|Gary Sheffield. Photo courtesy Turner Sports.|
Gary Sheffield, who played for the Yankees and Mets in his illustrious career, will once again be in the studio for TBS' coverage of the Major League Baseball Postseason, with Pedro Martinez and Casey Stern.
TBS is the exclusive TV home of the 2016 American League Postseason, starting with the AL Wild Card Game on Tuesday, Oct. 4 and continuing through the ALCS. This is TBS’ 10th season of MLB Postseason coverage, which began in 2007, and the network is completing its’ ninth regular season slate of Sunday game coverage.
Sheffield caught up with reporters recently at MLB on TBS Media Day. Here's a sampling of that conversation:
You played with Alex Rodriguez on the Yankees from 2004 to 2006. What did you think of the saga around his retirement?
It was painful to watch. Every athlete wants to go out on his own terms and, unfortunately, he wasn't able to do that. At the same time, he had a wonderful career. It's always difficult at the end, I mean, a lot of players go through it. Some are easier than others, that's just part of it...
I just think it had something to do with, is he capable of being a Major League Baseball player? It came down to performance, and when you're not performing, either you perform or you can't perform. They came to the conclusion he couldn't perform anymore...
In your mind, you're fresh as ever, you're sharp as ever, but if you can't get the results that you're used to getting, that means you can't perform.
Do you want a person on your team that can't play, on your roster? It comes down to that. We can sit here and debate it, and talk about what a guy used to do, and it ain't about that. For the Yankees, if you can play and help us win, then you're going to be on the field. I mean, (Manager) Joe Girardi's a smart guy, and he's seen enough to say who he wants on the field.
If they made that determination he can't play, then you have to let him go. For me, I didn't watch enough games to see if he could still play, but I look at his numbers, and that's the indication that he couldn't.
What do you remember most about playing with A-Rod?
That he was one of the hardest workers I have ever been around. He took the game seriously, he dedicated himself, and always on time, and ready to play. As a teammate, that's what you respect about a person.
What do you think of Yankees rookie sensation Gary Sanchez?
This kid, it seems to me that the game has slowed down for him, real slow, and that's very rare for a young player. You know, you get Mike Trouts and those guys coming in every blue moon, but when you can slow this game down and you're not phased by a situation, then you see the true talent comes out of this kid. Watching his at-bats, it always seems like he's in control.
He's one of those young players that just comes along every 10-20 years, especially at different positions. You may have an outfielder like Trout, you may have a pitcher like (Stephen) Strasburg, and then you have these guys come along so often. It's just fun to see a catcher like Pudge Rodriguez coming right in and just command the basepath, hitting home runs, the leader of the team.
What do you think of the other Yankee phenom that plays your old position, right field, Aaron Judge?
The big kid, yeah, he's the guy. I watched his at-bats, I said he's going to have a lot of swings and misses, he's going to struggle a lot, but he's going to have a lot of big home runs. Once he learns plate discipline, I think he'll cut down on the strikeouts. He just has to learn plate discipline.
Judge is 6'8," how do you cut down his swing?
Shorter bat. He's got long arms, and if you're using a big bat, that means you've got a lot of holes. You've got a lot to cover. I mean you can cover all that (pointing to what would be the outer part of the plate), but then you've got all this over here (the inside half), and that's just too much ground to cover with a big bat. If he shortens his bat, then let your arms do the work, and that leverage you have. If you look at a lot of tall guys, they use shorter bats.
It seems like you've adjusted well to retirement.
It was because when I was playing with the Dodgers, I met with Dave Winfield, and then Dave Winfield and I had a talk, like seven years before I retired, and I asked him these questions about retirement because I was really done with baseball then. I just played seven years longer than I wanted to. I talked to him all the time about transitioning to another phase in my life. He said, 'well, as long as you have something to do, you won't even think about it,' and that's true. When I walked out of the game, I had multiple things I had going on. I owned all of College Station, with Texas A&M, I owned all the apartment buildings around there. I owned them in Jacksonville, all over the place, and so I stayed busy, and when I sold all that stuff, I just focused on my kids and going to their games, and now doing my major project with the complex, I don't even have time to miss it. Don't even think about it, to be honest with you.
What are your thoughts on David Ortiz retiring?
He's doing it the right way. He still can play, he's not hanging on too long. For me, I went through a similar thing. I was finally healthy after Detroit, and I came to the Mets and I was healthy, and they didn't play me until May 28th. From May 28th to July, the All-Star Break, I hit 10 home runs, I drove in 40 RBIs, and I'm hitting .314. But, then, in the second half of the season, they wouldn't put me back in the lineup, so, I knew it was time to retire. It was like the writing's on the wall. They don't want me to go out and have another big year for me to get on with another team. I got tired of playing the game that's within the game, you know the politicking, I'm sure.
David is putting up big numbers. Thank God he's been with his organization for a long time, that they're not doing that to him. So, he gets to decide, 'I go out how I want to go out,' and that's pretty much how you do it.
That's the best way. I was going to do the same thing. I was going put up a big year and then teams were going to come at me, and I would say no. That's what I wanted to do, but they did it for me, since they wouldn't let me play. I said, 'well, if teams call and offer me deals, then I say no.' They wanted to play me every day, but they didn't want to pay me everyday money. I said, well, those things don't add up to me.
What is so challenging about being a designated hitter?
You still have to be a great teammate when you're DH'ing because you don't just go out there and hit, and don't talk to nobody, or don't do anything else. But it's just the perception that you're just hitting and really not contributing in any other way, which is true, but as a former player, I realize how difficult DH'ing is. That's the most difficult position on the field, and I don't think people really appreciate it because he gets to sit down after he hits. (laughing) That's why I don't think it gets the recognition that it deserves.
Why do you think it's so difficult?
Because it's hard to stay in tune with the game at the pace the game is going when you're sitting down. When I'm actually out here and I got the pace of the game, I can run down a fly ball and I can get some kind of adrenaline, and feel good about myself if I throw out a guy at third base. That carries over to my at-bat. You know, at DH, if you strike out, you don't have anything to go back to, to say that I did something good so I could forget my last at-bat. It's always on your mind.
What has impressed you about the Mets' late run this season?
They got some guys that can still get it done. They have the capability of going out and doing that. It comes down to having to win games in a different way. When you have your horses on the mound shutting teams out, you scrap a run or two here and there, and these guys get you on in. When you have to win in a different way, they have the team that can do that.
What's your approach to covering the playoffs as someone who does not broadcast a team every day the way Ron Darling does with the Mets?
To me, I can look at a team one time and tell you what's going on. I don't need to follow a team every single day to tell you what they're capable of doing. I watch games, it's not that I make it a practice of turning on the TV to a baseball game, but I will watch from time to time to know what I'm looking at, and then when it comes time to talking about them, I know what I'm talking about.