Gary Sheffield hasn’t played in a major league game since 2009. But he finally put an end to any speculation that he was mulling a comeback on Wednesday when he informed the players’ union that he was retiring.
Sheffield had an outstanding career. Waving his bat back and forth waiting for the pitch, Sheffield was considered one of the most feared hitters of his time.
He had a bit of a journeyman’s career, playing for eight different teams. The team that he spent the most time with was the Florida Marlins, which lasted parts of six seasons. He led Florida to its first World Series championship in 1997, hitting .320 with three homers in 16 playoff games that season.
With a .292 career average and more than 500 homers, his numbers look like that of a Hall of Famer. After all, the 500-homer plateau once meant guaranteed induction to the Hall.
But that was before the “Steroids Era” took place. Now, Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro sit on the outside looking in. And my guess is Sheffield will join them.
McGwire’s and Palmeiro’s connection to performance-enhancing drugs has factored into their omission. Sheffield was named in the Mitchell report on PED use in Major League Baseball, but Sheffield said his inclusion in the report should not cloud his candidacy for the Hall of Fame.
On page 116 of the report, Sheffield is among the players who are alleged to have purchased “the cream” and “the clear” from BALCO founder Victor Conte. On page 136, a FedEx receipt from Sheffield to BALCO found during a 2003 search of trainer Greg Anderson’s condominium is referenced. On that same page, an excerpt from Sheffield’s book “Inside Power” where he acknowledges receiving a bill from BALCO for “vitamins” is mentioned. His testimony before the BALCO grand jury — he testified not knowing whether “the cream” contained steroids — is also referenced.
“The thing about the Mitchell report is that I cringe about it because the guy who wrote the report didn’t talk to me,” Sheffield told the New York Post. “If he talked to me I would respect that no matter what. But I cringe on that because he didn’t.”
Seems odd that Sheffield says nobody talked to him prior to the Mitchell Report being released, although since the players’ union discouraged its players from talking to George Mitchell, who knows whether or not Sheffield would have talked to him anyway.
But in the end, my guess is that if McGwire and Palmeiro are struggling to get into the Hall, Sheffield will struggle too.