NEW YORK -- Gary Sheffield said he's being blocked by "middle men" from speaking with Yankees owner George Steinbrenner about his desire to stay in New York and will comply with the team's request to form a list of clubs he'd prefer to be traded to.
New York exercised Sheffield's $13 million option last weekend, preventing him from becoming a free agent. The Yankees acquired right fielder Bobby Abreu in July while Sheffield was injured and appear to be preparing to trade Sheffield before next season.
Talking with reporters at the opening of the Brooklyn Diner's Times Square location, Sheffield said that if he's traded, Alex Rodriguez would lose his only sounding board on the team. Sheffield also said Abreu wasn't as good a player as he was.
"My situation, honestly, the truth about it, I never was comfortable," Sheffield said. "I was always feeling a little insecure about where I fit here and where I belonged, or do they want me here? And I had to play on those terms, and I was being a man about it and going out and trying to do my job under the conditions."
Sheffield joined the Yankees before the 2004 season, personally negotiating a $39 million, three-year contract with Steinbrenner, his Tampa-area neighbor.
Steinbrenner has cut back on his public involvement with the team, and the 76-year-old owner fainted Oct. 29, the second time he collapsed in public in three years. Sheffield said he didn't speak with Steinbrenner "just because of his health."
"If it wasn't for his health, I'd have made that conversation happen, but my situation ain't worth that to me," Sheffield said, adding that "you've got middle men blocking him. ... They get in the way and their personal feelings get in the way."
Sheffield wouldn't identify the people he was referring to. Reached later, general manager Brian Cashman declined comment.
Sheffield, who turns 38 on Nov. 18, had 36 homers and 121 RBI in his first season with the Yankees and then had 34 homers and 123 RBI the following year. But he injured his wrist April 29 in a collision at first base with Toronto's Shea Hillenbrand, had surgery June 13 and didn't return until Sept. 22, when the Yankees shifted him to first base for the remainder of the season.
Sheffield doesn't have a no-trade clause and he doesn't understand why the Yankees appear to prefer the 32-year-old Abreu in right field.
"He's a good player, but like I say, you can draw it up any kind of way, he ain't me, and that's the bottom line," Sheffield said. "I understood them having to make this move for the remainder of the season but ... I always was told that you leave because somebody's better than you, and I don't think that's the case here."
Sheffield also said that dropping Rodriguez to sixth and then to eighth in the batting order messed with his head.
"Knowing him, yes it did," Sheffield said.
If Sheffield is dealt, he thinks A-Rod will lose the only teammate in the Yankees' clubhouse that he could bounce ideas off.
"He might as well get ready," Sheffield said. "There's nobody."
He defended Steinbrenner's initial decision to sign him, made without Cashman's participation.
"Everybody knows when they go out and make moves, they make moves based on who's hot at the time or who's the top free agent. Who's this or who's that? But at the same time, you look at all the moves they made and you look at the move they made with me, that George made, which ones panned out?" Sheffield said.
"I've produced ever since I got here. If it wasn't for me the first year, in 2004, we wouldn't have made the playoffs. I went out and put up big numbers against Boston for us to win that division. ... It wasn't some mystery man. It was myself," he said.
Sheffield expected the Yankees to exercise his option because he knew they didn't want him to sign with Boston or another rival.
"Everybody knows when I go to another team, I'm coming back looking for you. That's just the way it is," he said. "The Dodgers, that happened. The Marlins, it happened. When you let me go, I've got a chip on my shoulder, and I'm coming with it. That's how I play the game."
"Obviously, we would like to go play somewhere where we're comfortable and people we're surrounded with that we know," he said. "Obviously, those couple places, I do know those guys. Hopefully, something will work out for the better."
Sheffield, a nine-time All-Star, wants to play three more seasons. But if he's traded to a last-place team, he said he would retire. He would consider becoming a full-time first baseman if the Yankees told him he would be there for at least two years.
In retrospect, he said he rushed back from the wrist injury. He caught underhand at first base because his wrist hurt when he tried to catch throws normally.
"Nobody in the history of the game tried what I just tried," he said. "We're talking about on the biggest stage, in New York, playing out of position and asked to hit fourth for the New York Yankees. I mean, that's never been done."
Sheffield was pleased his uncle, former Yankees and Mets star Dwight Gooden, is due to be released from prison Thursday. Gooden will have served about seven months for violating his probation by using cocaine.
His advice to Gooden was to "just stay away from the wrong crowd. I made that choice and he has to make the same choice."
Sheffield, stopping in New York en route to Tampa following a Las Vegas vacation, received a $25,000 check for his foundation during the ceremony. Former Mets closer John Franco also accepted a check for his own foundation as "Sopranos" star Lorraine Bracco looked on from the crowd.