Friday, August 10, 2007

Casey: Wilson Would Look Good As A Tiger; Sheff Remembers Everything

As the minutes dwindled before the 4 p.m. non-waiver trading deadline on July 31, one Tigers player wondered, for a moment, if he'd be reunited with a former teammate.

"I was watching TV and there was like eight minutes left and they said, 'Deal imminent to Detroit.' So I called Jack and said, 'Are you coming to Detroit?' He told me he didn't know; he was watching the same thing I was," first baseman Sean Casey told me yesterday.

So it was that Casey flirted with the idea of Pirates shortstop Jack Wilson joining him in Detroit for the stretch run, and maybe beyond. Casey and Wilson played with each other in Pittsburgh in 2006, before Casey was dealt to the Tigers at last year's deadline.

I suggested to Casey yesterday, before the Tigers' dud of a loss to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, that Wilson could still be a Tiger soon -- if he's able to clear waivers in a trade. Wilson would be insurance if the unthinkable happened to Carlos Guillen -- or at least to give Guillen a break. Casey, excited on July 31 about the prospect, still likes the idea of Wilson in a Tigers uniform.

"He's a great player, man," Casey said. "He's one of the best shortstops I've played with. He can flat out go get it. I think he'd be great here. He's a great player. I mean, he's with the Pirates now. I don't know. He's a good guy, he can hit. Good baseball player."

Wilson told a Pittsburgh newspaper that he would waive a no-trade clause to join the Tigers.

Wilson is "a great player ... he can flat out go get it," Casey says

"Anytime a contender shows interest, it's something to think about," Wilson said in the published piece about the Tigers. "I'm a Pirate and I hold that very dear, but ..."

He didn't have to finish that sentence -- not when you toil near the division basement and a first-place team (which the Tigers were at the time) is rumored to want you. Later, it was confirmed that Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski did indeed have talks with the Pirates about Wilson, who makes around $6-7 million per year.

As for himself, Casey -- also a guy who can hit -- spoke casually yet confidently about his season, although he's only hit three home runs in 2007.

"I've had seasons where I've hit a lot of home runs, and seasons where I've hit eight or nine," Casey said. "I hit a lot of balls to right center, and those aren't home runs (at Comerica Park)," he added with a big laugh.

"But I have 26 doubles and I feel like I'm swinging the bat pretty good," Casey says -- and he does have a .290+ average.

I asked him what his hitting approach is at Comerica Park, considering it's not all that friendly to guys who hit the ball in the gap who can't run real well.

"I just try to hit the ball hard somewhere. I don't really have a different approach here versus someplace else."

So you don't try to jack one out, if the situation calls for a homer?

"No. I've never done that my whole career, man," he says with laughter, "and I'm not going to start now!"

Will the congenial Casey, a.k.a. The Mayor for his back-slapping, happy-go-lucky demeanor, be joined by Jack Wilson before long in Detroit?

Something tells me that ship hasn't left the port yet.


A few weeks ago, in a column over at Out of Bounds, I wrote about Gary Sheffield's playing in the Junior League World Series in Taylor, back in 1982. I used to direct TV coverage of the games in my cable days (1986-93). And I recalled Sheffield's Tampa team winning the tourney as the South representative. The JLWS is for 13-year-olds, while the more popular Little League World Series (Williamsport, PA) is for 12-year-olds.

Yesterday I asked Sheff if he recalled that experience.

"I remember everything, man," he said with a grin.

He then proceeded to tell me what diamond he played on, where it faced, and on what side of the park it was on. This was 25 years ago.

Sheffield pitched and played infield in the JLWS.

Speaking of Tampa, was it worse to lose to the Devil Rays than, say, Cleveland or New York?

"Nope. Doesn't matter who we lose to. We have to play better. That's it."

Sheffield also said that he watched Barry Bonds's 756th home run as it happened, with his wife.

"I think it's great," he says of Bonds's accomplishment.

Does Sheffield think of 500 home runs, which he's approaching?

"Naww. That's just a number," he told me.

What about when you get to 499?

"Then I'll start swinging for the fence, to get it over with."


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