Sheffield Blasts Torre, Yankees On HBO

By Tom Gage
Updated: July 14, 2007

SEATTLE Gary Sheffield has spoken his mind again — twice. First in an interview with HBO’s “Real Sports” that will air next Tuesday.

And then on Friday night in the Tigers’ clubhouse at Safeco Field when being asked about subjects addressed with HBO.

In the interview with Andrea Kremer, as reported by Newsday, Sheffield said he doesn’t consider Yankees manager Joe Torre a racist, but Torre “treats black players differently from white players.”

Sheffield also said Derek Jeter, who’s from a mixed-race marriage “ain’t all the way black.”

And that “If I took what Barry Bonds took, why don’t I look like him?” Sheffield also told Kremer, he never took steroids because, “The bottom line is, steroids is something you stick in your butt.”

Commenting about the interview, and knowing the impact such comments will have, Sheffield said: “What you ask me, I’m answering, whether you like my answers or not.”

When asked how strong his feelings about Torre are, Sheffield said: “It started off rocky. I was getting disrespected for almost a month and a half.

“When you’re hearing from your manager that they should have gotten Vladimir Guerrero, that’s disrespectful, but nobody ever came to my defense and said it was.

“I’m not making waves. I’m just telling it like it is. But I tried to keep it behind closed doors at the beginning. A lot of things happened over there I didn’t talk about.

“I was always put in situations to fail — like making my contract situation public. I tried to handle it in a professional manner. I could have handled it a lot worse.”

“I had a lot of one-on-ones with Joe,” he continued. “I don’t just jump to a conclusion on every issue. When he called me out in meetings, I tried to take a positive out of it. I talked it over with my wife and she said maybe he was doing it to make me an example for everyone else. I told her she might be right.

“But when it hit the papers, that he called me out in meetings, then it’s a different ballgame and that’s what happened.”

As for the Tigers’ racial atmosphere, compared to the Yankees’, Sheffield said: “It’s totally different. We don’t see race here, that’s the thing. That’s how I grew up. All my friends were white. We didn’t see color. I’m about right and wrong. If I see something that’s wrong, I’ll let you know it.

“My son is half white and half black, so it doesn’t matter to me. He’s the same as Jeter. I say the same thing about my son. He gets the same treatment.”

In the HBO interview, Sheffield said Torre “had a message to get across to the whole team, so he used me to get the message across. He didn’t use the same methods with white players. I’d see a lot of white players get called in the office and treated like a man. That’s the difference.”

On the subject of Torre not being a racist in his estimation, Sheffield said in the HBO interview, “No, I think it’s the way they do things around there. I just saw they run their ship different.”

According to Newsday, Torre said, “I don’t even want to answer those kinds of questions,” when asked about Sheffield’s comments before the Yankees’ game Friday night in Tampa Bay. “I’m more comfortable not answering.”

Of his relationship with Jeter, Sheffield told reporters in the Tigers’ clubhouse Friday, “We’re best friends but they hate the fact that a player like him respects and likes me. They don’t understand how I can be so this way, and he’s so that way, and we can get along. But I know how to switch. If I need to be like Jeter sometimes, I know how to do that, too. I’m versatile.”

Of Barry Bonds, who’s also mentioned in the HBO interview — and with whom he has occasionally been judged as guilty by association on the steroid issue — Sheffield said, “We don’t have communication. I love and respect him to this day. I had a problem with him, but I moved on and forgave.”

This isn’t the first time since he’s been with the Tigers that Sheffield has spoken out on controversial issues. When the Tigers were in Texas last month, he expanded on remarks he’d made in a GQ interview, attributing the growth of Latin players in professional baseball to the ability of baseball to “control” those players.

The next day, Tigers’ shortstop Carlos Guillen, a native of Venezuela, said Sheffield was right.

Now Sheffield is courting controversy once again by going against what he called “the (Yankees) empire.”

As for the reaction he’ll get at Yankee Stadium on the Tigers’ visit there next month, Sheffield said, “I don’t care. They have to be ready for me. I don’t worry about nothing — period.”

Sheffield said he was surprised at the way the Yankees operated.

“I went into it naïve, thinking classy,” he said. “Everything is first class — only to find out it’s not. It’s not different than most organizations. It’s just that they’re the Yankees.”

Sheffield admitted Friday that he sometimes uses the injustice he perceives as motivation.

“Because it’s not always fun for me to come to the park.” he said. “A lot of times it’s boring. I have to give myself some excitement.”

Along those lines, Newsday reported that Sheffield “began the (HBO) interview by saying ‘I tell myself every offseason I’m not going to say anything crazy. I’m just going to have a peaceful season.

“Can’t do it. I’m cut from a different cloth.”