I gotta go with Dave on this one; signing Gary Sheffield is never a bad decision. It’s particularly not a bad decision if you’re the Yankees, because you have the money to do it and the resources to make another move (like adding Beltran) as well. But hey, wouldn’t Sheffield have looked nice in left field at Safeco? I like Sheffield-Winn-Ichiro a heck of a lot better than Ibanez-Winn-Ichiro and I’m guessing you do too.
I’m sorry, but I really can’t call the signing of one of the five best hitters in baseball to a 3 year contract either a mistake or a bad decision. Do the Yankees have defensive problems? Sure. Are they old? Yep. Does that prevent them from putting up 1000 runs next year? Not in the least. Gary Sheffield is an awesome hitter, every bit as good as Manny Ramirez, and they got him for between $12-13 million per season, or about half of what Ramirez is making. The improvement from Juan Rivera to Gary Sheffield is enormous, and will compensate nicely for the defensive shortcomings up the middle.
Also, this appears to be a part-of-the-puzzle move to me. I still expect Carlos Beltran to be wearing pinstripes on opening day, and a Matsui/Beltran/Sheffield outfield is downright awesome. They might have to give up Nick Johnson in order to get Beltran, but as much as I like Nick the Stick, first baseman are not exactly hard to find.
The Yankees signed a great player to a reasonable contract. That is not a bad move, regardless of whether Bernie Williams is still an awful defensive center fielder. His defense was such a liability that they won the American League last year, and now they’ve added severe offensive firepower to help offset that problem.
The Royals decided to give $8 million to Joe Randa, Brian Anderson, and Curt Leskanic next year. That was a bad decision. Signing Gary Sheffield is not a bad decision.
As for Derek’s other point, I have resigned myself to the fact that the Mariners value character higher than any other team in baseball, and will spend a great deal of money to insure that they have a club of media-friendly personalities who will help the P.R. department sell the team as a family product. For as much as we have ripped on the Raul Ibanez signing, they signed him more for his smile, local ties, and all-around nice-guyness as they did for his offensive performance. It isn’t as much a risk-averse philosophy as it is a view of the team as an image to sell, with winning being further down the totem poll than it is for every other major league club.
However, here’s the other problem, as I see it: Sheffield is a huge, huge bat in that lineup. He’s a no-kidding five, six wins up from what they ran out there last year as a RF unit. And from what limited defensive stats I have in front of me, he’s essentially a wash in defense over their wheel-of-RFers last year. If the Yankees were going to make a bad decision and let their problems get worse, Sheffield was the best bad decision they could have made (considering Vlad pretty clearly wasn’t going to come to NY).
So in one sense, for all my glee about the Yankees being forced into making increasingly bad tradeoffs now to solve their limited problems, for 2004 this lineup will brutalize opposing pitching staffs.
Peter Gammons is reporting Gary Sheffield’s going to sign with the Yankees. As I noted before, this is good and bad news: the Yankees offensive attack gets much better, but at the cost of even worse defense or down the road making further deals that would result in Nick Johnson (and possibly Soriano) being punted, making the team older and putting it a year or so out from the wild drop section of the roller-coaster.
On another note, though, the M’s continue to disappoint their fans. They made more money last year than any team that wasn’t the Yankees (yes, they did, let’s not mince around this), and faced with a team that had serious holes, age issues, but that could still be competitive, they went out and signed Raul Ibanez, a modestly talented left-fielder, to a too-expensive deal. The Red Sox, who edged the M’s for the Wild Card playoff berth, have acquired Curt Freaking Schilling in an all-hands pursuit the likes of which I don’t think the M’s have made since they went after Ichiro.
The Red Sox and Yankees want to win it all. The Mariners want to make money, not win a World Series. It’s their belief (and will be until their revenue starts to drop) that fielding competitive teams that will finish above .500 featuring fan favorite players will make them more money than actually trying.
My disappointment runs deeper than that though: I think all fans would want their teams to try for the World Series while they can, rather than modestly dance around 85 wins every year. I’m disappointed that the Mariners seem committed to pegging themselves at 85 wins and hoping that gets them into the playoffs. It’s as if they said “Let’s insure, at whatever cost, that we win 85 games with no further action on our part. Risky moves that might get us to 90 or, if they fail, require us to fill a position internally, or make a trade, to avoid dropping below 85, we’ll have no part of. High up-side fill-ins on the waiver wire? Un-unh, that’s not for us.”
That’s what’s so frustrating. Dave can come up with an off-season plan to sign Vlad and improve the whole team, but because it involves some wacky risks (Leone at third? Insane!) there’s no chance they’ve even thought of it. Why should we, as fans, even speculate about cool and crazy stuff the team might do if we know they’ll never do it?
I know we’re frequently accused of being too negative here at the good ship U.S.S. Mariner, but I think being angry about the shabby treatment of the fan base is perfectly justified. The Mariners pay under a million dollars a year to lease Safeco Field from us. We deserve more than transparent lies about the team’s finances and half-hearted lies about how the team would love to win a World Series, if it could remain competitive and profitable while doing so.
Thanks to some reader e-mail, I tracked down a few more names for the Big Board courtesy of the M’s official site: Bucky Jacobsen, Ryan Balfe, Matt Boone, Brian Moon, Josh Hoffpauir, Ivan Reyes, Sam Goure, Rick Guttormson and Julien Tucker. I’ll get all nine of them on in the next update sometime this week. If you want to know anything about these players, I’d suggest asking Dave.