In final year on ballot, Sheffield gives his Hall of Fame case

December 18th, 2023

NEW YORK -- According to Baseball-Reference, former Major Leaguer Gary Sheffield has a higher WAR (60.5) than Baseball Hall of Famers such as Vladimir Guerrero (59.5) and Harmon Killebrew (60.4), David Ortiz (55.3) and Willie Stargell (57.6).

Yet, Sheffield now enters his 10th and final chance to be voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers' Association of America still awaiting his invitation. The writers must complete their ballots no later than Dec. 31, and the results will be announced on MLB Network on Jan. 23 at 6 p.m. ET.

This past January, Sheffield, 55, reached his highest share of votes ever, increasing from 40.6 percent in 2022 to 55 percent. That is far short of the 75 percent needed for induction. If the BBWAA doesn’t vote him in, Sheffield’s next chance will be the Today's Game Era Committee.

Sheffield has career numbers that warrant enshrinement into Cooperstown. In 22 big league seasons, Sheffield played for eight teams, including the Marlins, Yankees and Braves; he made nine All-Star appearances; and he collected 2,689 hits, 509 homers, 1,676 RBIs and 253 stolen bases. As a member of the Padres in 1992, Sheffield almost won the Triple Crown, took the batting title with a .330 average and finished in the top five in home runs (33) and RBIs (100).

Sheffield played in an era when strikeouts were acceptable, but he never had a 100-strikeout season and finished his career with more walks than strikeouts (1,475 to 1,171). Sheffield has been in the postseason numerous times, and his only World Series title came with the Marlins in 1997.

Sheffield credits his grandfather, Dan Gooden, for his success on the diamond.

“I would like to say, I was his favorite grandson, and I was his favorite everything,” Sheffield proudly said via telephone. “My book is called ‘Inside Power.’ My granddaddy [gave me that power to succeed]. … He wasn’t allowed to play [Major League Baseball], so he lived through me and my uncle [Dwight Gooden]. My granddaddy lived and breathed this stuff and prepped me to be who I am.”

As the Hall of Fame announcement gets closer, Sheffield said he is not thinking about the results.

“I don't think about anything to be honest with you,” Sheffield said. “I don’t think about the writers voting me in. I don’t think about the Veterans Committee. I don’t think about anything unless somebody asks me. Now that you have asked me, I don’t look forward to any of it to be honest with you, because … I should have been in [the Hall of Fame].

“Once I didn’t get in the first time, it’s basically whatever is whatever. You mean to tell me that when I played -- all the people in the Hall of Fame -- I didn’t belong on the field with them? I didn’t belong in that conversation? … Anybody that pitched to me and said, ‘I’m not pitching around you,’ ask them how it worked out. It [didn’t] go well.”

One possible reason Sheffield is not enshrined in Cooperstown is because he is mentioned in Major League Baseball's Mitchell Report, which was released after the 2007 season. Sheffield’s name came up after authorities found a 2003 FedEx receipt from Sheffield to BALCO in the home of Greg Anderson, a former trainer to Barry Bonds.

In his autobiography, Sheffield said he took a cream given to him by Anderson to help heal a knee injury but did not know whether it contained any illegal substances.

Sheffield told recently he “played by the rules” and never tested positive for any illegal substances. He points out that his offensive numbers remained consistent from 2003-05 while with the Braves and Yankees. During those three seasons, Sheffield averaged 36 home runs and 125 RBIs per season.

“No matter where I go, I’m going to dominate,” Sheffield said, “so if that’s not a Hall of Famer, I don’t know what is. I’m not going to go back and play anymore. I can’t go back and do anything else.”