Gary Sheffield was one of the most iconic baseball players of the 1990s and early 2000s. The patented bat waggle, the bombs, the joy he played the game with. He was just an easy guy to like.
So when Sheffield came out against the new-age MLB, it matters. People take a lot of stake in what past legends of the game think, and Gary doesn’t think much of the way baseball looks nowadays.
“I don’t watch baseball at all,” Sheffield told CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney show on Friday. “I was kind of forced to watch baseball, because I was working with TBS. And so I had to remember, really find out who were these players. I’ll tell you the secret now: I never watched the games during the season. I would get educated on it when I got there… It’s not something that I could watch, based on what I’m seeing, because I’ll be a complainer… This is the first time I’ve ever said that out loud, but I’m just truly disappointed with what I watch…
“[Baseball was exciting] when I was playing. They implemented all these rules now and they’ve changed the game so much, they’re making it more hitter-friendly — even without having success. These guys can go out there and strike out 180, 190 times, and it’s okay… Now, a home run is less appealing, when a home run was a big deal and more appealing [when I played] because it wasn’t happening as often as it is now… I see a pop-up up player that everybody gravitates to — he’s the face of the team, the face of the city — and he has 100 strikeouts in April…
“When I see stuff like that, I’m not one of those older players that scoffs at the game and then talks about the game in a negative light… that doesn’t mean I have to watch it.”
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Sheffield would go on to blame the increased usage of analytics in baseball for why the game isn’t as appealing (and specifically called out former Cubs president of baseball ops Theo Epstein).
“[Former Cubs executive] Theo Epstein walked away from the general manager position because he’s the one that pretty much sought all the sabermetrics stuff,” Sheffield said. “[Oakland A’s executive] Billy Beane did the whole ‘Moneyball’ thing and he looked for on-base percentage, but really, Theo Epstein dove so deep into this, now analytics have taken over the game. And I think a lot of these managers — the way they used to manage games and the players they were looking for — they’re no longer looking for those players now because you couldn’t get a job as a manager if you weren’t into this stuff…”
I see Gary Sheffield’s point here. The game was much more exciting when contact was more of a focal point. Watching guys strike out a bunch of times isn’t really baseball in its purest form. Now, I’m not willing to throw in the towel on the game as a whole.
Baseball is still a great game, but it could also improve. That’s where I think we , as fans, need to be more open-minded to potential rule changes that will be coming in the future.
The MLB is in a very important period right now, and the games future may very well be at stake. But Gary Sheffield has already seen enough.