By TIM BOOTH
The Associated Press
Friday, July 13, 2007; 11:13 PM
SEATTLE -- Detroit slugger Gary Sheffield had an idyllic view of the New York Yankees when he joined the team before the 2004 season. Sheffield also had a strong friendship and trust with Barry Bonds when he went to California and to train with the slugger one offseason. Those opinions quickly changed, and once again, Sheffield isn't shying away from sharing his thoughts.
The latest controversy surrounding Sheffield surfaced Friday, with comments he made to HBO's Real Sports, in an episode scheduled to air Tuesday night. Sheffield had strong words for Yankees' manager Joe Torre and shortstop Derek Jeter, as well as Bonds.
"They came to me, they asked me certain questions and whatever you ask me I'm going to answer," Sheffield said before Friday night's game in Seattle. "Whether you like it or not I'm going to answer."
Sheffield's strongest opinions were about the Yankees and Torre. Sheffield said Friday he felt disrespected from the time he arrived in New York, claiming early in his New York tenure that Torre said the Yankees should have instead acquired Vladimir Guerrero.
"When you're hearing that from your manager when you are out there busting your butt for him, that's disrespectful," Sheffield said. "But no one came to my defense to say it was disrespectful."
Sheffield claims black and white players in the Yankees clubhouse were treated differently, specifically how players Tony Womack and Kenny Lofton were handled by Torre. In the interview with HBO, Sheffield says the black players on the Yankees' roster would be "called out" in the clubhouse by Torre, while the white players would be called into Torre's office to discuss matters.
"I think it's a, a way of, the way they do things around there, you know," Sheffield told Real Sports. "They run their ship differently."
Sheffield's comments to HBO were first reported by Newsday. Before Friday night's game against Tampa Bay, Torre had little to say about Sheffield's comments.
"I just don't even want to answer those types of questions because I feel comfort not answering," Torre said.
In the visiting clubhouse at Safeco Field, Sheffield stood behind what he said to HBO _ that Torre is not a racist _ but also tried to clarify some statements. In the piece, when it was mentioned that the Yankees' most prominent player _ Derek Jeter _ is black, Sheffield quickly clarified that Jeter is "black and white."
When asked the significance of that, Sheffield said, "It's really no significance. It's just you ain't all the way black."
On Friday, Sheffield said he and the Yankees shortstop were best friends on the team, and that Sheffield's son is also of mixed race.
"They're trying to make it a problem with him, when my son is the same. I'd say the same thing about my son," Sheffield said. "No one knows he's black until they look at the back of his jersey and see 'Sheffield.'"
Jeter declined comment.
Sheffield also addressed his past relationship with San Francisco slugger Barry Bonds. The two spent an offseason working out together in California after Bonds hit his record 73 homers during the 2001 season.
Sheffield denied to HBO that he ever took steroids, but admitted to taking the "clear" and the "cream" _ two designer steroids created by BALCO. Sheffield said he didn't know they were steroids, claiming, "In a million years I don't care what nobody say. Steroids is something you shoot in your butt. You know, I do know that."
Sheffield told HBO he trusted Bonds, and said he felt himself being controlled by Bonds. But, Sheffield claimed, "if I took what Barry Bonds took, why don't I look like him?"
On Friday, Sheffield said he doesn't speak with Bonds.
"We don't have no communication," Sheffield said. "I love and respect Barry to this day. I had a problem with him at that time, but I moved on and forgave."
Sheffield is in his first season with the Tigers and leads the team with 21 homers and is hitting .309. The Tigers started Friday with a 1/2-game lead over Cleveland in the AL Central division. Manager Jim Leyland didn't anticipate Sheffield's comments being an issue.
"I don't care what he says," Leyland said. "He's a grown man."
And, as for the atmosphere in Detroit versus New York?
"It's totally different, because we don't see race," Sheffield said.
AP Sports Writer Fred Goodall in St. Petersburg, Fla. contributed to this report.