While the trio of Johan Santana, J.J. Putz and Francisco Rodriguez combined on a 6-hit, shutout of Milwaukee this afternoon, there’s an highlight from the Mets’ come-from-behind, 5-4 win Friday night that’s stuck in the craw of the New York Daily News’ Fillip Bondy. Of Mets fans’ rapturous reaction to Gary Sheffield’s 500th career HR, Bondy sneers, “you don’t turn your back on history, even if it is a bit tainted.”
“Everything happens for a reason,” Sheffield would say. “There’s a reason I hit 19 homers instead of 20 last year. Doing it on the biggest stage, it makes it that much more special to me.” Then he talked a bit piously about “a higher purpose” and “a bigger reason.”
Sheffield is only the 25th player to enter the 500 Club, the fourth oldest, yet his accomplishment deserves one of the larger asterisks handed out in the steroid era. His election to the Hall of Fame is far from assured, despite this statistical feat. Sheffield has admitted to using a performance-enhancing cream back in 2001 while claiming he had no idea at the time about its chemical makeup or potency. He is named in the Mitchell Report.
His narrative on that subject is about as believable as the tales we have been hearing from Marion Jones and Barry Bonds all these years. Friday night, no reporter was going to bother Sheffield about such things when the slugger showed up at the postgame press conference with two children on his knees and his wife at his side. And again, if you think the crowd at Citi Field cared in the least about any of this in the seventh inning, down a run, then you don’t know much about baseball fans. They’d cheer the cream itself, right there in the container, if they thought it could win them a pennant.