Friday, April 3, 2009

Sheffield Signs With The New York Mets

With the post on my National League East predictions due out tomorrow I thought it was worth noting that Gary Sheffield has signed a one-year contract with the New York Mets.

Earlier this week, Sheffield was released by the Detroit Tigers where he played the past two seasons. In 21 seasons, Sheffield has also played with the Milwaukee Brewers, San Diego Padres, Florida Marlins, Los Angeles Dodgers, Atlanta Braves and the New York Yankees.

Some were surprised the Tigers released Sheffield but I am not. His .225 batting average last season was his worst since he hit .194 for the Brewers in 1991.

Sheffield was struggling at the plate during spring training. Now lots of players don't play well in spring training. But the Tigers are crowded with DHs and have young prospects who need a chance to play.

The bottom line here is that I picked the Tigers to finish last in the AL Central in 2009. Frankly, the Tigers finish last with or without Sheffield.

So will Sheffield help the Mets? Does it change the shape of the NL East?

The answer is no on both counts. If the Mets had got the Sheffield who drove in 100 plus runs six times over a seven year period between 1999 and 2005 then the answer might be in the affirmative.

However, Sheffield has not been the same player since he injured his wrist in a collision with Shea Hillenbrand in April 2006 in his last year in a Yankees uniform. He did have a productive season with the Tigers in 2007 but not at the levels previously mentioned and his numbers regressed last year.

Sheffield will not be an everyday player. Since there's no DH he'll play either left field or right field. He'll most certainly play against left-handed pitching.

Given the turmoil that has prevailed in the Mets clubhouse over the past two seasons I'm not sure signing Sheffield was the brightest idea.

Remember when Sheffield told GQ in 2007 there were more Latin ballplayers in the majors than black ballplayers because Latinos are easier to control?

I'm not sure how well that sits with Mets manager Jerry Manuel, who is Latino, or with his new Latino teammates like Carlos Delgado of Puerto Rico, Johan Santana of Venezuela and Jose Reyes of the Dominican Republic not to mention fellow Dominican Fernando Tatis, who will likely lose playing time to Sheffield in the outfield.

On the other hand, Mets GM Omar Minaya is also from the D.R. while Assistant GM Tony Bernazard is from Puerto Rico. So at least for Minaya and Bernazard obtaining a suddenly available righthanded hitter with power outweighed any slights they might have felt two years ago. Besides, the Mets were hardly the only club interested in him. The Philadelphia Phillies, Cincinnati Reds and Tampa Bay Rays also expressed interest in obtaining Sheffield's services. Methinks though the Phillies, Reds and Rays will be glad they did not ultimately pursue Sheffield.

You might recall that I touched on this subject in an article I wrote about Gary Sheffield in July 2007 when he accused then New York Yankees manager (and now Los Angeles Dodgers skipper) Joe Torre of racial bias.

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