Coping with Sheff
Dodgers used to storm surrounding outspoken Sheffield
By John Donovan, CNNSI.com
It's the day the contract squabble between the Dodgers and one of their best players supposedly comes to a head.
That yawn you hear is from the Dodgers.
"It's business as usual for us," manager Jim Tracy insisted Tuesday morning before the Dodgers played the Atlanta Braves at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex. "Gary's not a distraction, and to even answer that it looks like I'm taking a shot at him.
"Gary's not going to be a disruption with us."
If Sheffield's outrageous statements this spring have caused any wound, it seems to have long since scarred over. The Los Angeles players are deep into their spring routine getting ready for their April 2 opener.
As they limbered up and took batting practice before the game, the small group of players that made up the Dodgers' traveling squad -- not surprisingly, Sheffield did not make the trip to Kissimmee -- seemed loose and easy on a cool breezy morning.
Outfielder Tom Goodwin says the Dodgers aren't affected at all by Sheffield's statements.
"The players haven't even really thought about it," Goodwin said. "We even joke with Sheff about it."
Sheffield became the latest poster child for pampered pro players earlier in spring training when he first asked for a contract extension then demanded to be traded when the Dodgers refused his request. He complained about his current contract, which will pay him $30 million for the next three years with a club option of $11 million for the 2004 season.
The Dodgers reportedly are talking with the Braves, the New York Mets and New York Yankees about a possible trade. Braves general manager John Schuerholz declined comment on a possible Sheffield deal -- the Los Angeles Times reported that Chipper Jones, Andruw Jones, Javy Lopez and Brian Jordan all have been mentioned as possible names in trade discussions -- as did Dodgers senior vice president Tommy Lasorda.
"I can't tell the future," Lasorda said. "Only gypsies can tell the future."
The storm around Sheffield's remarks -- and the close attention paid to them by the media -- has engulfed just about all the other stories around the Dodgers, at least from a national perspective. And that is not all bad, according to shortstop Alex Cora.
"This is the first time there hasn't been a lot of talk about expectations with us, because of the high payroll and all," Cora said. "That's the only thing. And maybe the biggest story in camp is our [improved] rotation, and no one is talking about that."
Sheffield, a six-time All-Star who hit .325 with 43 home runs and 109 RBIs last season, vowed last week to say something about his situation Tuesday that could be potentially embarrassing to the Dodgers, though he has talked freely already to many different media outlets. "Something's going to give," he said at the time. "I'm going to tell it like it is."
At gametime Tuesday, with Sheffield still in Vero Beach, nothing had been said. And, even if a Sheffield bombshell is still to come, the Dodgers seem to have weathered the worst of it.
"That's the way the game is," Cora said. "Life goes on."
With or without Gary Sheffield.