Thursday, February 17, 2011

Gary Sheffield Officially Retires, Talks Cooperstown

As per George A. King III:
A phone call from Gary Sheffield to the Players Association yesterday officially ushered him into retirement.

Now, the argument whether the feared slugger deserves to be a Hall of Famer can begin.

Sheffield, whose last season was 2009 with the Mets, will be on the ballot following the 2014 season.

As usual, Sheffield has a strong opinion on him entering Cooperstown.

"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 Post. "A lot of them don't belong in the Hall of Fame. If someone wants to debate me, check the stats."

Sheffield completed a 22-year career with a .292 average, 509 homers (24th all-time) and 1,676 RBIs (25th all-time).

Of the 25 men with 500 or more homers, 15 are in the Hall of Fame, four are active, four not yet eligible (including Sheffield) and two are on the ballot but haven't been elected.

Based on the way being linked to steroid use has hurt Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro with voters recently, Sheffield's inclusion in the Mitchell Report will come into play.

"The thing about the Mitchell Report is that I cringe about it because the guy who wrote the report didn't talk to me," Sheffield said. "If he talked to me I would respect that no matter what. But I cringe on that because he didn't."

Sheffield, whose company Sheffield Management, has entered player representation, took the advice of his family and waited a full year before officially retiring.

"I wanted to retire after I played for the Mets," Sheffield said of the 2009 season. "My family said wait one year, that there was no need to rush it. I gave it a year and now it's time to say goodbye."

Sheffield played for the Brewers, Padres, Marlins, Dodgers, Braves, Yankees, Tigers and Mets.
While Sheffield is far removed from the pinstripes, I couldn't help but be intrigued for two reason - I had forgotten how well he played with the Yankees, and I believe that he has an incredibly compelling case for the Hall of Fame.

In his two full seasons with the Yankees, Sheffield batted .290/.386/.523 with a 139 wRC+, averaging 28 2B, 35 HR, and 122 RBI. He also performed well in the postseason, hitting .290/.380/.435 in 16 games. His tenure with the Yankees tends to be looked upon negatively, though, and I believe that stems from his injury-riddled final season - and, perhaps, the fact that the Yankees signed him over Vladimir Guerrero. Even so, his final line with the team was .291/.383/.515 with a well-above average 135 wRC+ and 76 HR in slightly more than two full seasons.

As for the Hall of Fame, Sheffield's argument has two fair caveats - he's been linked to PEDs with some fairly compelling evidence, and he's been widely criticized for a poor clubhouse demeanor. Looking strictly at the numbers, he does look like a fine candidate for Cooperstown. His 162-game average over the course of twenty-five hundred plus games is .292/.393/.514 with 103 runs, 29 2B, 32 HR, 105 RBI, 16 SB, and a 141 wRC+. He ranks 24th all-time in home runs, 19th in walks, 25th in RBI, and 37th in runs score. Sheffield also placed in the top-ten in offensive WAR seven times, and ranks 29th all-time - given the inaccuracies of defensive metrics, I feel that that is more meaningful than his actual WAR (though he still ranks 89th all-time, which is quite good).

In short, it would be difficult to argue against Sheffield's on-the-field resume - but the exigent nature of PEDs may be enough to bar him from a strong showing on the ballot. What do you think about Sheffield's case for Cooperstown?

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