I’ve been waiting a long time to write my definitive Hate Letter to this guy. A LONG time.
First of all, let me take you back. For a 4-year run, from 2000-2003, we were one of the best teams in all of baseball (in the regular season). We averaged well over 90 wins (including our infamous 116 in 2001), but we only made the playoffs twice. In ’02 and ’03, in spite of our 93 wins each year, we were not only edged out of the division title by those do-nothing A’s (who would get fire-hot every year down the stretch only to falter in the post-season), but also edged out of the wild card. All of this in spite of the fact that our team was pretty much the same as that 116-win juggernaut.
Well, in 2004, we let it ride with pretty much the same roster one too many times and came up double-zero. We dropped 30 games (down to 63 wins and last in the AL West) and proceeded to lose the core of our team (Edgar, Dan, and John Olerud) to retirement because they all just fell off the globe in the same season.
But, with only one season removed from winning 90+, it wasn’t unreasonable to think, with a little infusion of talent, this team could be right back contending for division titles.
Now, was it simply a coincidence that Bill Bavasi’s first year as the Mariners GM coincided with a 30-game drop in record from Pat Gillick’s nearly flawless reign from 1999-2003? Mmm, ok, I’ll bite. Let’s just leave that one to a freak occurrence. Nevertheless, it doesn’t change the fact that somehow – after such a massively disappointing start – he got ownership to increase payroll leaps and bounds over what it ever was with Gillick.
And with that newfound loot, he went out and made two huge splashes in the free agent market. Adrian Beltre – who was a 20-homer, .260 type of guy until his monster ’04 saw his numbers skyrocket to 48 homers and .334 – and of course, Richie Sexson.
As interesting as it sounds, after the 2005 season, most Mariners fans were pretty high on Sexson and VERY down on our new third baseman. Beltre’s numbers immediately returned to his pre-’04 norm (19 homers, .255 BA), and all of us lamented how we’d been duped by a guy who turned an immortal contract year into a 5-season deal worth multiple millions of dollars. Of course, by the end of that deal, we all came to grudgingly respect Adrian Beltre’s toughness, leadership, and amazing defensive skills.
Can’t say the same for the other guy.
Richie Sexson, to his credit, came back to pull off a solid 2006 season as well. His numbers through two years of his 4-year deal were thus: 73 homers, 76 doubles, 228 RBI, and a .263 batting average (with about a .355 on-base percentage).
We should’ve probably seen 2007 coming, though. Because it was in 2006 where Sexson came out of the gates in the slump of all slumps. It took a red-hot second half for him to get his numbers back to his career norms. Regardless, 2007 came, and with it the demise of Richie Sexson. I remember it vividly because on my old site I started a campaign to get Richie Sexson out of my life. Fat lot of good it did, but by May of 2007, I’d officially had enough.
What’s worse: we still had one more season of Richie Sexson under contract. His 21-homer, .205 2007 was followed up by 11 homers and .218 before FINALLY, after 74 games played in 2008, we cut his sorry ass.
The question I have to ask is: Why did I hate Sexson so much?
Truth be told, around that time I was a big fan of those kinds of players. The Jay Buhner types. Guys who mash the hell out of the ball, hit 40 homers and 120 RBI, maybe strike out 120 times and bat only .260. I’d grown up with that (well, not really, but I’d seen it a lot from ’95 thru ’05). The only problem with those types is: when their skills start to decline, they’re some of the worst baseball players in the world. Their bat speed slows down, so they can’t catch up to the fastball they used to kill; they still get fooled on the nasty breaking stuff; they start out slow and begin pressing, thereby compounding their ineptitude; until finally everything is either a strike out, a double-play, or what used to be a homer but is now caught at the warning track.
And, not for nothin’, but those types – especially if they’re right handed – don’t really do well in Safeco Field. Love it or hate it, Safeco is our home and we need players who play to its strengths; something Bill Bavasi never understood.
I know he’s a person with feelings, I know he didn’t MEAN to suck those last two years, but when you make the kind of money he made and produce so little in the box score, I’m sorry, but you get to face the wrath of the fans. In print, online, and via the boo-birds in your home stadium. When you have $50 million guaranteed (from the Mariners alone, saying nothing of the teams before), you get to grow some thicker skin.
And also not for nothin’, but throwing your helmet at that pitcher (Kason Gabbard) who came up and in on you: kind of a bitch move.