February 23, 2011

Gary Sheffield Officially Retires...Cooperstown Next?

Last week, Gary Sheffield made it official.

With one phone call to the Players Association...the slugger is now, officially, retired.  Almost immediately... thoughts turned to his Hall of Fame chances.

"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."

After jumping around on the interwebs and looking at some of the comments made about Sheffield and his retirement...it is amazing to me how polarizing the dude is.

Me?

I love the guy.  Take a look at his resume...what's not to like?

Let’s break it down. 

Most impressive are his power numbers. 509 home runs are more than all but 23 members of the Major League fraternity. All but two (Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro) of the players with more home runs that are Hall eligible are enshrined.

Eight times, "Sheff" topped 30 home runs and in each of those years…he had 100 or more RBI. His 1676 RBI rank him 25th all-time and, unlike with homers, Palmeiro is the only Hall eligible players ahead of him on the list that doesn't have his likeness on a plaque in New York.

It’s also worth pointing out that only Sheffield, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Barry Bonds, Frank Robinson and Reggie Jackson have at least 500 home runs, at least 2500 hits, 1500 RBI and 200 stolen bases.

When he last swung a bat, Sheffield was near the top of the active hits list with 2689 base knocks.  It’s safe to say that without a couple of injury plagued seasons (and yes, I know we could say that about a lot of guys), we’d be talking about a guy with close to 3000 hits and 550 home runs.

Actually, we wouldn’t be talking at all. Sheff’s induction to the Hall of Fame, with or without those numbers are a no-brainer. As it is…we’re talking longevity and hardware and Sheffield has a resume rife with both.

From his first hit (fittingly a home run) at 19 in 1988 until his last one (a single to left field) last season, Sheffield’s 21-year career was a colorful one filled with lots of stops.  His longest stint with any team being the six seasons he spent with the Florida Marlins.

His last full season in Miami, 1997, was also the only time he played in (and won) a World Series.

Sheffield played in nine All-Star games and is the only player to have represented five different teams, spanning both leagues. Never an MVP, Sheffield finished in the top three on three different occasions and in the top ten in voting three other times. Like with his All-Star appearances, Sheffield garnered MVP votes with each of the teams he played for except Milwaukee and Detroit.

Sheffield is also the only player to have hit 25 or more home runs with six different teams and five times, he took home the Silver Slugger Award.  But unlike most home run hitters, Sheffield had remarkable control at the plate.

He was a free swinger, but he never struck out more than 83 times in a season. By comparison…someone like Sammy Sosa has never struck out less than 83 times in a season.

Good friend of The Hall Jeff Montgomery faced Sheffield seven times in his career and held him in check...striking him out twice and only allowing one hit.

The former Kansas City Royals closer approached Sheffield like most of the free swinging right handed hitters that liked to drive in runs.

“(I’d) let ‘em get themselves out,” Montgomery said.  “They don’t want the guy standing in the on deck circle to drive in the runs so they are likely to swing at a pitch out of the zone. Slider, slider, slider. All off the plate. If I had to throw a fastball it was above the strike zone. He didn’t miss many mistakes!”

One mistake Sheffield did make was hanging out with Barry Bonds. It’s said that during a 2001 workout, a trainer applied some infamous cream to Sheffield’s surgically repaired knee.  While Sheffield claims the cream did nothing to strengthen his knee, he was mentioned in the 2007 Mitchell Report as one of the players who had obtained and used steroids.

And we've seen how the players linked to PEDs have been handled in Cooperstown.

Controversy aside, if you ask me, Sheffield’s a shoe-in.  His numbers are better than most enshrined (regardless of the era) and while many people will laugh at how "feared" hitters are or aren't...dude was.

"Hall of Fame...it's pretty simple," Sheffield's former skipper Jim Leyland told the Detroit Free Press.  "I think there were several years in baseball where it was the general consensus that (Sheffield had) the fastest bat in baseball."

So welcome to the the 2015 ballot, "Sheff"...it's a packed one.  Hopefully, Randy Johnson, John Smoltz and Pedro Martinez can save some votes for you.

What are your thoughts, gang...is Gary Sheffield a Hall of Famer?


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