Gary Sheffield Released

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I saw it coming, but I didn’t. That is to say, that among friends, over dinner last night, the subject of new Tiger Josh Anderson came up.

I spoke of the possibility that Gary Sheffield could be released, Carlos Guillen could move to DH, and a couple of guys (Anderson, Thames) could play in left.

“Naw… that won’t happen,” said one friend, “They’ll keep Sheffield, at least until he hits that 500th homer.”

“Leyland likes him.” said another.

“Yeah, you’re probably right.” I said.

Today, one third of it came to pass. The Tigers released Sheffield, and the Detroit Tigers will eat his 14 million dollar salary, in order to gain flexibility in the outfield. According to the Detroit Tigers website,

The Tigers will owe Sheffield his guaranteed $14 million salary for this year. Team owner Mike Ilitch had to approve the move, Dombrowski confirmed. Assuming Sheffield clears the 72-hour waiver period unclaimed, he’ll be free to sign with any team he chooses, with the signing team owing him only the minimum Major League salary.

A nine time all-star, Sheffield is one of those players that is loved or hated.

Sometimes both, simultaneously.

In the 21 seasons played in the majors, he became a polarizing figure. Last season, there was rampant talk of discord in the Tigers dugout, brought on by player dissatisfaction concerning comments Sheffield had made to the press, about this or that. In 2007, he was interviewed by GQ magazine, and his remarks about Latin players ignited a firestorm of controversy.

I called it years ago. What I called is that you’re going to see more black faces, but there ain’t no English going to be coming out. … [It’s about] being able to tell [Latin players] what to do — being able to control them.

Also, fans in Detroit will remember the bench clearing brawl in September, sparked when Sheffield was hit from a pitch thrown by Fausto Carmona. It capped a frustrating season for a team that, during spring training, had been projected to win the World Series.

Before being released today, Sheffield was one home run shy of 500 in his career. I was hoping to watch it happen at Comerica Park. I spent the last three days of the 2008 season at the ballpark, on the edge of my seat, during every Sheffield at bat.

Undoubtedly 500 will come, the unanswered question is going to be with whom?

The other question is – what do I do with my Sheff hat?

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