The Richie Sexson problem

Trading the big first baseman at any cost would at least free up a roster spot for someone batting better than .199.
Trading the big first baseman at any cost would at least free up a roster spot for someone batting better than .199.

"Not only is the food lousy, but the portions are small." It isn't clear whether any pro or amateur restaurant critic ever actually expressed such splendid nonsense, but this much is true: About two weeks ago, winnowing some of the local Seattle Mariners-oriented blog chaff, one could glean an edible kernel of wheat from the following: "You want to trade the home-run leader? A guy who is on pace to knock in 100 runs and hit 30 home runs? Besides, who would want him?" Gracie Allen explaining it to George Burns couldn't have stated the non sequitur any better. The blog reference was to a proverbial 800-pound gorilla, a specimen members of the M's management team don't seem to acknowledge much in public as the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline approaches for major-league teams. The behemoth's name is Richie Sexson. As the M's headed for Toronto to play three with the Blue Jays starting Friday, July 20, Big Richie was still hitting little. His batting average was .199. He was neither on a pace to hit 30 long balls nor drive in 100 runs (more like 26 and 86, based on performance per total games this season). Perhaps the best that could be said about him was that, while his offensive portions were small, at least the flavor of his defense at first base was not lousy. He remains, then, literally and figuratively, management's largest problem. Even by the standards of big-league sports, the $15.5 million Sexson is banking this season makes little sense to anybody but kindred spirits of Gracie Allen. The M's ledger-keepers admirably locked up Ichiro for five years at something like $90 million. Think about the better bargain, you armchair general managers: Ichie for $18 million a year or Richie for $15.5 million? It brings us back to the rhetorical question raised by our anonymous correspondent in blog-land, to wit: "Besides, who would want [Sexson]?" Baseball execs are of two kinds this time of year. They're buyers hoping to deal for a guy or three who can help get them into October. Or they're sellers wishing to ditch stiffs because it's clear the 2007 baseball playoffs have eluded them. Is Richie really a stiff? Wednesday's home finale, in which the M's outlasted Baltimore 6-5, leaving Seattle at 53-39 and just a game and a half behind the Los Angeles Angels, featured a telling bottom-of-third inning. Ben Broussard (he's the no-brainer potential sub for Sexson) was playing left field, spelling Raul Ibanez. Broussard smacked a single into right before Adrian Beltre hammered a mirror-image shot to left. Sexson went typically shallow into his pitch count, then tapped into a double play. Not hitting is one thing; doubling up a runner is like playing for the other team. So the questions again: Who would want Richie and what would the M's have to give to get rid of him? Answers: Nobody and a lot of his salary, probably. It's difficult to imagine a pre-deadline transaction in which the M's, in a Sexson "trade," could get anything in the way of a warm body to help the club. On the other hand, losing Sexson at least frees an immediate roster spot (and Tacoma's productive outfielder Adam Jones is just the name to claim it). In addition to Broussard, the M's have at least three guys besides Sexson who could play first base every day. But think about the advantage of having Broussard in the line-up. In the fifth, the left-hander launched a home run deep into the right-field seats; as a point of comparison, Sexson then whiffed at two pitches before tapping out to second. He struck out in the eighth with the bases loaded. Oh, yeah, and Adam Jones? He was five for five with three RBI Tuesday, a home run shy of the cycle as the Tacoma Rainiers beat Salt Lake City 12-6. Sounds pretty appetizing; good portions, too.


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