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Gary Sheffield retires

Feb 17, 2011, 8:50 AM EDT

*Apr 04 - 00:05*

He didn’t play last year and was pretty clearly done anyway, but yesterday Gary Sheffield made it official and retired from baseball. Which, of course, leads to the question that is always asked when a player of stature retires.  Hall of Fame?

I think the answer here is yes he’s deserving, but no he’s not going to make it. Not by a longshot.

His resume is damn solid. Way better than many players who are already in the Hall, as he himself noted in the story linked above.  He was a nine-time All-Star with a career line of .292/.393/.514 and 509 homers.   He didn’t lead the league in anything too many times and was never an MVP, but he had many seasons that, had they earned him the MVP, wouldn’t have been embarrassing to the award.  Many of those seasons came before there was general acceptance of just how awesome it was to get on base at a .450 clip so he was under the radar while everyone was oohing and ahhing the big RBI men.  He did a lot of things well rather than just one thing and had a lot of excellent seasons rather than one standalone boffo one and that’s usually a recipe for being underestimated.

Of course, had Sheffield not been a famously difficult personality who shuffled around from club-to-club during his career — and had he not been implicated in the PED mess — we would be having a very different conversation about all of this.  But he was and he did and I think those things are going to mean that he gets way less support than he otherwise deserves.  He’s going to get the Kevin Brown treatment.

  1. mercyflush - Feb 17, 2011 at 8:58 AM

    wow, a .393 career OBP. That’s fantastic.

  2. hep3 - Feb 17, 2011 at 8:59 AM

    Let’s hope he never gets elected.

    • 1byrd - Feb 17, 2011 at 10:45 AM

      Why? He’s got the stats. And he proved with the Braves that he can be a constructive, contributing part of a team effort. Maybe it took a Bobby Cox to draw that out of him, but the Bravos had absolutely no problems with Sheff – on or off the field.

  3. largebill - Feb 17, 2011 at 9:07 AM

    I have had a distaste for Sheffield since his Milwaukee days, but even I don’t think he’ll get the Kevin Brown treatment. Pitchers are treated much differently by the voters than position players. Weak position players stay on the ballot for years and Sheffield’s case is not weak. Lots of good pitchers fall of the ballot quickly. I really think the difference in how they are viewed is solely due to assigning blame/credit to pitchers for wins/losses.

    This is an odd situation where because I don’t like Sheff I hope I’m wrong and you’re right. However, for the integrity of the system I hope I’m right and he gets fair consideration by the system.

  4. churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Feb 17, 2011 at 9:09 AM

    He might be an interesting test of the character clause and not because of steroids. He’s at 63.30 bWAR, ahead of HoFers like Killebrew, Sandberg, and Winfield and future HoFers like Piazza. However, he is a guy who punched out a teammate in Mil in an effort to get traded. He openly admitted dogging it when he wanted to get away from a team. He told the Yanks that he’d make life a living hell if they ever traded him.

    Baseball skills say yes, but everything else says no. Personally I’d vote yes because I think the character clause is bullshit, but some of the writers don’t.

  5. yankeesfanlen - Feb 17, 2011 at 9:26 AM

    The coupla years with the Yanks were very good so I’d put him in. There again, I’d have the Hall expanded all the way down to Oneonta by now.

  6. smoothjimmyapollo - Feb 17, 2011 at 9:39 AM

    Mitchell Report + BALCO+ a-hole = No HOF

    • dirtyharry1971 - Feb 17, 2011 at 10:34 AM

      Yeah smoothjimmyapollo because WE KNOW the mitchell report was 100% accurate right? George Mitchell was on the baston redsuk payroll when he did this investigation but that doesnt mean a thing because he is as honest as a politican. Oh wait he is one, well there you have it! Wake up Moron, mitchell report isnt worth the paper its written on

      • lanflfan - Feb 17, 2011 at 4:02 PM

        Seems like a vast majority of those mentioned in the Report have either come clean, been proven users, or deny despite pretty obvious evidence. No report on steroids in a business that both denies and encourages their use will be perfect, but I’d say Mitchell (and Canseco for that matter) got it pretty accurate.

        Unless, harry, your problem with the Report is that your favorite player/team was named/trashed in it (as a Dodger fan, I was embarrassed, but not overly surprised, at the mention of Gagne and LoDuca). If MLB Executives had any balls whatsoever, that crap would be out of baseball by now.

    • Craig Calcaterra - Feb 17, 2011 at 4:07 PM

      I’ve studied and researched the Mitchell Report at length. The clear takeaway from it, at least as far as the naming-names stuff goes: the stuff that was in it was accurate. The problem with it was not inaccuracy. The problem was that it was woefully under-inclusive, gathering the lowest hanging fruit only. Mitchell was surprisingly not curious to look much deeper than the Radomski/McNamee/BALCO figures.

      Upshot: if your drug dealer had already been arrested, you were named. If not, you skated.

  7. Detroit Michael - Feb 17, 2011 at 9:40 AM

    If he didn’t have the steroids problems, Sheffield would present an interesting case. His performance between the lines is HOF worthy but he repeatedly and intentionally wore out his welcome in various cities, lowering his value to general managers. Sheffield famously said “I’m my own no-trade clause” although what he meant was that he was his own trade-demand clause. Should that factor into a HOF evaluation? Hard to say.

  8. pisano - Feb 17, 2011 at 9:45 AM

    If you can’t say anything good about someone, don’t say anything at all.

  9. smoothjimmyapollo - Feb 17, 2011 at 9:52 AM

    Det. Michael, I agree that it’s an interesting case. Even if his numbers stayed the same without PEDs, we have to remember that it’s the Hall of Fame, not the Hall of Stats. For me, the rule of thumb for what I would consider an HOFer is, “would I tell my kids and grandkids that I saw this guy play.” For PED guys like Bonds, McGwire, and Clemens I would. Those guys put butts in the seats. For Sheffield, I wouldn’t.

    On a side note, at County Stadium in Milwaukee, you used to be able to stand outside and get player autographs as they walked to their cars after the game. The first time I got to do that as a kid, I waited outside with anticipation thinking I’d get Molitor or Yount and use that signature to eventually get rich (autographs and baseball cards are like 401k plans for kids – or so we thought). The first guy to walk out was Sheffield and I slumped down in disappointment thinking, “this guy won’t sign.” He walked up, grabbed the ball out of my hand and asked me for a pen as I stood there stunned. For a small period of time, I was a Sheffield fan. This was before he tanked his way out of town, became an all star, and started demanding that you pay to join his fan club if you want his autograph.

    • Detroit Michael - Feb 17, 2011 at 2:19 PM

      It’s named the Hall of Fame, but statistics are essential to making a strong case that a player belongs. The BBWAA ballot instructions state that “Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character and contribution to the team(s) on which the player played.” One can’t assess a player’s record, playing ability and contribution to his team without statistics and comparisons to other players who are in or out of the Hall.

      I wouldn’t use your rule of thumb. I tell my children all about Mark Fidrych but I wouldn’t support him for the Hall (not that he played in the majors for 10 years anyway).

      • smoothjimmyapollo - Feb 17, 2011 at 3:08 PM

        I agree, Det. Michael. Stats should play a role. It’s just sometimes stats play too big of a role. Remember when Palmeiro got 500 homeruns and sportswriters started to say things like, “maybe we should changes the standards for automatic induction.” Then he got 3,000 hits and they begrudgingly had to admit that he was an HOFer. Then he got busted for steroids and they didn’t have to let the stats vote for them. If any of the five teams that Palmeiro played on was coming to town, would his presence entice you to go if you didn’t already have tickets to that game? It wouldn’t for me, and I feel the same way about Sheffield. Contrast that with somebody like Griffey before he became injury-prone or Bonds (even if it was to boo him), and I gladly forked over money to see those guys.

        My “would you tell your grandkids” stance could be amended to be like the Supreme Court pornography stance of “you know it when you see it.” With Sheffield and Palmeiro, I never felt like I was watching anything special. Good yes, legendary, no.

  10. huskerguy - Feb 17, 2011 at 9:52 AM

    No, never and please, NO! Not even worth consideration. Good at best, never great.

    • Tick - Feb 17, 2011 at 12:21 PM

      Might want to actually go back and look at his stats, both career and several individual seasons, before you shoot off your mouth and prove that you don’t know what you’re talking about. The guy’s a dick, but he should be considered at the very least.

  11. skipperxc - Feb 17, 2011 at 10:14 AM

    The more interesting question is which hat would he wear. Dodgers? Braves? Marlins?

  12. dirtyharry1971 - Feb 17, 2011 at 10:35 AM

    Clearly without a doubt a HOF’er, at least if we had real people doing the voting and not baseball writers who probably watch 5 games a year

  13. ngearhart1981 - Feb 17, 2011 at 11:09 AM

    Look at his Top-10 comps on his B-Ref page, that’s all you need to know. Absolutely a HOFer. I guess some people see he only averaged 32 HRs a year in the steroid era, but look at all the other things he did besides just the taters.

    • Detroit Michael - Feb 17, 2011 at 2:22 PM

      Be aware that the comparables methodology on doesn’t make ballpark or era adjustments. Batters like Sheffield who played in the contemporary high-HR era don’t have their productivity normalized before being compared to guys who played in eras with less offense. It’s a fun toy, but hardly conclusive.

  14. xmatt0926x - Feb 17, 2011 at 11:17 AM

    Well we all know how this will initially turn out. He will likely not be nominated on at least his first go around and he will blame the white man for trying to keep him out along with all the other people in the shadows that have always tried to hold him down over the years at every stop he’s been to. This is as sure to happen as it is that the sun will rise tommorow. Lets get that part out of the way first and then get to whether or not he’s actually a hall of famer.

  15. shlomo1977 - Feb 17, 2011 at 11:24 AM

    Excellent player during his career at most every stop. Consistently declared his team showed him “disrespect” during the final year of his contract by not offering him an extension. Hall of Famer by the stats compared to Rice & Dawson. PED’s and prickliness keep him out of The Hall.

  16. bigtrav425 - Feb 17, 2011 at 11:38 AM

    PED Mess??? really? this is the first iv heard his name with that or anything with steroids etc….I also agree the Character issue is every sport.Your judging how they played the game not how they treated you (media)

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Feb 17, 2011 at 2:03 PM

      Granted it’s from the Mitchell Report so take it with a grain of salt:

      On page 116 of the report, Sheffield is among the players who are alleged to have purchased “the cream” and “the clear” from BALCO founder Victor Conte. On page 136, a FedEx receipt from Sheffield to BALCO found during a 2003 search of trainer Greg Anderson’s condominium is referenced. On that same page, an excerpt from Sheffield’s book “Inside Power” where he acknowledges receiving a bill from BALCO for “vitamins” is mentioned. His testimony before the BALCO grand jury — he testified not knowing whether “the cream” contained steroids — is also referenced.

  17. schrutebeetfarms - Feb 17, 2011 at 1:49 PM

    Personally the first test I use is “Did I ever think that player was a HOF player?” when I saw him play.
    Never thought that with Sheff. Good player but not great. Reminds me of Larry Walker somewhat. Very good all around, but not that best of the best.

  18. lanflfan - Feb 17, 2011 at 4:11 PM

    Great hitter. Great big horses’ arse too (but supposedly so was Ty Cobb). Looking at his total package, I agree he merits consideration.

    If you think of the HOF as the Majors, with all the candidates residing somewhere in the minors, Sheff is a solid 4A player. I saw him do some great things, and heard him say some stupid things. But his “total package”, which includes PEDs, just doesn’t fit make him a HOFer to me.

    Good ballplayer, great hitter, but not great enough.

    • cur68 - Feb 17, 2011 at 7:13 PM

      Well I’m glad someone mentioned Cobb before me. I dunno you can keep Sheff out for being a dolt and an ass. PEDS maybe but I think you gotta prove other HOF guys are non-PEDs (and we can all name a few we got doubts about). Craig’s points are valid, Lanflan’s points too. I think, for me, using virtually the same logic as both you guys he should be in, just because he performed so well for so long. Wish he’d kept his damn fool mouth shut and been a better teammate. Hell; Clemens, McGuire, & Bonds, too. If PEDs have a consequence then you only have to look at the reps of those guys to see them (actually I acknowledge that McGuire was a pretty good teammate. Never heard anything bad about him at any rate).

  19. smokehouse56 - Feb 17, 2011 at 11:28 PM

    There was a time when 500 homers got you a ticket to Cooperstown. Not any more because of slugs like Gary Sheffield. He was a juicer. All his hitting records are in question. But than again, like Canton, Cooperstown has become two Halls of Fame. One for the true legends and the other for fan and voter favorites. Unfortunately, both have lost their luster. It’s gotten to point that the voting is like voting for the homecoming king and queen at a HS football game. Fire Selig and the game will be better. Same with Goodell.

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