"If I had stuck on the base, it would've been worse," Sheffield said. "I feel pretty good. I don't have a big limp. ... I walk pretty good. Freak accidents happen in this game. Thank God it's not worse and I'll be OK." (N.Y. Daily News)
Yankee fans got a little bit of everything on Saturday: thrills, spills and even some uncomfortable chills. Kevin Brown had little control in the early innings, he labored, and before you know it the Bombers were behind 4-0. Then the offense rallied against Ted Lilly—he of the nasty stuff but questionable disposition—to give New York the lead. Brown settled down and gave the Yankees some much-needed length, but Paul Quantrill was ineffective yet again, and before you knew it there was Mariano Rivera pitching in the eighth inning.
Which is funny when you look at the final score. But the Yankees brought out the whupping stick in the ninth inning and broke the game wide open. Tony Clark—my girlfriends favorite Yankee—hit three home runs. Gary Sheffield hit one two and so did Alex Rodriguez. And Ruben Sierra hit the 300th dinger of his career--a grand slam. Brown earned the win, the first recorded by a Yankee starter in the last 13 games. And Rivera came back out to pitch the ninth, which must have prompted some head-scratching for Yankee fans. I guess Rivera felt good and wanted to get the work in. I don't know, you tell me.
However, there was a nervous moment in the middle of the Yankees Gashouse Gorillas conga line routine when Sheffield turned his ankle sliding into third base. Sheffield was able to walk off the field and the x-rays were negative. He won't play today and the Yankees have an off-day on Monday. He should be able to return later in the week.
The Yankees didn't gain any ground on Boston who won again, this time behind a strong performance by Prince Pedro Martinez. The lead in the east remains five-and-a-half games. Meanwhile, Jason Giambi swung a bat again yesterday. In an expected move, Esteban Loaiza is being moved to the bullpen.
Sheff of the Future is Now
Jay Jaffe has some company in reconsidering Gary Sheffield. Jaffe has a wonderful three-part series on Sheffield's career cooking over at The Futility Infielder (the third installment will be posted when Jay returns from vacation). Now Bruce Markusen and Steven Goldman add their thoughts about Sheffield's admirable 2004 campaign. Markusen writes:
Even with two serious injuries, Sheffield is probably the most enjoyable hitter to watch in either league. From him incessant bat waggle (which makes you think he might break his arm at any moment), to steel-like wrists that seem to have come from a melding of Dick Allen and Hank Aaron, to a ferocious swing-from-the-heels approach that amazingly produces more contact than it does air, Sheffield has made himself into a one-man grandstand show in the batter’s box. There’s more, too. His plate coverage is simply remarkable, like that of a Roberto Clemente or a Yogi Berra. In a recent series against the Twins, Sheffield hit two eye-popping home runs. The first one came on a pitch up and in and probably out of the strike zone (it was practically above head level); at best, most hitters would have popped the ball foul behind the catcher. And then in the ninth inning, with the Yankees trailing by one after having forked over a 9-1 lead, Sheffield practically willed a game-tying shot into the left field stands, blasting a brutal pitch falling down and away, a pitch that most hitters would have dribbled down the third-base line. The dramatic home run initiated a Yankee comeback that produced four runs in the inning, giving the Bombers a much-needed win during one of their most dreadful stretches of the season.
In the latest edition of The Pinstriped Bible, Goldman provides some great charts to show that Sheffield's season may end up being one of the 5 or 6 best ever had by a right-handed hitter for the Yankees:
No matter how you slice it, Sheffield is giving the Yankees something special. There haven’t been a lot of left-handers in recent years who have posted numbers this good. He has been an extraordinary asset, and those who second-guessed his signing — this author among them — will think better of him in the future.