Boo Sheffield if you must, but at least have a reason for it

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In yesterday’s recaps
I wondered whether it was time for Brewers fans to finally stop booing
Gary Sheffield. Almost everyone that responded disagreed, noting that
Sheffield is a special case inasmuch as his alleged tanking in
Milwaukee was way worse than your usual knucklehead behavior. I guess I
understand that. And, as The Star-Ledger’s Brian Costa notes, it’s not like Brewers fans are alone:

Sheffield has been booed loudly in several stadiums this season, a
constant reminder of the bad will he has left behind in cities where he
once played.

Eighteen years have passed since Sheffield last played for the
Brewers, longer than Brett Favre’s entire tenure in Green Bay, yet he
is still treated like a public enemy here. Only a day off Wednesday
spared him from more boos . . . But Brewers fans still remember. So do
Braves fans, who booed Sheffield at Turner Field. And Dodgers fans, who
booed him at Dodger Stadium.

So I understand why he is booed in Milwaukee, and I understand Los
Angeles too — he publicly bad-mouthed the front office and kept
demanding to be traded while playing for the Dodgers — but I don’t get
the booing in Atlanta.

The Braves traded for him in January 2002. The guys they gave up:
Brian Jordan, Odalis Perez, and Andrew Brown — did nothing after
leaving to make Braves fans regret the trade (Jordan was popular in
Atlanta, but not THAT popular). Sheffield, on the other hand, was
spectacular in Atlanta: in 2002 he hit .307/.404/.512 and in 2003 he
was even better: .330/.419/.604. I recall no incidents of him mouthing
off like he did elsewhere. He even had a little cheering section of
guys who wore chef hats and stuff. When he left, it wasn’t because he
demanded to leave. He simply became a free agent and the Yankees, as
they tend to do, offered far more than the Braves were willing to
offer.

It’s possible that I’m just forgetting some big incident, but short
of that, the only possible explanation I have for booing in Atlanta was
that, years later, it was revealed that Sheffield used steroids, likely
when he played for the Braves. But that doesn’t make much sense either
because Braves fans have never really gone out of their way to boo
Mitchell Report players not named Barry Bonds, let alone ones that
played in Atlanta. They kind of don’t care about anything, really,
which is sometimes good and sometimes bad.

Either way, though, it makes me wonder why they booed Sheff. Inertia? Bad day at the office? Anyone have any other ideas?

Young Blue Jays say they aren’t intimidated by top seed Rays

Blue Jays roster and schedule
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) When the Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays opened the pandemic-delayed season a little over two months ago, there was little to indicate the AL East rivals might meet again to begin the playoffs.

While the Rays launched the truncated 60-game schedule with expectations of making a strong bid for their first division title in a decade, the Blue Jays generally were viewed as an immensely talented young team still years away from postseason contention.

Tampa Bay didn’t disappoint, shrugging off a slow start to go a league-best 40-20 and claim the No. 1 seed in the AL playoffs that begin Tuesday.

Lefty Blake Snell, who’ll start Game 1 of the best-of-three wild-card series against Toronto at Tropicana Field, also isn’t surprised that the eighth-seeded Blue Jays earned a spot, too.

The Rays won six of 10 games between the teams during the regular season, but were outscored 48-44 and outhomered 17-11.

And while Toronto (32-28) lacks the playoff experience Tampa Bay gained last season when the Rays beat Oakland in the AL wild-card game before falling to Houston in the divisional round, the Blue Jays are building with exciting young players such as Cavan Biggio, Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

“They’ve got a lot of young guys who can ball over there,” Snell said. “It’s going to be fun to compete and see how we do.”

Rays defensive whiz Kevin Kiermaier said Tampa Bay, in the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the second time franchise history, will not take the Blue Jays lightly.

“We know we’re playing a real good team,” Kiermaier said. “It’s not going to be easy, regardless of what a team is seeded.”

The Blue Jays, who’ll start right-hander Matt Shoemaker, aren’t conceding anything.

Bichette said he and his teammates respect how good Tampa Bay is, but are not intimidated by facing the No. 1 seed.

“I would say that we didn’t care who we played. I would say that we didn’t mind playing Tampa, that’s for sure. We’re familiar with them. We’ve played them well,” Bichette said.

“I think we’re confident in our ability against them. Our talent matches up well,” Bichette added. “We think if we play well we’ve got a good chance.”

NO FANS

The stands at Tropicana Field will be empty, leaving players to wonder what the atmosphere will be like for the playoffs.

Tampa Bay routinely rank at or near the bottom of the majors in attendance, but usually pack the stands in the domed stadium during the postseason.

“It will be different,” Bichette said. “Normally when you think of your first postseason you think 40,000, you think about not being able to think it’s so loud, stuff like that.”

The Blue Jays open the playoffs near where they hold spring training in Dunedin, Florida. It’s been a winding road for Toronto, which played its home games in Buffalo, New York, at the site of its Triple-A affiliate after the Canadian government barred the Blue Jays from hosting games at their own stadium because of coronavirus concerns.

CONFIDENT RAYS

Tampa Bay’s five-game loss to Houston in last year’s divisional round was a source of motivation during the regular season.

“It definitely lit a fire under everybody. It really showed us we belong. … We gave them a tough series,” second baseman Brandon Lowe said.

“We won the wild-card game. We belong in the postseason. I think that did a lot for us to understand that we should be in the postseason and we can go a lot farther. We know what to expect this time around. I think everyone in our clubhouse expects to be playing until the end of October,” he said.

CLOSE FRIENDS

Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash has the Rays in the playoffs for the second time. His close friend and former Rays third base and bench coach Charlie Montoyo is in his second year as manager of the Blue Jays, who last made the playoffs in 2016.

“Pretty special,” Cash said of his relationship with Montoyo.

“I really learned a lot from him being around him. The way he carried himself. His hand print is throughout this organization,” Cash added. “A pretty big impact and a positive one. … When they clinched I talked to him, we face-timed at 1:30 in the morning. I’m so happy for him.”