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July 14, 2007 at 5:51 PM

Waiting on Sexson

Boy, I wish I’d read the Miami Herald today before going on John Clayton’s radio show on KJR and talking up Dontrelle Willis. Not much friendly trade negotiating is going to happen between the Florida Marlins and Mariners after this gem of a quote from Mariners GM Bill Bavasi:
“My mother always taught me that if the only thing you have to say is `[expletive] David Samson,’ you shouldn’t say anything at all. So I’m not going to say anything at all.”
Yes, much to the chagrin of baseball fans in at least two countries, Samson is still president of the Marlins, the team Willis pitches for. Throw in Adam Jones in a deal, though, and I bet Samson would get over the insult. Believe me, he’s heard worse.
So, I should start this post off by clarifying something I wrote in today’s newspaper edition, as some of you have pointed out. Yes, Washington does indeed have a sales tax. A rather hefty one at that, as I was reminded of constantly this afternoon on a shopping expedition. It’s a state income tax we don’t have and which escalates the “total value” of Ichiro’s deal, compared to players elsewhere. Sorry.
By the way, Ryan Feierabend was optioned back to Class AAA Tacoma today. Jake Woods is now up. Might as well have an arm up here you can use out of the bullpen if you have to. Feierabend wasn’t going to do anything but start, and he isn’t doing that for Seattle any more. Not after his more recent outings, including the one in Oakland.
Here’s another reason to hate the Yankees. As if you needed another. Injured guy is from Kirkland and didn’t even get an apology. Pathetic behavior.
Now, let’s get on to a topic many of you have been writing me about. Why did new manager John McLaren pinch-hit for Jose Lopez in the ninth inning instead of Richie Sexson? Yes, I know Sexson is a .200 hitter right now. I also know that he is mired in an 0-for-16 slump. But let’s all get this straight. As long as McLaren continues to pencil Sexson’s name in the middle of the order, at the No. 5 spot as he most often has, there is no chance he will be pinch-hit for in the ninth.
It’s really very logical. If you believe in Sexson enough to keep putting him in the heart of the order, then you have to believe in him to deliver in key situations late in the game. It’s that simple. No mystery to it. If you don’t believe he can deliver in the “clutch” or produce from the RBI spots, then you bump him further back down in the order — say, to the No. 7 spot. Once you do that, then you can think about pinch-hitting for him instead of your No. 9 hitter late in a game.
But to do otherwise would be putting the cart before the proverbial horse.
It doesn’t matter that many of you despise Sexson and think the team would have had a better chance had Ben Broussard hit for Sexson to lead off and Jose Lopez been allowed to bat with two on and two out against Todd Jones. If McLaren pulls Sexson in that situation, it means he’s been lying to himself every time he fills out that lineup card with Sexson batting fifth. You either believe in a guy, or you don’t.
Based on Sexson’s history, everyone associated with the team — and who signed off on his millions — is praying that he reverts to his second-half form. You all know this and I’m not going to pretend to be educating you about something here. Is there a drop-dead date for Sexson to start hitting the ball the way he did last season? I’m sure there is. My own patience would have run out at the All-Star Break but I am not running the team and do not pretend to know the game better than McLaren, or Bill Bavasi for that matter.
They are hanging in there, crossing their fingers. But I would think these next two weeks — at least until the end of that road trip coming up, with the double-header in Texas — will be about players showing what they have to offer this team. Jose Vidro has notched four hits in two games since the All-Star Break and has a pair of doubles in his last handful of outings. That’s more in-line with what the team expects from a DH. It doesn’t expect a guy to have nine doubles going in to the final series before the break, as Vidro did. If he keeps producing as he’s done since — ever since the calls for Adam Jones to replace him have intensified — maybe the team has to re-evaluate his future. Maybe we all do. This is about getting the best nine guys in the lineup, day-in and day-out. Not about massaging egos.
So, Vidro and Sexson have a whole lot to show these next few weeks if they want to keep being used as they’ve been. In Vidro’s case, as an everyday DH. In Sexson’s case, as a middle-of-the-order hitter and everyday first baseman. I just can’t see how this team would justify keeping him as a .200 hitter well into August when it is allegedly trying to contend for the post-season. Personally, I think this team’s chances of making the playoffs depend on Sexson finding that second-half switch a lot quicker than he has so far. I don’t like this team’s chances any better if Broussard becomes the primary first baseman and a No. 5 hitter. I really don’t. Neither do Bavasi and McLaren, I guarantee you.
And so they wait. And they wait. Wait for the miracle that happens every year. Why do they wait, especially if they realize the addition of even a lukewarm Broussard could be better than an ice-cold Sexson? I’ll tell you why, as I have in the preceding paragraphs. They realize Broussard does offer instant improvement over what they now have. Trouble is, that improvement likely won’t be enough over the long haul. They need the real Sexson to show up. If he doesn’t, it could be a very long August and September.
A very long winter as well.



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