Sheffield expects to stay in Detroit
Tigers designated hitter focusing on his play, health
DETROIT -- Gary Sheffield responded to all the controversial dark clouds hovering over his head this week.
First came the Boston Globe article in which he was quoted saying that he would rather play the outfield than designated hitter, and how he feels like he's platooning with other players. Then came manager Jim Leyland's shocked response. And then came an ESPN.com report that said the Tigers have placed Sheffield on waivers. Finally, his two-homer game on Tuesday.
The 39-year-old slugger stood at his locker on Wednesday afternoon and put everything on the table.
He addressed the waiver issue, which ESPN.com's Jayson Stark posted before Tuesday's game. Such a move is typical for players at this point in the season, therefore Sheffield responded to it with a ho-hum shrug.
"I don't pay attention to it," he said. "I've been on waivers plenty of times. I don't know why it's a big deal. I've been put on waivers my entire career. That's nothing new to me. Manny Ramirez, the great players in the game have been put on waivers, so that don't mean a thing.
"Only when it's me or Manny or somebody that people got an opinion about. That's when it's a big deal."
Asked if he wants to finish this season as a Tiger, he said, "I have never thought otherwise."
Sheffield believes the Detroit fans have targeted their boos on him because of the need to blame someone or something for the Tigers' disappointing season.
"It just so happened that people, because our team hasn't been going the way everybody would like, so this is the one opportunity they have to jump on something and say, 'See, I told you,' or, 'Here we go again,' or whatever," he said.
Sheffield entered Wednesday's game hitting .223 with 12 home runs and 35 RBIs -- far from the potential Hall of Famer's usual production.
At 39 years old, he remains realistic. He doesn't expect to put up the numbers that made him a nine-time All-Star. He just wants to be judged fairly and not compared to the prominent young players in today's game.
"Compare me to me," Sheffield said. "If you're looking for .300, 30 [home runs] and 100 [RBIs], then I look pretty awful right now. I ain't the only .220 hitter in this game. I ain't the last one to hit .220, but it's never a big deal when a lot of guys that play everyday, hit in the same spot everyday, and hit .220 and nobody says a thing."
Sheffield and most people in the Tigers organization believe his struggles have stemmed from an injured shoulder suffered last season and complications in the recovery from offseason surgery.
To those who might ask for him to sit if he isn't healthy enough to play, Sheffield had a retort.
"I'm just going to give it to you straight," he said. "When the organization tells you that you're fine, I can't say I'm not fine. I have to be on the same page as the organization. That's just the way it goes.
"I talked to my trainer, and he said, basically, what I'm doing is unrealistic. That's what he said. I said, 'Why won't anyone say that on my behalf? Why do I always have to come up here and defend me?' And he just said, 'Be realistic with yourself.' That's all I needed to hear. After that, I felt good about walking on the field. I have no extra incentives to play hurt.
"I could sit down like everybody else, but I choose not to do that. If they pay me to play, I'll play."
Sheffield said he has given reporters mixed statements about his health because his health changes almost daily.
"Anybody that has the type of surgery I had, and then you're limited in certain areas, then one day you're not limited, and then two days later you're limited again -- you don't understand it," he said. "I'm not a medical guy. I'm not a doctor. I might be feeling great the day I tell you I feel great. Two days later, I'm not."
That said, he takes full responsibility for his performance this season. He's as honest as players come and he refuses to make excuses.
"If I'm on the field, I don't have any excuses. I didn't get it done. That's all there is to it. If I'm not getting it done, I didn't get it done. What else can happen to me if I just say I didn't get it done? Nothing. I didn't get it done."
Scott McNeish is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.