MLB Rumors: Gary Sheffield Claims He Can Hit 40 Home Runs in 2010

Bleacher ReportSenior Analyst INovember 23, 2009

CHICAGO - AUGUST 28: Gary Sheffield #10 of the New York Mets strikes out to end a game against the Chicago Cubs on August 28, 2009 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. The Cubs defeated the Mets 5-2.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Gary Sheffield was quoted in the Boston Globe over the weekend saying he could hit at least 25 home runs if a team gives him the chance to play every day.

He even went so far as to say that he could hit upwards of 40 home runs in the proper situation. 

I hate to say it, Gary, but it's time to hang it up. 

To put the current length of his career in perspective, Sheffield was drafted sixth overall in the amateur draft by the Milwaukee Brewers just four months after I was born in 1986. 

The nephew of Doc Gooden, Sheffield came up as a talented shortstop and shot through the minor leagues, getting his first taste of major league ball at the age of 19 in 1988. 

By the time he was 23, Sheffield had a breakout year and hit .330 with 33 home runs and 100 RBI, capturing his first—and only—batting title. 

Incredibly, and this came as a bit of a shocker to me, Sheffield has never led the league in any major offensive category aside from taking the batting crown in 1992 (unless you count his lead in on-base percentage in 1996).

He belted as many as 43 homers in a single season, but that guy we used to know as Sammy Sosa bested Sheffield with a 50-home run campaign. 

Sheffield finished in the top three of MVP voting three separate times, and he was the runner-up to Vladimir Guerrero in 2004. 

After a long career, including 499 home runs, Sheffield found his way to the New York Mets last season to connect on No. 500.

Despite hitting the second-most home runs (10) on the team, Sheffield had a home run percentage that was far below his career average.

He hit a home run in 3.2 percent of his plate appearances in 2009, his lowest mark since 1989 and a full one-and-a-half percent below his career average of 4.7 percent.

Not only that, but his strikeout percentage was the third-highest of his career at 14.7 percent, coming just one year after he posted the highest percentage of his career in 2008 (17.2). 

He's just flat-out too old.

Gary turned 41 last Wednesday, and unless he stumbles upon the fountain of youth sometime before spring training, he's just going to keep adding mileage to his meter.  

Last season we saw Frank Thomas, who is just six months older than Sheffield, go unclaimed in free agency, and that is probably the best indication of things to come. 

Sheffield maintains, as would anyone vying for a contract, that he is in top shape.

But by that age in a player's life, he just doesn't have the bat speed he once used to, and it's something that cannot be overcome.

It's one thing for a pitcher like Jamie Moyer to throw well into his 40s, because a pitcher can adjust his approach on the mound and be able to slow things down in good way.

Sheffield mounted a career based on the violent and swift swings of his bat, and a return to the majors for his 23rd season would just be unnecessary.  

I can remember watching him as I grew into a ballplayer, being captivated by trying to find the kind of sock he had in his bat by increasing the torque on my swing.

Yet Sheffield is not the same player I knew back then, and I don't want to see him turn into another player who hangs around far too long until nobody wants him.

So Gary, just walk away, and you can control the ending to a long and productive career.