There was a time that 400 career home runs got a player into the Baseball Hall of Fame. In order to hit two more home runs for 400 for his career, Dale Murphy joined the new expansion Colorado Rockies. The Rockies were playing in Mile High Stadium with a short left and left-center fence. He admitted that even with the thin air and short porch, at his advanced age that he couldn’t hit one out during batting practice.
Gary Sheffield, on the other hand, hit his 400th in his age-35 year. During this time, he was holding down right field in Yankee Stadium. He would club another 109 over the next 5 years. Sheffield has some other pretty nice counting stats as well. However, the Hall of Fame writers were not moved in eight previous attempts to add him to the greatest in the game.
Let’s look at his counting stats.
- 2689 hits (70th all-time)
- 1003 extra-base hits (39th)
- 1676 RBI (30th)
- 1475 walks (21st)
- 1636 runs scored (39th)
- Career .292/.393/.514 line with 141 wRC+
- 62.1 career fWAR
- 39.6 8-yr peak WAR from 1996 to 2003
- 9 All-Star appearances
- 5 Silver Slugger Awards
- World Series and Batting Title winner
- Runner-up and twice third place in MVP voting
Sheffield took his bat waggle to the Brewers, Padres, Marlins, Dodgers, Braves, Yankees, Tigers, and the Mets. But his career intersected with Braves several times. He was involved in the same massive Padres fire sale of 1993 that saw Fred McGriff traded to the Braves. McGriff was traded to the Braves on July 18th. Sheffield was traded six days later to the Marlins. These roster moves would eventually set the stage for the 1997 NLCS win of the Marlins over the Braves that made Eric Gregg a folk hero in Miami. Gary would win his World Series in Miami that year.
In 2002, Sheffield was traded to the Braves from the Dodgers in part for Brian Jordan in his age-35 season. Jordan would post 3 WAR in the remainder of his career, Sheffield would provide 21.5. Sheffield spent two years with the Braves. In 2002, Chipper, Andruw, and Sheffield led the Braves attack with a combined 17 WAR and 86 HR. Then came 2003.
The 2003 Atlanta Braves offense was completely bananas. This is Gary Sheffield, Chipper Jones, Andruw Jones, Rafael Furcal, Vinny Castilla, and to top it off, Javy Lopez’s walk year and Marcus Giles’s career season. It is easily the best full-season Atlanta, Milwaukee or Boston Braves offense by a good 19 runs-above-average gap. The next best was 1957’s World Series team. They were only topped in home runs by the 2019 team before the designated hitter became part of the National League. Even Mike Hampton (when he played) and Russ Ortiz chipped in.
He left Atlanta for the Yankees and had a impressive two years before a torn ligament and dislocated tendon in his wrist slowed him down in June of 2006. He would play two more years for the Tigers before hitting his 500th for the Mets.
If you look at his on-field hitting numbers, he should be a lock. But then there’s the off-field stuff, and yeah, it’s not so good. Many athletes of that eras abused steroids and many more were accused of doing so. He was named in the Mitchell Report, the end result of Congressional hearings and interviews into MLB substance abuse. The claims against him did seem a stretch. But when you have another leg of your career after age 35 like Clemens did and Andruw Jones, Brian Jordan and Dale Murphy didn’t, there will be questions. Add two vehicular offenses and the integrity requirement seems to be out of reach.
And year over year charts through 150 ballots for Andruw Jones (at 52.0% through 150 ballots last year, at 70.0% this year), Gary Sheffield (50.0% last year, 66.0% this year), and Carlos Beltrán (first year on the ballot) pic.twitter.com/30j0lhIVVK— Ryan Thibodaux (@NotMrTibbs) January 11, 2023
Sheffield’s candidacy seems to gaining momentum after eight failed attempts with two remaining. If he can get some voters to actually add names to the ballot, he should be at the top of the selection list.