I admit it. Before we signed Shef, I was vehemently against it. I really try not to let the mediaâ€™s often inaccurate portrayals of players turn me against them in their pre-Met days (the Boston mediaâ€™s portrait of Pedro being exhibit A), but I definitely was against Shef. I felt that his many baseball addresses probably confirmed his reputation as a negative influence and a headache waiting to happen, although many teammates have had a lot of good to say about him, he has been on a lot of good teams, and he has won a ring. And after watching the Met Geriatric Home being manned by the very nice and excellent teammate (but aging and injury-prone) Pedro, as well as Alou and El Duque, Shefâ€™s age was also not inspiring, even if he is two years younger than I am.
Being a Kool Aid-guzzling Omar apologist, as many wise folks on another site have graciously observed, I was immediately willing to give Shef the benefit of the doubt the moment he signed, and I stopped thinking about his many different teams and his comments about Torre, and I started thinking about what it would be like if he could turn back the clock a bit. And not even really that long—he was outstanding in â€˜05, hurt in â€™06, declining but very productive in â€™07, and maybe injuries really were the main factor in his down season last year.
Now, what do we have? Can he still get around on the fastball or what? Was the outside pitch he swung at Friday night the first bad pitch he has swung at in a Met uniform? A .441 OBP? Stealing 2nd and hustling over to 3rd and scoring the winning run? That absolute frozen rope of a homer the other day? And I think we can all agree that Shef does not know the meaning of the word pressure.
In addition, we have to also evaluate Shef based on his obvious love of the game. 21 years in the bigs, has made $150 million, and could have sat at home and cashed Detroitâ€™s giant checks or sat by the pool anywhere on Earth. But he wanted to play, and on a good team. He chose a team where playing time at the time of his signing was far less than certain, and he was willing to bide his time and to have to earn it. This really is impressive for a man with his resume and wealth. Shef is not making one penny more by playing than he would have by not playing, and he has been nothing less than a perfect citizen judging by everything we have seen as fans. I saw him say in an interview before he got really hot that even if he went back to the bench, he would be happy to just stay ready to help the team any way he could. Even the thought that he was just hanging around to hit number 500 was very quickly dismissed with his recent play.
Seems like we have a great player, surely in the twilight of his career, but one who apparently really realizes how lucky he is to be playing baseball at the highest level at age 40, and obviously wants to be part of another winning team. And one whose discipline at the plate and baseball instincts are nothing short of fantastic. Go ahead, pitch around Shef, and his OBP will creep towards .500.
Regardless of his past, Gary Sheffieldâ€™s first couple of months as a Met have been a revelation. He has been fantastic on the field, and by all available accounts, off of it as well. We all need to cheer for a tremendously wealthy 40-year-old who has been at the very top of his sport for many years and was willing to come here as a bench player for the chance to just continue being part of a winning baseball team, knowing he may play very little and that this stop may be his last. He certainly has been making the very most of it all thus far.
There is a lot of season left, but it is time to raise another glass of Kool Aid in Omarâ€™s honor. This was a great signing. At least we have one gritty player now.