Gary had a productive first season in a Braves uniform, hitting .307/.404/.512. Like the other Braves outfielders, he was streaky, but there was good reason for it, a wrist injury apparently suffered on defense, which bothered him the first two months of the season. He was great during the summer, and had a dramatic split: .265/.358/.465 in the first half, .359/.460/.571 in the second. (Interesting symmetry in strikeouts and walks. He walked 36 times in each half. But his ratio was almost 1:1, with 35 strikeouts, in the first, but 2:1 with 18 strikeouts in the second.) When fully healthy, he’s a devastating hitter.
Defensively, he’s not bad, but he’s not Brian Jordan either. For whatever reason, his range factors in Atlanta were far better than they were in LA… Sheffield has gotten a bad rap for his attitude, which is a little unfair. When he first came up with the Brewers, he was a head case, and later claimed he wasn’t giving his all. He’s been… well, not a model citizen but no worse than anyone else, for the last decade. But first impressions linger, and now he has to put up with being labeled a malcontent. It doesn’t help that Dick Allen, a previous generation’s traveling malcontent and failed third baseman, comes up as Sheffield’s most comparable player… Would need to play at his current level for eight seasons to reach 3000 hits, but could have 500 homers in five.
Just to note, I think the wrist injury was the result of a Vicente Padilla fastball to the wrist in Game 2 or 3 of the season.
I thought it happened when he ran into the wall at full tilt chasing a foul ball (which he caught) on opening day.
It might well have been both. Ran into the wall, aggravated the injury when he got hit.
I seem to remember there also being an awkward, diving catch he made early on. Sounds something like a trifecta of injuries to that one wrist.
As an LA resident, I have to speak up about the “no worse than anyone else, for the last decade” comment.
While a Dodger, Sheffield was an extremely disruptive force in the clubhouse. Complaining about his contract and lack of extention every spring training. Complaining about team management’s commitment to winning every chance he got. Why do you think the Dodgers wanted to move him in the first place?
None of this really matters now though. He seems to give it his all whether he is happy or not. The bigger concern is keeping him healthy. But let’s not pretend he matured or something. Eventually something will set him off.
(channeling Terence Moore) I think Sheffield was just dogging it early in the season, feeling the pressure to replace the clubhouse presence of such previous leaders as Justice and Jordan…
(OK, I’m back) Sheffield’s the Braves’ best acquisition since Maddux. ‘Nuff said.
Mac, I’m curious how you’re figuring the number of years needed to reach these milestones. Are you “favorite toy”-ing them or are you using some other methodology?
Sheffield’s the Braves’ best acquisition since Maddux. ‘Nuff said
Nah. Even though he tailed off his last few seasons in Atlanta, the 1993 season and 1995 postseason stats make Fred McGriff the Braves’ best acquisition since Maddux.
More or less favorite toying, David. I’m using the formula 3(last season)*2(previous season)*(season before that) /6 to get their established levels, then seeing how many years it would take. In Sheffield’s case, the formula may understate his expected HR level, since Turner Field is more homer-friendly than Dodger Stadium… but then, he didn’t do quite as well as he did in his last few seasons for LA.
Robert, you’re closer to the situation than I. But I only recall one time when Sheffield really made a stink — the period after the Shawn Green acquisition when he was no longer the highest-paid outfielder on the team. Personally, I thought he had a point — at the time, Sheffield had a far better track record than Green.
Sheffield went to a newspaper at one time and just tore into Dodger’s management. Basically, he said “It’s not MY fault you’re paying Darren Dreifort $11 million. It’s not MY fault you’re paying Kevin Brown for the next 7 years. I didn’t give Eric Karros a no-trade clause. I didn’t Shawn Green that contract.”
Basically, he was completely correct. He shouldn’t have said those things, being a team mate and all. Still, it’s hard to tell a guy to shut up for being right.
Colin, you’re right about McGriff. However, even though he came in three months later, I tend to think of him and Maddux joining the Braves sort of simultaneously. Still, Sheff’s the best previously established player to come to Atlanta since 1993.
The incident with Green was really only the tip of the iceberg. Maybe it was the only story that made a splash nationally, but it was far from the only story.
My personal favorite was one spring when Sheff came to camp and announced that he wanted to be made a “Dodger For Life”. That is, he wanted a whopping contract extention with a no trade clause. He told the media that this was the ultimate sign that he was committed to the Dodger organization. When the Dodgers (correctly) balked at the idea, Sheff ripped into them saying this is why we never win, the front office doesn’t take care of the best players. And of course he did his favorite trick of hinting that this ordeal (which he created) could distract him enough to effect his play. This was his last big play for a contract extention before the Dodgers gave up and started shopping him.
Don’t get me wrong, I hate the Dodgers so it’s not like I hold a grudge or anything, but this was a huge story here so it’s hard to forget. And happy or not he’s an offensive powerhouse so I’m certainly glad the Braves swooped in a stole him away.
Personally, I don’t give a rip if Sheffield mails human fingers to Schuerholz every week and slaps Bobby Cox in the face every day when he first walks in the clubhouse. Sheff always plays hard and he nearly always plays well, and that’s all we as fans can ask for.
The Braves’ roster is already too full of guys who have little going for them other than the fact that they’re good citizens (or at least it was last year). Sheffield may be a misanthrope, but he’s our misanthrope.
I know no one should be judged on 16 at bats, but man, I really wished Sheff could have been a bit more of a force in the playoffs last year. For all his talk about “entering the playoffs on a roll” and stuff like that, you’d think he could have maybe contributed a little bit more offensively — in such a close series, if he just hit his averages, that might have been enough to get us over the hump.
For all we pick on Bobby Cox on this site, he really is a great manager. I don’t think Bobby would ever allow a guy let Sheffield who plays hard to become a distraction; Bobby knows how to read guys a let them blow off steam without getting the press involved.