"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

A Small, Good Thing

Although he’s only played in New York for a season-and-a-half, Gary Sheffield has already left an lasting impression on Yankee fans. He’s not only an incredibly clutch hitter but a viscerally exciting one–even his foul balls are electric. (In fact, for much of 2004, Sheffield’s signature hits for the Yanks were line drives scorched into the left field stands.) Yesterday, in the first inning Sheffield glicked a low and inside pitch from Joe Mays into the left field stands that was hit so hard that it didn’t have a chance to twist foul. Although I’ve seen great right-handed hitters like Jim Rice and Mike Piazza rope line drive home runs like that, Dave Winfield is the only Yankee I can recall who specialized in those kind of laser shots. Jim Kaat said later on that it was like watching Tiger Woods drive one off a tee, and he was right. I know Sheffield has hit more important home runs and even more majestic home runs too, but for my money, that shot yesterday was my favorite one he has hit in pinstripes. It was Mmm, Mmm Good. Put a patent on it because that there was the ultimate Sheffield dinger to me.

Aaron Small pitched impressively yesterday as the Bombers beat the Twins, 6-3. Small allowed three runs over seven innings. He struck out only one but didn’t walk a batter. He was aggresive, throwing strikes and working quickly. After his first game last week, Cliff e-mailed me and commented that Small was a dead-ringer for Kaat. Yesterday, the YES broadcast put up a still photo of Kaat in the first inning and made the comparison in the first inning: it’s all in the jaw. (Incidentally, Paul O’Neill continues to bust Michael Kay’s chops. Early in the game he was ragging on Kay for being such a big star now. He asked Kay if he had his own clothing line yet. O’Neill went further and said it would probably be a line for oversized men. Kay was clearly offended and after O’Neill apologized an uncomfortable silence hung in the booth for the next two pitches.)

The Twins rallied to tie the game at three but Jacque Jones–who had made a nice diving catch in the first inning–misplayed two fly balls off the bat of Robinson Cano which helped lead to three more Yankee runs (Cano ended the day with three hits). Tom Gordon worked a perfect eighth and Mariao Rivera put heads to bed in the ninth earning his 26th save in as many chances, lowering his ERA to 0.83 in the process.

I like how Joe LaPointe wrapped up his piece on the game in the Times:

“We can win games in many ways,” Sheffield said.

As Sheffield spoke, he was dressing to leave, and most of his teammates were already out of the clubhouse. A few attendants sorted out the uniforms for the laundry.

Along the far wall, Small sat in his chair, still wearing his sweaty T-shirt and shorts, sandals on his feet. He tilted back into his big locker, talking quietly on a cellphone with a smile on his face.

Across the corridor, out in the stadium, the sun was still shining on empty seats. It was high summer in the big city and the winning pitcher seemed happy to be exactly where he was, in no hurry to leave.

Small, who until last week had not started a game in the Majors since 1996, has been a big help for New York. After the game, the Yankees acquired Shawn Chacon from the Colorado Rockies for two double A minor leaguers. (Hideo Nomo, you’ve got company pal.) Chacon will start on Saturday against the Angels (who lost in 18 innings to the Blue Jays last night). Unlike Small thus far, Chacon is prone to walking people. I’m curious to see how he performs. While Carl Pavano and Jaret Wright continue to rehab, Kevin Brown was placed on the DL again.

The Yanks are now a game-and-a-half behind Boston who did not play yesterday. The Sox have their hands full with the latest Manny Ramirez controversy, but in spite of his lousy attitude, I don’t see it distracting them on the field much.

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1 rbj   ~  Jul 29, 2005 5:15 am

1.  "Kevin Brown was placed on the DL again."
And in other news, scientists published a report that the sun had risen in the east again.

2 jkay   ~  Jul 29, 2005 5:22 am

2.  Kay's a big boy, he can take a little ribbing.

3 Alex Belth   ~  Jul 29, 2005 5:23 am

3.  Kay deserves it. It's the only thing that O'Neill is good for, bless him.

4 mikeplugh   ~  Jul 29, 2005 5:40 am

4.  Great win. Aaron Small deserves at least one more start before we get Pavano and maybe Wright back.

Nomo can wait in puragtory and Chacon can get a spot start before heading to middle relief. Looks like Giambi's high school teammate has found a little groove that will keep him in the majors for the forseeable future. If not with the Yanks, then someone else will surely give him a shot. He must feel pretty good right now, and may feel like a million bucks if he can string a couple more solid outings together.

Chacon was a fair pick up. He'd been on the rumor mill with the Yanks for about a month and I had a chance to look over his numbers pretty carefully. All the guys that the Yanks have snatched from the jaws of obscurity have the same thing in common. They walk a ton of hitters. That's why they are on waivers and so forth. If you can throw strikes people don't look to trade you. If you can throw strikes, you get a 7 figure contract.

Chacon will feel the heat of the Stadium soon and I hope he keeps it together. I'll reserve my rage if he doesn't walk the ballpark, even if he gets hit hard. There's nothing dishonorable about sucking in the strike zone. The humiliation of walking a batter an inning is what hurts most.

One note: Gotta love Manny Ramirez. Wore Oakley headphone/sunglasses during a game this year. Loafs a blooper to left and falls awkwardly but still throws out the runner at 3rd with a pissed off flip. Now he asks for a trade coming off a historic 1918-ending WS victory and a chance to win the division for the 1st time in a decade. Love the guy.

5 NetShrine   ~  Jul 29, 2005 6:04 am

5.  AB - is Cliff on vacation or something?

6 markp   ~  Jul 29, 2005 6:15 am

6.  Chacon had an ERA+ just over 100 in 2 of his previous 4 seasons and was having a good year as far as park-adjusted era in 2005. He looks like a Mazzone project, so hopefully Mariano, Kerrigan, or somebody like that can influence him (and not Mel.)

7 singledd   ~  Jul 29, 2005 6:20 am

7.  I have never liked the huge salaries in baseball. With all the many implications it has had on the game, Manny absolutely represents to very, very worst of it all.

A famous (or infamous) multimillionaire, on a WS team, loafing, complaining and acting like a total ass. His 'bathroom break' to the green monster in the middle of an inning and his jogging out a double play ball which ending up not getting either man out, are examples of his 'you can't pinish me..I'm too good' attitude. He begs for disipline and of course, never gets it. He continues to push the envelope, and his intentionally bad attitude is getting worse... all so he can prove he is 'above' the game.

Francona will never bench him because his bat is so valuable to the team. But he could fine him. Big fines donated to children's charities would be nice. The Manny fund... for every screw-up he commits.

It really pisses me off. If ARod, or Shef, or Giambi (or God forbid Jetes) pulled this crap, I would want blood. A line needs be drawn somewhere. Manny needs to be called on this crap and pay the piper. Sox fans are so desparate to win, they won't even boo the guy.

It really pisses me off. NOBODY should be allowed be act above the game. The fact that Manny makes more in ONE AB then half of American's do in a year, just makes it all the more disgusting.

Sorry for the ranting... but as I live in NH and get Boston media, I am seeing and hearing about this stuff daily. The guy is a stain on the fabric of baseball.

8 rbj   ~  Jul 29, 2005 6:25 am

8.  Nice thing about tonights game is that the LAnaheiM angEls played 18 innings last night. I hope they're nice and tuckered out. But 4 hours, 50 minutes? That's a typical Yankees - Orioles game.

9 dtrain   ~  Jul 29, 2005 6:54 am

9.  Yeah, 4 hrs, 50 mins isn't as long as I was hoping. But they must have exhausted their pen in the process, right?

10 jedi   ~  Jul 29, 2005 6:58 am

10.  Yeah, Angels go 18 innings last night and lose 4 in a row, but the yanks can't buy a win from them this year. Go figure. The Angels are the only team I fear in the American League. Everytime I look at their lineup, I can't fathom how much better they would have been if they retained Glaus and Guillen. They have the perfect combo of speed, power and average in that lineup its scary. They haven't been playing this good since their 2002 run.

On a side note, have we all forgotten about Womack. Can't cashman trade him for free music on itunes these days? He's taking up a roster spot.

I expect one more big trade by sunday. Even though I do not think we need a CF, Cashman will get one. Preferrably, packaged with a lefty in Villone. They have liked Villone for a long time. I think the boss will be pushing for this one. I'm weary that they will settle for Winn. I like Winn, but Seattle wants the world for him. Unfortunately, we might give it to them.

11 Shaun P   ~  Jul 29, 2005 7:04 am

11.  singledd, I too live outside of Boston (SW of the city) and I hear all the Manny-crap, too. The moral indignation from some Boston media outlets is nothing more than laughable to me, because Manny's not going to change, and I honestly couldn't care. Let him dog it on grounders - its a detriment and a distraction to the Sox and that can only help us, right? The baseball-world won't crumble just because one superstar is a moron. Plently have been.

On Chacon, at least we didn't have to get up the known jewels in the system to get him. I'm not sure he's a better option than Redding, or May for that matter. Redding at least has a solid minor league track record, and May at least had one good MLB season. Even in Chacon's All-Star season, he was pretty terrible. I would have rather seen Cashman land Redman, but maybe that will happen yet?

12 Alex Belth   ~  Jul 29, 2005 7:22 am

12.  Yeah, Cliff is taking a few days for summer vacation.

I've never seen Chacon pitch before? Anyone have a first-hand impression of him?

Oh, and to follow up to a qustion Murray left yesterday, no I haven't seen the new "Bad News Bears" movie. With Billy Bob in the lead I figure it can't be awful, but there is always something slightly depressing about seeing another remake these days. Still, I wouldn't mind seeing it, though I'm not dying to see it either.

13 Beth   ~  Jul 29, 2005 7:34 am

13.  I believe it was Gary Sheffield about whom Jerry Remy said, "If you were to try to swing that hard, your body would just fall apart."

14 bp1   ~  Jul 29, 2005 7:50 am

14.  Beth,

I can believe it. Winfield always swung out of his shoes, too.

What gets me, though, is that he swings so hard, you'd think he would be hitting the moon shot homers. But no - that's A-Rod. A-Rod looks like he hits a lazy fly ball to center field, and it lands about 10 minutes later some 450 feet away. How does he do that?!? I swear - at least 5 times this year he has hit a shot to center or right where I think "crap - fly ball" and it's GONE. Geez. Deceptive.

The only time this year where I noticed he looked like he swung hard (and made contact) was the shot off Wakefield where he hit it over the wall. They had a great camera shot of his swing for that one. Blazing fast.

Remember some folks saying early this year that A-Rod's bat had slowed down 'cause of all his off-season weight training. I remember someone in the booth saying "those extra 15 pounds of muscle can actually slow a guy's swing down quite a bit".

Uh - yeah. It shows. (smirk)


15 Alex Belth   ~  Jul 29, 2005 8:02 am

15.  That's a great point. It was something I was actually thinking about--the differences in Sheffield and Winfield's swings. Winfield was just a force of nature. 6'6, all arms coming through like a windmill. His swing was long and huge. Sheffield's is quick and compact. Completely different styles, similar results.

16 BFenwick   ~  Jul 29, 2005 8:09 am

16.  If Sheffield is Tiger Woods, with the attacking, yet controlled swing, A-Rod is Ernie Els: smooth swing with great tempo that looks to produce somewhat ordinary results. That is, until you watch the ball fly 320 yds or 450 ft as the case may be.

17 bp1   ~  Jul 29, 2005 8:12 am

17.  The thing I remember about Winfield is he seemed to lose balance after some of those windmill swings. He'd almost fall into the lefty batter's box. I don't see that with Sheff too much. Just a lightning fast "swoosh" and then he's back ready for more.

Winfield was the only guy I remember hitting home runs that never seemed to get more than 20 feet off the air, and they left the park in warp speed. Sheff is definitely in that same league.

Man, I just imagine being an opposing pitcher and having to face this Yankee lineup. With Giambi hitting the ball again (hope that's not starting to trail off ...), there's four guys in a row who can just murder you. Even if you get three of them out in one inning, there's one waiting for you next time out. Everyone talks about Manny/Ortiz, but I'll take Sheff/Arod/Matsui anyday. Three of a kind always beats a pair.


18 Schteeve   ~  Jul 29, 2005 8:15 am

18.  Singledd,

I hear you about Manny, but remember too that the gargantuan salaries are because MLB players transcend being just athletes. They make that money because of their ability to entertain millions of people at a time. And Manny is entertaining. Even if he pisses you off, you watch to see what he's gonna do next. It's the Howard Stern syndrome.

You make an excellent point in that, if A-Rod or Sheff or Jeter pulled any of that crap that Manny pulls they'd be decried as everything that's wrong with baseball. Manny somehow gets "loveable goof" status. The reality is probably somewhere in between.

(And I did think that Manny disappearing into the Green Monster was hilarious.)

One other point, I can't imagine why Manny wants out of Boston. What's his beef?

19 jedi   ~  Jul 29, 2005 9:38 am

19.  This is just a plain baseball opinion, but I don't know what Lucchino is talking about when he says Manny will be hard to trade. They have a taker in the Mets who Minaya is in deep love with Manny. Plus, the Mets have what the Red Sox need (CF/RF, SP and RP). Minaya would be willing to give up a combination of Cameron, Looper, Heilman and prospects and all of this would fit under salaries . The only reason why I think Manny wants out because he knows the Mets want him and would want to finish out his career in his hometown of NY. He got his ring, he doesnt need another in his selfish mind, why not be a Larry Brown and have a homecoming. He knows he is not going to be traded by the deadline with the big salary involved but he wanted to be Manny and sent a message to upper management to keep him in mind in the offseason. Bad timing, but to him its perfect. He is kinda smart if you think about it. Selfish but smart.

Just look for this as a foreshadowing of the offseason where the Red Sox will be definitely shopping him around.

Lucchino is just doing damage control in a season that was almost perfect until Manny opened up his big mouth. Sort of reminds me of Wells in 2003.

In other news, I just read from cbssportslin.com that "Rumors are rampant in newspapers from New York to Dallas about a trade that would send Texas 2B Alfonso Soriano to New York. The Mets apparently very interested, but are finding the Rangers asking price, which includes OF Mike Cameron, too high. "

Am I the only one that is lost here. Why does everyone have Cameron at such a high regard. The Mets compared the quality of Cameron to Sheffield, now Soriano? Man, Soriano got traded for AROD! Did we not forget that?

20 Alex Belth   ~  Jul 29, 2005 9:54 am

20.  Giambi has started to tail off. He missed a bunch of pitches this week (fouled off). Like you said, hopefully he's not falling into a slump. I don't know who it was--O'Neill or Justice, but someone noted that his swing was getting too long like he's trying to hit homers. They said when it was quick and short he was in the groove.

21 Rob   ~  Jul 29, 2005 9:59 am

21.  I've seen Chacon pitch a few times here against San Diego and each time I came away unimpressed. Glad to know we didn't give up too much for him. He does walk a lot, and from what I remember he produces a lot of long drawn out innings.

btw, i really like O'Neill in the booth. He doesn't share much in the way of analysis, but he does seem like a genuine person.

22 Shaun P   ~  Jul 29, 2005 10:05 am

22.  jedi, I don't think that Cameron and Sheffield are anywhere near each other in value. Neither are Sori and A-Rod.

But I could see the Mets valuing Cameron and Sori equally. Both have power and speed (and lots of Ks), neither has a great AVG, both can play positions (CF, 2B) where offense is usually at a premium.

That said, the Mets would be stupid to trade Cameron (not to say anything besides just Cameron) to get Sori. Cameron is a superior fielder. Cameron may strikeout, but the man knows how to walk. Sori doesn't. Worst of all, with his declining speed (hamstring problems), Sori's offensive contribution is really in his AVG and his power. But Shea suppress AVG and power (esp for righties) a ton.

Putting Sori in Shea - and effectively gutting his primary offensive contributions - would be a mistake of colossal proportions. The Mets doing this wouldn't surprise me at all.

BTW - I don't mean to sound like I'm knocking Sori because I really like him - we named our pet cockatiel Soriano - but he is what he is, and Shea is what it is.

23 Jon Weisman   ~  Jul 29, 2005 11:13 am

23.  Sheffield's swing is so whippet-fast - it's fascinating to watch.

Chacon can be very wild, but at times wildly effective. He's never been all that impressive against good hitting teams, I don't think.

I loved the ending to LaPointe's story. He may be good enough to write for Bronx Banter!

24 rilkefan   ~  Jul 29, 2005 11:49 am

24.  When I see Sheffield swing I wonder if he wouldn't be served better by a more controlled stroke. He's trying to hit the ball 4500 ft instead of 450.

25 alasky   ~  Jul 29, 2005 11:56 am

25.  just because he swings so violently doesn't mean it's not controlled. his relatively low k rate and terrific obp underscore this fact. I'd say that his ability to swing that hard and stay controlled is his his strength. Really though, why would anyone question his approach of all people's when the results are so consistently great?

26 rilkefan   ~  Jul 29, 2005 12:07 pm

26.  Cause he might be at a nice local maximum but not at an achievable superhuman global maximum in the swing landscape?

27 Schteeve   ~  Jul 29, 2005 12:07 pm

27.  Yeah, when it comes to hitting a baseball, Sheff has me convinced that he knows exactly what he's doing.

28 jedi   ~  Jul 29, 2005 12:09 pm

28.  And can you believe he had bursitis in his shoulder all last year of his runner-up mvp season. He couldnt even lift up his glove above his shoulder to catch a fly ball. Insane!

29 JVarghese81   ~  Jul 29, 2005 12:54 pm

29.  Hey, does anyone here pay for ESPN Insider - http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/index - there's an article behind the velvet rope dealing with Mariano and "a very important change in his approach on the mound".

Seeing as how Mo is striking guys out at a much higher rate than in previous years, I was wondering what this could be - I'm inclined to think that it was Mo going back to the things he did earlier in his career before Mel asked him to make a few tweaks. Still, I'd just like to know if it's just a fluff piece or if there's really something in the article as to what Mo has changed.

30 Shaun P   ~  Jul 29, 2005 1:46 pm

30.  JVarghese81, in that article, Gary Gillette gives a nice background on Mo (a little long IMHO), and then reveals that Mo's been throwing his 4-seamer more this season, maybe even the most since '97 or so.

Gillette speculates this is the key to Mo's '05 dominance = now even patient hitters (like the Sox) can't just sit and wait for a cutter in the zone. It was an interesting read.

BTW, I've found Gillette to be a pretty good writer/reporter, though I only happen to get Insider access due to my ESPNtheMag subscription. I wouldn't shell out $40/year for it.

31 kdenver   ~  Jul 29, 2005 2:17 pm

31.  Oh, crikeys! Yanks Recall Franklin.

32 Marcus   ~  Jul 29, 2005 3:31 pm

32.  Womack's back in the starting lineup tonight.

Here's rotoworld.com's take:

"Tony Womack tonight is making his first start since July 5. He's starting in center field and batting ninth.
Womack has had just two at-bats since his last start. Maybe the Yankees are hoping to showcase him for a late trade. Then again, he probably has more value when he isn't playing."

Painfully true.

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