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Why Gary Sheffield called out A-Rod in 2004 | Bronx Backstories

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On this episode of Bronx Backstories, Sweeny Murti is joined by former Yankees outfielder Gary Sheffield who shares an interesting story about a talk between him and new Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez in 2004. A-Rod was in a bit of a slump and it took a little help from Sheffield to help get the star player out of a funk. About Bronx Backstories: Former New York Yankees beat reporter Sweeny Murti shares behind the scenes stories from his history covering the Bronx Bombers with special guests ranging from players to coaches to insiders and more. About SNY: SNY.tv is the "go-to" digital communal home for New York sports fans to get succinct, easy-to-read updates, video highlights and features, recaps, news, opinion, rumors, insight and fan reaction on their favorite New York sports teams.

Video Transcript

GARY SHEFFIELD: I just told him. I said, man, you're freaking A-rod. Why don't you start playing like it and acting like it?

SWEENY MURTI: Hi, everybody. Welcome to Bronx Backstories. I'm Sweeny Murti joined today by Gary Sheffield, who played for the Yankees for three years in the early 2000s. Stellar career over, 500 home runs. Sheff, it's nice to see you again. How are you doing?

GARY SHEFFIELD: Good, man. How are you doing, man? Long time no see.

SWEENY MURTI: That's it. I always say that you were one of my favorite guys to cover. I always felt that you gave honest answers about what was happening, and what you felt, and maybe the circumstances changed a little bit. But what you were feeling in that moment, you always told us up front, and you weren't hiding from me.

GARY SHEFFIELD: Well, I mean, that's what it's all about, you know? I've always been a guy to live in truth, and a lot of times, you know, people put spins on it to make it juicier or downplay it somewhat. But I've always been a straight shooter.

SWEENY MURTI: I'm one of the interactions that I really vividly remember talking to you about in the moment that it happened, your first year with the Yankees, 2004. Also, Alex Rodriguez, his first year with the Yankees. Late in August, the Yankees were in Toronto, and one of the ongoing storylines with Alex Rodriguez is coming through in the clutch, driving in runs late, runners in the scoring position, that kind of thing. And it's in batting practice, and you're in his hitting group. And you had some advice to Alex to just kind of let it go. Do you remember what I'm talking about?

GARY SHEFFIELD: I recall Alex coming to New York. I remember, man, Derek Jeter was training at the Hymes Facility, the Yankees complex, and Soriano was there as well. And we was training together, and I was the big, free agent signing. And the next thing you know, Soriano is leaving the practice and saying that he just got traded for Alex Rodriguez. And I was like, wow, me and Soriano was teammates for two days of training.

So when we got Alex, I looked at Derek. And I said, well, you know, based on what he brings to the table, I can pretty much guarantee you a championship this year. Because I was pretty much doing the same thing if I would have came along. So when Alex got there, he brought this class, this big, old persona about, you know, he's the MVP. You know, he's this type of player, and you never know what a player is like, until you play with them.

And when I played with A-rod, I always got the impression of him is that, you know, he wanted to be looked at as a superstar. And when you own the Yankees, you know, you have to put that superstar status to the side and do what's best for the team. And I think that he had a hard time with that at the beginning, and he got off to a rough start.

And he had to produce, because George Steinbrenner didn't mess around. It was all about production and winning, and he struggled. And I then, finally, just got tired of it, and I just told him. I said, man, you're freaking A-rod. Why don't you start playing like it and acting like it? Joe [? Torrid ?] came to me and said, what are we going to do about your boy?

And I said, well, the problem is the way you've got this line up. I said, you need to move Jeter to first, and hitting first, and put A-rod second. He said, second? I said, yes, put him in front of me. He'll eat very well, just like that, and he was like, well, you know, what are we going to do with the rest of the line up at the back end?

I said, man, we've got the highest payroll, and we've got all these players in this lineup. You put A-rod second, we're going to win games. And when I said that to A-rod, it seemed like it worked, and he just took off from there.

SWEENY MURTI: You know, he got a game winning hit in that series in Toronto late in August, and then he hit very well over the course of the last five or six weeks, especially runners and scoring position. It seemed like two things, Sheff. That you were the kind of guy who would say something, and he was the kind of guy who needed to hear something.

GARY SHEFFIELD: Yes, A-rod is a great person, and I tell people this all the time. I get a lot of people who want to know what A-rod is like, and a lot of people have their opinions, good or bad. A-rod is the guy that has to be pushed in a certain way, but he's driven as far as baseball wise.

But he has to be pushed and challenged to be great. I think A-rod wants to be liked by everyone, and that's a difficult thing to do when you come to New York. Because everybody is not going to like you. So I think when he heard those words, it helped him relax a little bit.

SWEENY MURTI: You know, you had come to New York with a World Series ring already in your pocket from the Marlins. Alex waited a few more years. He, finally, got his in 2009. What was the disappointment in 2004 like for you, especially the way it happened?

GARY SHEFFIELD: If you look at the first five games, you know, Boston was dead in the water. They really didn't have a shot to win those games, and we let them back in. But the one thing that I always remember about that, Joe [? Torrid. ?] He, basically, told Mariano, he wasn't pitching in a game that we wound up losing. And then that kind of just build up to the next game when he came in and gave it up, again, so that was kind of deflating for the team.

Because we knew they had the better pitching staff. They had Pedro and Kurt Schilling. All we was doing was eliminating them by beating them the first two games, and they would never be able to go back to them. So that was our mindset, but the way that series played out, you know, we just got off to a bad start on the mound. And we couldn't recover.

SWEENY MURTI: Sheff, you're full of great stories. I hope we'll get a chance to share some more, again, one day, but I want to thank you for taking some time out here. Thanks for joining us on Bronx Backstories. I'm Sweeny Murti.