From Ken Rosenthal today -
Melky Cabrera hits with less power than Hideki Matsui, but his range in left field upgrades the Yankees’ defense. Center fielder Johnny Damon must cover more ground when Matsui is in left. The presence of Cabrera elevates Damon’s defense from average to above-average, one Yankees official says.
Thus, the return of Gary Sheffield would muddle the equation for the Yankees, even if Matsui is cleared to play the outfield coming off his broken left wrist. With Bobby Abreu in right, Sheffield could get at-bats at DH and first base. But the Yankees would suffer defensively if he were in the field.
A Sheffield-Jason Giambi platoon at first is not without appeal — Giambi is batting only .210 against left-handers. Then again, it’s difficult to imagine the Yankees trusting Sheffield at first, a position he has never played, in the post-season.
Sheffield, not surprisingly, is pressing the issue — he wants to prove he has recovered from surgery on his left wrist. A strong finish could persuade the Yankees to exercise his $13 million option or increase his value to other clubs as a free agent.
This got me thinking. What if Sheffield shows, over the last week of the season that he can play a decent 1B and can still swing the bat?
Sure, then you keep him on the post-season roster. But, what if he does get to play in some of the series and is a post-season hero for the Yankees?
Yes, that would make for some interesting debate on how to handle his contract situation – for sure. But, regardless, how would that impact his “Yankees legacy?” We know that Sheffield was a force for the Yankees in 2004 and 2005. What if he delivers a ring in 2006 by coming off his “Yankees-career-death-bed” and gets some huge hits in this post-season? What if he only has one AB in a series but it’s a “1988 Kirk Gibson” moment?
If Sheffield can help the Yankees in this post-season, in a big way, I think that will earn him a place in the hearts of Yankees fans for a long time.
Then again, on the flip-side, if he hurts the Yankees in any way this post-season, 2004 and 2005 will be forgotten in a heartbeat.
There’s a lot riding on this post-season for Sheffield, again, in terms of how he will be remembered in New York.