June 2005

Sheff’s special: Yummy stuff

Ah, yes. Leave it to the Big Apple to get things stirred up. But this Gary Sheffield deal isn’t going to happen, at least not to the Mets and probably not to anybody.

That’s not a knock on the reports, which came out first in the New York Post and the Bergen Record. The Mets did make a play for Sheffield, offering a package headed by Mike Cameron. But as of Wednesday it’s clear the Yankees’ interest in a Sheffield-Cameron deal isn’t mutual, especially since word is the Mets wanted to throw in Tom Glavine or Kaz Matsui, too. (The Yankees have enough old, expensive pitchers, and they already have the good Matsui.)

Sheffield’s response to this or any deal, for that matter, is classic Sheff. You could take it back to when the Padres were getting ready to deal him to Boston in ’93, and he didn’t hold back then, either. Hey, an angry Sheff can be a good thing, as long as he’s playing where he wants to play. Yankee Stadium is where he wants to play.

One NL baseball source says Sheffield’s name is out there and the Yankees would like to move him. But the reality of the situation is that as much as the Yankees need a center fielder — as in, Cameron, Mark Kotsay, Juan Pierre or Preston Wilson — it’s more likely they’d do it via prospects, either their own lower-level ones or via a three-way deal.

All the while, the Yanks are saying publicly that they want to improve from within. But that’s not going to cut it, not this year, not where they stand. They’ll do something, just not this. Still, that’s yummy stuff.

Welcome to Reality Check 2005

Every year it’s the same. Every year it’s a little bit different. You know, kind of like baseball itself. The countdown to the July 31 trade deadline has started, and it’s only a matter of time before something comes down. Meanwhile, a whole lot of nothing will be out there, and only a few rumors will really come true.

The names are already trickling out, and July’s not even here yet. In our hearts, we all know that pretty much all of the names will be listed on the same rosters come Aug. 1 that they’re on now.

But that doesn’t make the annual trip around the rumor mill any less fun, does it? Speculation, rumor, innuendo — it’s all part of the game.

At some point, somebody has to separate the fantasy from the reality, the fiction from the truth, the hooey from the dealio. And that’s what we’re here for at the Reality Check.

Fifteen years into a baseball writing career, this is a first — blogdom. (To paraphrase sports talk radio: Longtime writer, first-time blogger.) This as good a forum as any to get a blog career going, because there will be plenty of fodder over the next several weeks before the non-waiver deadline to take some of the, uh, stuff that’s being thrown up against the wall, give it a gander and evaluate it as possible or just plain silly. Hence the name, the Reality Check.

Now let’s remember: This is just one guy’s take, with a little help from baseball execs, a little knowledge of the national baseball media circles and a whole lot of insight from our crack staff of beat writers here at MLB.com. This isn’t gospel, just semi-educated conjecture based on the best information available.

Here’s a quick take on where we stand at the moment:

What’s the same about this year is that right around the first of July the sellers are asking way too much and the buyers are all looking for the same thing — a frontline starter or a big bat. What’s a little different than last year, at least, is that we don’t have a deal yet, certainly nothing like last year’s three-way Carlos Beltran she-bang. So it’s wait-and-see mode for a bit.

Frankly, there’s not a lot out there so far. But the one guy you always have to keep an eye on is Billy Beane. For the moment, forget about Barry Zito or Eric Chavez — you still have to look at them as the cornerstones of the future in Oakland. Think Mark Kotsay, if anyone. He’s got a player option year coming up, and extension talks aren’t going anywhere yet. The Yankees are said to be interested, but they’ve got diddly to give a team like the A’s. That said, Beane’s the master of the three-way deal, so don’t rule it out. The Cubs might throw a line in that water, too.

See? There’s a little somethin’-somethin’ to get us started. No real basis. Just a little rumor, speculation and innuendo. Fun.

Listen, nobody — not even the GMs who know more than the rest of us — knows what’ll happen before July 31, or after with guys being sent through waivers. The stuff’s only starting to be flung, and the phones are only starting to buzz around baseball’s front offices. The fun’s only beginning. But there will be plenty of rumors to come, and this here Reality Check is ready to roll.