Sheffield: 'I know who the leader is on the team'

TORONTO -- Gary Sheffield knows who leads the New York Yankees, and it apparently isn't Derek Jeter or Alex Rodriguez.

Sheffield all but appointed himself the Yankees' most valuable player in an interview with New York magazine, accusing reporters of distorting the truth and ruining team chemistry.

"I know who the leader is on the team," Sheffield told the magazine. "I ain't going to say who it is, but I know who it is. I know who the team feeds off. I know who the opposing team comes in knowing they have to defend to stop the Yankees.

"I know this. The people don't know. Why? The media don't want them to know. They want to promote two players in a positive light, and everyone else is garbage," he said.

Sheffield said Friday in Toronto that Jeter is not the leader.

"Jeter is our captain. He's not the leader. He's the captain," Sheffield said.

Sheffield, however, said the magazine writer made up things to "juice the story." He said he had an assistant with him to make sure the interview stayed positive.

"It's typical. That's the life of being me," Sheffield said. "It's tough for me to do interviews when people have pens that have motives. It was supposed to be a positive interview."

"New York magazine stands 100 percent behind Stephen Rodrick's story. Mr. Sheffield's statements are on audio tape," said Serena Torrey, spokesperson for the magazine.

Sheffield called and talked to Jeter about the article after hearing about it from his assistant. He said he couldn't get in touch with Rodriguez.

He also said he doesn't have to boast about himself.

"I don't have to speak about me. My numbers speak for me," Sheffield said.

Jeter said he has a good relationship with Sheffield and that the article doesn't change anything.

"From what I understand he never mentioned my name," Jeter said. "My name was brought into it, but it never came out of his mouth."

Rodriguez said this was bound to happen.

"Every family has issues. When you think about what happens in other clubhouses this is quite trivial," Rodriguez said. "I love Gary and in the course of eight months if family are not going to say things that they regret or think from the hip it's not real."

Manager Joe Torre said he would talk to Sheffield.

"Shef has never been shy about voicing his opinion on anything," Torre said. "I've had some casual conversations with a couple of players about it and nobody seemed out of joint about it."

Torre said he's used to distractions.

Sheffield was batting .302 this season entering Friday night's game against Toronto, a percentage point behind Jeter and well behind Rodriguez's team-leading .316.

Rodriguez also leads in home runs (30) and RBI (85). Sheffield's 21 homers and 81 RBI are tied for second in both categories.

Sheffield said in the article that the heavy scrutiny that goes with playing in New York inhibits friendships in the locker room.

"This is the first team I've been on where no one sits at their locker," he said. "It's where you build your chemistry, just talking about life. I'm used to having six chairs around me, but here if there are six chairs, then there's going to be 20 reporters."

Even if the clubhouse were less hectic, Sheffield said he wouldn't grow too close to any teammates.

"I don't trust that many people," he told the magazine. "Just my mother and my wife and a couple of friends. When I trust people, it doesn't end well."

Sheffield, however, said Friday that he trusts Jeter and Rodriguez more than any two players in baseball

"Not just on this team but in all of baseball," Sheffield said.

Sheffield was never known for his congeniality during tumultuous stops in Milwaukee and Los Angeles. He blamed the media for his reputation.

"It happens because you're white and I'm black," Sheffield told the magazine. "My interpretation of things is different. You don't see it the way I see it. You write how you understand it, how you would articulate it, not how I, as a black man, would articulate it."