Gary Sheffield arrived at Lakeland Wednesday morning, as the Tigers opened Spring Training opened for the full squad today. It’s always fun and exciting when Detroit adds a new star. I’m not sure the reason. Maybe it was several years of not adding a true star player at all, followed by Juan Gonzalez, followed by several more years of not adding a star player. Then Pudge was grand. That was huge. Magglio Ordonez signed, and though it’s only been two seasons, it’s hard to remember how hyped he was. Sheffield himself arrived quietly, but with a lot of pomp-and-circumstance surrounding him. That, and as Tom Gage pointed out in the previous link, the New York media was still chasing him, like Sheffield should care about the spat between A-Rod and Derek Jeter.
John Lowe says Lakeland is starting to feel like a suburb of Cooperstown with all the Hall-of-Famers, future Hall members or possible Hall members around Tigertown. He went on to commit the sin of comparing Sheffield to former Tigers star Al Kaline in a full article.
Lowe: Kaline and Sheffield also each have a few hundred more career walks than strikeouts. That also makes them unusual. In recent decades, high strikeout totals have become an accepted part of the run producer’s resume.
Today in spring training, Sheffield will go to work in a Tigers uniform for the first time. If he does in the next few seasons for the Tigers what he has done across 8,000 at-bats in 19 seasons with a half-dozen clubs, he could become Detroit’s best all-around hitter since Kaline.
I, myself, don’t see the comparison as a sin, as Sheff has been accepted with open arms by the organization Danny Knobler reports. But I know a lot of fans are still iffy on Sheffield, his past and his attitude.
And heck, Kaline likes him.
(Kalinie quoted by Lowe): “This guy is used to winning,” Kaline said. “He wants to play for Jimmy, and he’s going to take a lot of pressure off some of our players in the middle of the lineup.
“He’ll make a pitcher work. He sets up our lineup nicely. He’s nice to have.”
UPDATE: And he put on quite a show, the reporters tell us. I hope the Freep has video of that.
Beck: Sheffield’s batting practice wasn’t one of those home-run derby performances you would think, because there’s a purpose to his hitting work. But to watch his swing up close on a practice field is a sight. You know his swing isn’t going to be the same on the first day of full-squad workouts as it will be come the regular season, but you can still see what’s different about it, and you can tell his wrist injury from last year hasn’t changed that.
Sheffield showed that the baseball makes a different, louder crack off his bat than it does off of most bats. He mashed several batting-practice serves from the coaching staff to the distant parts of the outfield.
Update 2: One thing you can say about the New York media, they don’t give up a story just because it changes teams. The New York Post has a story. You would prefer Sheff stop talking about his former team though, but he is a talker and honest with his feelings.
More updates on this post as more stories come out.