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All-Time Marlins Countdown: Gary Sheffield

Gary Sheffield neither began nor ended his career with the Marlins, yet, he made a huge impact in parts of six seasons at the parent club level.

1997 World Series Game 2: Cleveland Indians v. Florida Marlins

We’ve finally reached the final 10!

This offseason, Fish Stripes has been going through all 630 players to have appeared at the major league level with the Florida and Miami Marlins. We’re deep into the final bracket, consisting of the 128 players to have accrued 800 or more plate appearances and/or batters faced while with the franchise. Today’s honoree, Gary Sheffield, totaled 13.2 bWAR while with the team, ranking 16th in raw value, but 10th on a per-plate appearance basis. For added context, yesterday’s player, Brian Anderson, averaged 0.00555 bWAR per plate appearance — Sheffield averaged 0.00560 — and tomorrow’s entrant, number nine on the list, clocked in at 0.00596.

10. Gary Sheffield

Gary Sheffield is a five-foot-11 left-side infielder/right fielder from Tampa, Florida. A right-handed batter and thrower, Sheffield was initially selected in the first round of the 1986 draft by the Milwaukee Brewers, with the sixth overall choice out of Hillsborough HS. He eventually played in 22 major league seasons.

Despite his selection straight out of high school, Sheffield made his major league debut with Milwaukee just two years, later, at the age of 19. Prior to the 1992 season, the Crew traded him to the San Diego Padres with Greg Kellogg for Ricky Bones, Matt Mieske, and Jose Valentin.

In 1992 and 1993, Sheffield made his first two National League All Star appearances for San Diego, and led the NL in 1992 with a .330 average and 323 total bases. On June 24, 1993, the Friars flipped him to the expansion Marlins with Rich Rodriguez for Andres Beruman, eventual Hall-of-Famer Trevor Hoffman, and Jose Martinez.

Sheffield started out his Marlins tenure with a 12-game hitting streak, going 15-for-44 with three homers and six RBI through the stretch. In 72 contests by the end of the campaign, he had slashed a .292/.378/.479 line with 10 dingers and 37 RBI, also stealing a dozen bases in 16 attempts.

The following two seasons, each slightly shortened by a work stoppage, would see Sheffield struggle to stay healthy. When he was, he was hard to stop. He hit .295/.416/.585 in 150 games between the two seasons, with 43 long-balls, 124 RBI, 31 stolen bases in 41 attempts, and maybe most impressively, 106 walks versus only 95 strikeouts.

The 1996 season would be the year that Sheffield put it all together. He made the NL All Star Team for the third time, and led the NL in OBP with a .314/.465/.624 slash line. He topped the circuit with a 189 OPS+ and with a 1.090 OPS. He led the Marlins with 161 games played, clubbed 42 home runs with 120 RBI, and drew 142 walks while striking out only 66 times. His BB/K ratio, well over two, is unlikely to be repeated in the near future. Sheffield also took home the NL Silver Slugger Award for right field.

In 1997, Sheffield appeared in 135 games for the eventual World Champion Marlins, although he regressed quite a bit at the plate. He slashed .250/.424/.446 with 21 homers and 71 RBI, but still managed an impressive 121/79 BB/SO split. He went on to hit .320 in the postseason, appearing in all 16 Marlins games. He hit a home run in each series, totaling seven RBI (five in the World Series). Sheffield drew 20 walks and struck out eight times in the playoffs.

Sheffield survived the initial selloff following the Marlins first title, but was traded away midway through May with Manuel Barrios, Bobby Bonilla, Jim Eisenreich, and Charles Johnson to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Mike Piazza and Todd Zeile.

It was a good thing that Sheffield was such an offensive weapon for Florida, because by all accounts he was a below average fielder. In 4,034 innings of work in right field, Sheffield was worth 55 runs below average, according to DRS. Despite that, he had a wicked strong arm, and racked up 35 assists from the nine.

Last year, Sheffield was a part of the inaugural Fish Stripes Hall of Fame Class. After leaving Florida, he played four seasons with the Dodgers, making two more All Star Teams. He then played two seasons for the Atlanta Braves, again making the All Star Team one more time. In 2004, he joined the New York Yankees for three seasons, and made the American League All Star Team twice, then flowed with two seasons for the Detroit Tigers and finally joined the New York Mets at the age of 40 in 2009.

Sheffield appeared in a total of 2,576 major league games, and hit an all-time MLB 26th 509 home runs with 1,676 RBI. The only ones ranked higher than Sheffield on the list who are not in the Hall of Fame are Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols (still active), Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, Manny Ramirez, and David Ortiz (not yet eligible). Nevertheless, Sheffield hasn’t been completely eliminated from the running, and received 40.6 percent of the vote in 2021, his seventh season of eligibility.