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August 13, 2007 at 11:09 PM

Give the man a hand; M’s win 4-3

Just got up from the clubhouse where a very humble sounding Richie Sexson spoke at length about the dramatic turnaround in the reception of fans towards him. Sexson of course, hit the game-winning home run off Matt Guerrier in the bottom of the ninth to give his team a 4-3 victory over the Minnesota Twins. Sexson had doubled home a pair of runs in the first inning as well, while striking out twice.
The first at-bat drew thunderous cheers, followed by two smattering of boos and then as loud an eruption of applause as we’ve heard all year at Safeco Field. What a week it’s been for Sexson and some of his struggling teammates, like Raul Ibanez. Jose Vidro has heard the boos this year, but he’s also turned his game around since early July and delivered three more hits tonight after committing that first inning error.
Sexson repeated his comments from the road about how he and teammates are mystified by some of the “little bit of a negative vibe” still lingering in the stands whenever his teammates make a mistake. Listen to that audio and the bulk of what he had to say right here.
Again, the audio is important because it puts context into the words Sexson said, shows his calm frame of mind and that he isn’t lashing out at anyone. Merely being curious and that’s OK because we like that on this blog. We like people who raise topics for debate without being a jerk about it. This is one of those times when quotes in a newspaper don’t do a story justice because Sexson was not being bitter about anything. Here’s a quote that backs that up:
“I’ve dug my own grave this year with the fans,” Sexson readily admitted. “I think they’re just booing me because they want me to be good. I don’t think it’s a stab against my personality or my work ethic or anything. They just want me to be good, so that’s the way it goes.”
But Sexson also raises a valid question worthy of further discussion. The booing of a team that is now 16 games over .500 for the first time in four years. You’ve all heard my take on booing home team players. I think the fans pay the freight and can do what they want. They are far worse in other cities.
The Sexson quotes tonight, however, take the debate down another path.
“It’s just a mystery, we don’t get it,” Sexson said, adding that he and his teammates have discussed the issue in the clubhouse. “That’s the thing. We don’t understand where it’s coming from because we’ve got a bunch of guys in here that bust their tails to win games.
“There’s going to be mistakes on the baseball field and I promise you, none of them are mental. They’re all physical mistakes. Guys are trying to play hard and sometimes things don’t go right.”
I’ll play the audio here. The question to Sexson was whether he and his teammates were bothered by the frequent booing of what has become a very good baseball team.
So, here’s the debate. Is it a good thing for the home team’s fans to be a little more critical? To demand more of their players, especially when there is something at stake? After all, why would Seattle fans bother to boo the last place team seen here the past three seasons? Who cares enough to waste energy doing that? But now, there is something at stake. Something worth expressing frustration over. I have a theory that this is what’s been happening to some Seattle players.
And it isn’t only Sexson. He’s taken the brunt of criticism so far, but is hardly alone. Raul Ibanez heard the boo-birds a couple of weeks ago. Vidro had them throughout the first half. John Parrish got a rough introduction to the Seattle crowd when his four-pitch walk and ensuing single allowed, resulted in a pair of seventh inning runs that tied the game and ended Felix Hernandez’s bid at a victory.
So, what do you think? Is my theory out to lunch? or is Sexson’s “mystery” solved? You tell me.
Hernandez pitched a great game after that 31-pitch first inning and deserved a better fate. He said he still felt strong enough to continue at 110 pitches, but McLaren wisely took him out.
I’ll tell you what, McLaren sure came out ahead on a lot of those moves he made tonight. Even the ones I didn’t always agree with. Willie Bloomquist looked great at third, Adam Jones got playing time and the bats of Sexson, Vidro and Ibanez delivered. J.J. Putz got the win. You have to hand it to the manager. His team is winning. Remember what Sexson was talking about — booing guys when they win? A lot of boos have been directed McLaren’s way online. Has he been perfect as a manager? Hardly. But the online booing seems to have grown the past week, even as McLaren has gone 6-1. Does Sexson have a valid point? Are fans being too critical, as opposed to too passive in the past? It’s a strong pendulum, to be sure. Here are McLaren’s post-game comments, mostly about Sexson and his endurance of the boos.
So, is the criticism justified? I wonder. I also wonder why fans in Boston and New York are applauded for being vigilant with good teams in those cities while Seattle fans are thrown into question for doing the same thing. Are the fans in those cities held to a higher standard than ours? Do they know more about the game?
Interesting subject raised by Sexson. Let’s tackle it.



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