Just three days after the Tigers decided to release Gary Sheffield and eat his $14 million contract for this season, the 40-year-old has found a home. The Mets agreed to a deal with the nine-time All-Star on Friday afternoon that will pay him the major league minimum of $400,000. The right-handed Sheffield will likely platoon with left-handed hitters Daniel Murphy and Ryan Church at the corner outfield spots. Sheffield’s signing makes it possible that the Mets’ new stadium, Citi Field, won’t have to wait long for its first significant milestone, as his next home run will make him the 25th member of the exclusive 500-home run club.
However, not everyone will view Sheffield’s 500th homer as a joyous occasion. He would be a virtual lock for the Hall of Fame if judged only by his accomplishments on the field, but Sheffield - believing his testimony was confidential - reportedly admitted to the BALCO grand jury in 2003 that he had used what he thought were undetectable steroids. Sheffield’s name also turned up in the Mitchell Report, and he admitted in his book, “Inside Power,” that he used a suspicious cream during a 2001 workout with Barry Bonds, though he said that, to his knowledge, the cream did not contain steroids.
It’s hard to imagine that the Baseball Writers Association of America would ever grant Hall of Fame induction to a player who admitted under oath to using steroids, especially when the ability to hit for power is that player’s signature trait. It’s possible that the voters could come to view Sheffield as someone who unfortunately just got mixed up with the wrong guy (Bonds), but it would take some proactive moves on Sheffield’s part in order for that to happen. A public admission and apology would be a good start. Educating young people about the dangers of performance-enhancing drugs would be a logical next step.
For now, the Mets simply hope Sheffield can add some pop to their already stacked lineup - no sure thing given his 2008 line of a .225 average, 19 home runs and 57 RBI in 114 games. For a mere $400,000, it’s certainly a chance worth taking.
Jay LeBlanc is an assistant news editor at The Washington Times. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Photo by the Associated Press