Gary Sheffield on retirement, pitchers and key to the Giants' success
SI.com has asked several athletes to share their thoughts on life after baseball and the game as they see it now. First up: Gary Sheffield, who hit 509 home runs during 22 major league seasons with eight teams before retiring after the 2009 season. Sheffield worked this postseason as an analyst for TBS.
I love broadcasting. I was playing in a Lake Tahoe golf tournament a couple years ago, and talent finders asked me if I'd ever thought about doing TV. I told them I had been approached by ESPN five days after I retired, but I didn't do it because I wanted to relax for two years. I did postseason shows for TBS in 2013 and then I was in the studio again this year.
When you audition, they want to see how you talk on TV and how you interact with other people. People probably didn't think [TBS colleague] Pedro [Martinez] and I would mesh together -- I didn't either -- but the chemistry was there and the public loves it. Pedro's very knowledgeable about baseball, and I played 22 years myself and I have a lot of information to give. A lot of times in our meetings we share that information, and people are amazed by our accuracy.
It's the small things you have to work on in broadcasting: You have to hear yourself, and not just talk to be talking. Sometimes you’re going to mess up and say something that doesn't come out right, but that's just part of talking every day. You've just got to be able to go on if you get tongue-tied.
I predicted the Giants would be in the World Series, so I'm less surprised by what happened than a lot of people. I did say I would like to see the Dodgers and the Angels have a West Coast series -- the Angels had the best record, and the Dodgers went out and spent all this money to bring all these players in, so it would have made a great story. But you see how much it takes for a team to get to that next level. And so it wound up being the two teams that were supposed to get there.
The game is different [now]. Every time you look up at the Jumbotron, someone is throwing 97 mph. Those pitchers aren't asked to go out and throw six or seven innings and throw 92 mph and be a pitcher. They can get you out one time, but they're not asked to go around the lineup, every hitter, two or three times. You become a different pitcher when you can throw 97 out of the bullpen and don't have the stuff to back it up -- if you throw 97 you can get away with a lot of bad stuff.
The Giants, though, can hit ace stuff. No matter who they face, they can put the ball in play and create runs, either by playing small ball or by hitting it out of the park. I felt that they would give the Royals more of a problem, because it would be hard for Kansas City's staff to get the ball to the sixth inning. And K.C. relied on doing that. The Royals had to create four or five runs playing small ball against a Giants team that's fundamentally sound, that could play defense just as well, could hit just as well and could pitch better.