Sheffield back at Tigers workouts
Ongoing lawsuit vs. ex-agent Boras remains on mind
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Gary Sheffield is swinging free and easy again, both at pitches and at his distractions.
For another Spring Training, he'll have to deal with the lawsuit from his former agent, Scott Boras, who is seeking a five-percent portion on the three-year, $39 million contract Sheffield signed with the Yankees. And for one more time, he made his feelings known about Boras.
"Everybody knows what this man stands for," Sheffield said.
But as Sheffield showed last year, he has an ability to filter through distractions. Now that he has put his shoulder injury behind him and can swing a bat without pain, he'll take care of the rest.
"It's not a distraction," Sheffield said. "I've learned to adapt to any situation. People like that exist."
Sheffield missed part of Wednesday's workout due to a personal matter, but it had nothing to do with the lawsuit or his surgically repaired shoulder. He was back on the field Thursday, playing catch with the outfielders, but he said he'll have to attend to the lawsuit in Tampa, Fla., on Feb. 28.
This is the fifth year he has had to deal with the case, now before an arbitrator through the MLB Players Association. He missed four Spring Training games last year to deal with depositions. He can't talk about the details of the case since it's ongoing, but he doesn't hesitate to discuss his feelings for the other party involved.
"It's probably personal with him," Sheffield said of Boras. "But when it's done, it's going to be personal to me. I'm going to warn everybody. Trust me, it's going to be the ugliest thing you've ever seen. There are people you don't want to mess with, and I can guarantee you I'm one of them."
Boras served as Sheffield's agent during his time with the Dodgers in the late 1990s and early into the 2000s. Sheffield fired Boras prior to his deal with the Yankees, which he negotiated with George Steinbrenner, but Boras' case is that he had worked on Sheffield's free agency. Sheffield countered by contending that Boras spoke badly of him and affected his market value.
Asked about his time dealing with Boras, Sheffield said, "Total hell. I wish I would've never introduced myself to him. Bad person. Bad person."
Boras declined to react.
"I'm not going to comment on Gary's comments," Boras said when contacted by The Associated Press on Thursday morning.
The issues between Boras and Sheffield have a different backdrop this year after the offseason matters Boras had with other free agents. Alex Rodriguez, a close friend of Sheffield and a Boras client, worked around Boras to rekindle talks towards a new contract with the Yankees after using an option clause to become a free agent. Kenny Rogers, Sheffield's teammate, fired Boras in November before re-signing with the Tigers.
Sheffield said he only had limited talk with Rodriguez during the offseason, and that he did not advise him. Rogers has been diplomatic about his dealings with Boras, saying it made no sense to retain the agent when Rogers had no intention of signing anywhere but Detroit.
Sheffield can understand players taking control of their representation.
"It's a matter of taking your own career in your hands," Sheffield said.
Sheffield criticized both the Players Association and Major League Baseball in part for allowing his case to continue. Known for speaking his mind on matters, Sheffield said he will have plenty to say on the matter once the case is over.
"No fine is going to be big enough," he said. "No suspension is going to be long enough."
At least Sheffield has his health, which right now looks fine for him.
After surgery repaired the torn labrum in his throwing shoulder last October, Sheffield felt the difference almost immediately. After not being able to use the shoulder for a month, he could pick up heavy suitcases and do a three-mile run.
Once he picked up a bat a couple weeks later -- something he rarely does even in a normal offseason -- he had his full range of motion. He didn't swing hard again, he said, because he was afraid his health was too good to be true.
The final sign came when he reported to camp early a couple weeks ago.
"As soon as I tried to hit a ball over the fence, and I hit it over the fence," Sheffield said, "I said to myself, 'I've still got it.'"
Now he believes that he could play four more years if he wanted to. He won't rule out playing beyond his current contract, which runs through 2009, because he has thought about retirement before and come back.
"If my body feels good," Sheffield said, "why quit?"
If he retires, it would likely be to make his family happy. He admits they've wanted him to retire before. Issues like dealing with Boras only further it.
"They don't like the negative stuff that comes my way, and I love it," Sheffield said. "I like to prove people wrong."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.