Opinion of Kingman's Performance

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Sheff the Agent?

AP Photo 2001
Gary Sheffield is now an sports agent.  Having established Sheffield Management Group in 2011,  Sheff thinks he’s ready to represent clients before the heavy hitting baseball administrators.  He already has done so to a limited extent.  If there is one thing that Sheffield has always had, it was an opinion.  On this newest venture, he holds back no punches as he always has.  He seriously believes that he can excel in the business.

If there’s one thing Gary Sheffield can’t stand, it’s a liar.  If he perceives you were dishonest to him, you were dead to him.  We saw it in his years as a Dodger.  Bob Daly?  Sheffield says Daly said he’d make him a Dodger for life.  It didn’t happen soon enough so Sheff demanded out.  Scott Boras?  According to Sheffield, he promised Charles Johnson a lucrative $30 million deal and it didn’t happen, and he promised to work out a trade for him out of L.A., that didn’t happen fast enough...so Sheffield fired him.  Patience has never been a strong suite with Gary.  Neither has toeing the line with authority figures.

Sheffield always played with a chip on his shoulder and emotional anger.  Some pinpoint it back to Little League.  As a Little League World Series finalist from a Tampa league (that lost to Taiwan in the finals), Gary was booted off a youth league team at age 13 for missing a practice as he instead attended his uncle Dwight Gooden’s High School game.  His coach kicked him off the team for the absence and then later arranged for the entire league to not let him play for them, essentially blackballing the youngster from playing the game he loved.  It was Sheffield’s first experience with collusion and he couldn’t play for an entire year.  The incident made him seethe inside as he knew that he was the best player in the region and some coach with authority could wield so much power over him.  He took that anger and used it to make him a better player he believes.  I don’t think that it ever let up after that.

While playing A ball at Stockton, an immature Sheffield made a wild throw from shortstop that the air mailed into the stands.  His manager believed he did it on purpose to show him up.  Many agree that was the case.  An ensuing tirade took place on the field with Sheff being removed from the game in mid-inning.  It was an ugly event, and even though Sheffield’s manager, Dave Machemer, later apologized to the 18 year old after the game, the rumors spread and the writing was on the wall.  Sheffield was identified as a malcontent and a player that purposefully tanked games.

The rumors of sabotaging game(s) followed him into the majors and Sheffield claims that it was falsely spread that he had done the same at the major league level, which was simply untrue.  In the majors, only Ernest Riles would approach the kid and help him.  The rest of the Brewers team did not talk to him or even attempt to befriend him.  Is it any wonder that Sheffield demanded a trade?

One thing was certain though. Gary Sheffield had remarkable talent.  That leg kick and quick bat was an amazing thing to watch.  Some simply said it was natural talent, and to some extent that was true, but there were very few players that worked harder to hone their craft than Sheffield.  As a Padre, he came within one week of winning the first Triple Crown in the N.L in over 50 years.  As a Marlin, he was instrumental in leading that club to their first World Series Title in 1997.  He was 28 years old and 10 years had gone by since he made his major league debut.  He was a past batting champion, he had led the league in On Base Percentage, he had driven in as many as 120 runs in a year and had OPS seasons over 1.000 on two different occasions.  Gary Sheffield was known as a top tier talent and amongst the top 5 players in the game.

No wonder he was bitter when within six months that World Championship team in Florida was completely dismantled and he was being pressured to accept a trade to Los Angeles.  Sheffield was happy in Florida and that trade was going to cost him money (due to California income taxes).  He told them “no” initially.  He felt disrespected and again “lied” to.  Credit Fred Claire, a man that the Fox Dodgers had undermined in making that trade, who stepped forwarded and calmed Sheff down, negotiating a restructured deal that wouldn’t cost Sheffield money.

Considering that sports agents are the negotiators.  The guys that are supposed to keep their emotions in check and take the lead when it comes to coming to terms with teams in contract matters.  I find that Sheffield as a player may have been the worst ever at doing that.  We know he left the Brewers unceremoniously, also the Dodgers, Yankees and Tigers later in his career.  

Never known as much of a teammate during his career.  This usually happened because Sheffield didn’t refrain from speaking his mind and letting the world know that he was more valuable and deserved to be paid more than some of his teammates.  As a Dodger, his jealousy over contracts of other players on the team got the better of him.  He criticized the contracts of Karros and Dreifert and said he was more valuable.  There was no doubt that he was, but the timing of the contracts had pushed them ahead of the superstar and his time was coming, but again, a lack of patience got the better of him.  When Gary demanded to get a deal to make him a Dodger for life and it didn’t pan out quick enough, he essentially forced the Dodgers to trade him, leaving the team in a lurch and forcing them to acquire an inferior package of Brian Jordan, Odalis Perez and Andrew Brown in exchange.

This guy was seen by many as a cancer in the clubhouse and as a cancer to more than one organization.  Others simply said he was misunderstood.  He buddied up with Barry Bonds and worked out with the Giants star at AT & T Park in the off-season while he was a Dodger.  He tried steroids and was on the Mitchell report.  He testified in the BALCO scandal and cooperated with investigating authorities, owning up that he was a known steroid user.  

There have to be some that believe that there can’t be a worst example of someone to represent you in negotiations than Gary Sheffield.  So when Gary Sheffield states that “I know the game, and I know for sure that my client is better than this guy, this guy and this guy you have on your roster, so sign him.” (source: Jack Dickey's Sports on Earth article that is linked at the end of this post)  It seriously makes me wonder about his negotiating skills.  This is a different Sheffield though.  This is a changed man some say.  The erratic and emotional roller coaster that made up much of his career is over.

Gary Sheffield lived a turbulent life, as he worked his way through four organizations.  By his own admission, his personal life was anything but secure.  He fathered four children from four different mothers.  He was nearly killed one night in the off season in 1995 having been shot in the shoulder on a violent Tampa street in the early morning hours.  It was a botched robbery attempt.   Bad luck? Sure it was, but driving a $100,000 car through the mean streets of Tampa after midnight wasn’t the wisest move to make.  

Several baseball organizations saw him as a malcontent and the story about him sabotaging a game when he was 18 years old never seemed to go away.  He still was one of the highest paid players in the game, as he should have been.  But it wasn’t until age 31 when his marriage to his wife Deleon, (a grounded and determined woman of faith), that Sheffield started to settle and mature. He moved on to five more organizations before his career ended with lifetime numbers of 509 homers and 2,689 hits, but the turbulance of his youth was gone.

Jason Grilli, currently pitching for the Pirates, had approached Sheffield for help after being out of the game for a year following a knee injury in 2010.  Sheff stepped up and negotiated him a contract.  He figured that he knew the game and he had inside contacts, his success on the behalf of Grilli, his former teammate, convinced him to create the management group.  He now represents a handful of minor leaguers aside from Grilli.

Most guys coming to Sheffield are reported to be players that have left the game and want back in.  One such player is reported to be knuckleballer Josh Banks, now in the Orioles organization.  That deal reportedly went down with Sheffield pulling up at the Orioles Spring Training complex in his Bentley, a quick meeting with Dan Douquette and Banks grabbing a locker within an hour.  That’s what a Major League reputation does for you.

But can a player representative that admits that he doesn’t watch the game and doesn’t particularly like it be an affective agent?  “I pay baseball no attention,” he told Jack Dickey of Sportsonearth.com in October of this year.**  “I couldn’t tell you one teams roster.  I don’t watch baseball now because it’s boring.”  The thing is though, Sheffield is quick to recognize facets about the game that others don’t know, claiming that the drug testing program is a joke and that he knew Bartolo Colon was juicing once he heard he was traveling to Latin America for a “blood spinning” procedure.  

He carries his opinions strongly still but claims that the players he represents are those in which he truly believes will excel because of their talent.  Former Tiger teammate Grilli he believes in.  Guys like B.J. Upton (who he doesn’t represent) he claims have tons of talent that isn’t reaching full potential.  He believes that there are too many inferior Japanese players and Latin American players in the game and that black and white players are under-represented.  One thing for certain, his words still bring controversy as they did when he played.  How that will play out when intense player negotiations of one of his premier clients occurs, only time will tell.


Some question Sheffield's seriousness in all of this as he has stated that he wants no more than 30 clients.  Gary, who is engaged in a few business pursuits, such as an elite Niacaraguan Cigar and Vitamin Water, has also expressed interest in entering sports-talk/television, but not if he has to travel too far.  For him, St. Petersburg was “too far.”  He lives in Tampa.

**Note:  Much of the source material for this piece came from an excellent article written by Jack Dickey of Sports on Earth (www.SportsonEarth.com).  He's an amazing writer and I highly recommend his work.  Dickey's Oct. 23, 2012 Sheffield article is linked HERE
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On MLB’s televison’s Hot Stove today, Harold Reynold and Matt Vasgersian conducted an interview with Sheffeild over the phone and there was this interesting exchange that related to the Dodgers Matt Kemp

Harold Reynolds: "Hey Gary, one thing that is interesting too about you is that you’ve always been a guy that would give advice.  I’m sure players still come to you today.  'Can you come work with me in the cage? Can you tell me what I’m doing?  Am I out in front?  Am I behind?' When you watch a ball game and you’re waiting for players after a game.  They’re coming to talk to you.  Is that a conflict of interest now that you’re an agent officially?  Or do you still have players saying to you ‘Sheff, what happened?  I thought we were gonna hit this winter?’"

Gary Sheffield: "No, I mean it’s funny you're saying that.  I just got a call from Matt Kemp the other day.  He called me and just asked for advice and I gave him advice on just business stuff.  And he’s like ‘Thanks big bro, I knew you’d come through for me.’ And, I’m always open to players that are willing to listen and guys that are willing to learn because like I said before, when I was a young player, I was always the youngest on the team and sometimes I had people that I could go to and sometimes I didn’t.  I always made it a vow that I’d be always be there for those players."

Matt Vasgergian:  "Hey wait a minute Sheff.  You’re talking to Matt Kemp?  You’re messing with one of Stew’s guys.  That’s Dave Stewart’s guy."

Sheffield: (laughing) "No, no, no, no. It’s nothing like that."

Vasgergian:  "You know I did want to ask you about Stew though because Dave Stewart who went from a terrific playing career to being an agent.  He made this move.  Have you talked with Stew and visited with him about how he went about the transition? "

Sheffield: "Oh, Absolutely.  Me and Stew talk all the time.  I talked about joining his company at first, but he’s all the way out on the West Coast.  You never know when it may come to that point, but I felt like Sheffield Management could make it out on its own.  We’re standing tall..."

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