(Long Island, NY) The small quote from Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman, “That’s Yankee-land”, says it all. Another Spring Training camp, another controversy. What would Yankee fans do without one?
Cashman’s remark came after there was apparently some miscommunication between him and rightfielder Gary Sheffield. The two met after Sheffield arrived at Legend’s Field and discussed the possibility of the team picking up the team option on Sheffield’s contract. When meeting with the media afterwards, there were two different versions.
Sheffield was downright giddy when telling reporters that he was told the Yankees were picking up his option for both years. Upon being asked about the news, Cashman seemed surprised and denied that Sheffield was told that the team was in fact picking up his option. The fiery Sheffield was not happy when informed of this and popped off that he can produce for any team? Was that a trade request?
The bottom line will be how much input Yankees owner George Steinbrenner will have or has had in this. He says that he defers personnel decisions to Cashman, but anyone who has been following this team knows that statement does not hold water. Things start and finish with The Boss. Going back to when the Yankees first signed Sheffield to a free-agent contract, it was Steinbrenner and not Cashman who did the negotiations. Both Sheffield and Steinbrenner are Tampa residents and they hashed out a deal while dining together over hamburgers in Florida.
The truth is that Gary Sheffield is a very talented baseball player who does produce. He is a much better player and person when he is happy. He has always had the reputation of being a bit of a malcontent. At times he has earned it. But he has been a big part of the Yankees and it would behoove them to square this away before it becomes a major distraction.
The Yankees do not have a viable option to take Sheffield’s place at the current time. Their back-up outfielders include Bubba Crosby and Bernie Williams, who is better suited being a Designated Hitter at this point in his career. Crosby is a decent youngster but not viewed as an every day player. And what Sheffield brings to the table offensively is an important part of the Yankees attack.
Barring a trade for a comparable outfielder, Sheff will be here happy or not. He will have an opportunity to sit down with team officials and straighten out the contract situation. The spring is important for players to prepare for the grueling season ahead. A distraction such as this will do him and his teammates no good.