, according to SB Nation's Rob Neyer:
"The Hall of Fame ballot will be absolutely jammed. In addition to the holdovers -- probably Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mike Piazza, Sammy Sosa, Curt Schilling, Jack Morris, Jeff Bagwell, Lee Smith, Tim Raines, and maybe Craig Biggio -- Sheffield will be joined by other first-timers Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Jeff Kent, Mike Mussina."
You might have to wait a while.
Sheffield: That's fine. I can wait. Those are some pretty solid names in front of me.
Me: Right. In all respects, they were better than you and all those players are borderline Hall Of Famers and probably won't get in because they were not good enough or linked with PEDs. That's your issue. Also, add that the 500-homer mark will begin to be just the first, not the last step, step in a Hall Of Fame career. Sorry, but in four-plus years you will be on the outside looking in. It won't work out.
Sheffield: Well, it took HALL OF FAME pitcher Bert Blyleven one million years to get in, but he got it. I can wait.
Me: (under my breath) That's the problem. Blyleven spoiled it.
Me: Never mind, Mr. Sheffield. Your case was well presented. Enjoy retirement.
Sheffield: Did I mention how much money I made in my 22 seasons.
Me: I need to run.
Sheffield: A lot of freakin' money...