Sweaty Men Endeavors

The sports blog with the slightly gay name

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

So I hear the Tigers got Gary Sheffield...

The best cure for a baseball hangover? Attack the off-season right away.

Gary Sheffield was being fitted for the Olde English D almost before Detroit fans could settle in to talk about what the Tigers could do to improve the team this off-season.

That's how fast Dave Dombrowski made this deal. He basically pre-empted our Hot Stove talk.

This is very much unlike, for instance, how fast I got around to writing about this trade.

When did it happen? Friday afternoon, after I decided I'd spent entirely too much time in front of the computer and was ready for the weekend. When am I writing about it? Five days later. (Long after every blogger with an interest in the Tigers said their piece on the matter.) When news breaks, Sweaty Men Endeavors apparently does not break in.

And here I was, all set to joke about the big trade in the AL Central over the weekend: The Indians acquiring Josh Barfield from the Padres.

Nothing? Not even a chuckle or an eye-roll? Okay. I know how it goes. Snooze and you lose. And then you hear crickets chirping.

Actually, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, that Barfield deal may have had an indirect effect on the Sheffield trade. San Diego was desperate for 3rd base prospect Kevin Kouzmanoff, and feared that Cleveland was ready to send him to the Yankees for Sheffield. So they pounced on the deal, leaving Detroit's offer as the best one (it may have been the best one, anyway) on Brian Cashman's table. (It turns out, however, that the Indians probably would've traded Kouzmanoff to Atlanta for Marcus Giles.)

But that's all a moot point, isn't it? Sheffield is with the Detroit Tigers - making perhaps the biggest deal of the off-season before the GM meetings could even begin.

Last Friday, just a couple of hours before the deal was done, I wrote that Sheffield's history of petulant behavior when he wants a contract extension made me nervous. That was really the only problem I had with getting him. I certainly couldn't take issue with his baseball skills. He's a fabulous hitter, with rock-solid consistency over the past eight years (excepting 2006 when he was injured). 30+ home runs and 100 RBI is almost a guarantee.

If a guy like that is available, and the one crying need on your team is for a big bat, you make that deal. Every time. And if that player's contract is the only potentially thorny issue, it's in your best interests to take care of it immediately. So the Tigers did just that. (Even if they hadn't, I neglected to consider Jim Leyland's influence in the matter when expressing my original fears.)

I sort of felt like a kid after I heard the news and subsequent reactions on sports talk radio. Suddenly, I was making out lineups in my head. It seemed like a trade you'd make on a video game, when you can just load up your favorite team with the best players. "Say, how about we put... Gary Sheffield on the Tigers? How would that look?"

I can't say I've always been a fan of Sheffield, but I've always admired his talents - and have long been fascinated by the way he waggles his bat threateningly at the plate. Trying to emulate that waggle - snapping the bat back and forth as if waving at a bee near my right ear - led to a couple of embarrassing swings while playing softball. How the hell does he do that and still get his hands back in a position to hit the ball? (And not just "a ball," like some slow-pitch toss, but a major league fastball.)

And now that guy is playing for our team? (I had much similar feelings after the Pistons hired Larry Brown as head coach. A guy I'd watched and admired for years was now going to do his thing in Detroit? How cool is that?)

Though the Tigers haven't yet addressed their other off-season concerns (still to come: the baseball winter meetings), it seems like there was a big exhale of relief to go along with that burst of excitement this weekend. Now you know that the Tigers intend to keep that championship door open until they can barge right through it. For those of you who used to wonder why Mike Ilitch didn't employ the same "whatever it takes" philosophy with the Tigers that he did for the Red Wings, you can probably shuffle those thoughts to the back of your mind now.

These are now much different days in Detroit - at least on the baseball side of the street.

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2 Comments:

  • At November 15, 2006 11:36 AM, Blogger Eric J said…

    Ian:

    Nice take on the Sheffield trade. Personally, notwithstanding his tendency towards petulant behavior, I think the deal shows that the Tigers are serious about remaining the hunted in the Central for the near-future at least. I like the trade despite what all the so-called "experts" think.

    As you point out, a healthy Sheff' can put up some serious numbers and will definitely benefit a Tigers line-up that had big problems in 2006 manufacturing runs. A very important component to the trade is Sheffield's relationship with Leyland and Dombrowski and both wanted him here. When he's healthy and feeling appreciated, there is very little that can stop Gary Sheffield.

    Last, this trade will prove to be an additional inducement to free agents and players with no-trade clauses who are being pursued by the Tigers. When Dombrowski's in Texas not talking about Bonderman for Texiera, an additional selling point will be that the Tigers now have all the elements to win in 2007.

     
  • At November 20, 2006 3:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

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