August dawned auspiciously for General Manager Bill Bavasi, who, as usual, seemed to be doing as little as possible. His Seattle Mariners had just taken consecutive series from division rivals Oakland and Los Angeles, the Seattle club suddenly primed for three sell-out home games with the American League-leading Boston Red Sox. Bavasi's off-field responsibilities had been resolved as neatly as a night's worth of Seinfeld reruns:
- Field boss Mike Hargrove, invoking that ol' alibi from his natal Texas (well, Paris, Texas), had cited simple ennui as reason to sing "Happy Trails" at midseason.
- Some had believed that Grover's retirement had something to do with giving the M's a better shot at a timely re-signing of Ichiro Suzuki, who was said to be less than enamored with Mild Mike. In any case, the Hargrove departure led to the nearly immediate re-contracting of the mega-star, now, heaven help him, something of a Seattle Mariner for life (and the way Ich takes care of himself that could literally be the case).
- The July 31 trading deadline was made so easy for Bavasi that it's doubtful even the hapless boss from the Dilbert strip could have screwed it up. Nothing was available that the Mariners needed or could afford. Standing pat was a no-brainer, thus perfect for the M's front office. In retrospect, M's execs seem to have had just one goal: dumping Julio Mateo from the organization and, with him, perhaps, would go fan memories of the otherwise solid pitcher's alleged domestic violence. One wonders whether Bavasi actually even negotiated for compensation for the Philadelphia-bound Mateo. (Seattle is thought to have received a shortstop who, if not quite American League-caliber, at least could play for many American Legion teams.)
All of the above happened without Bavasi needing to do much more than get out of the way and watch. He's still watching as the new field boss, John McLaren, figures out how to take the team into October.
Some of the McManager's figurin' became apparent on Wednesday, Aug. 1. That night, as the M's tried unsuccessfully for 12 innings to give away a game to the Angels, McLaren went with Ben Broussard at first base. McLaren and others later conceded that the move wasn't just due to Broussard's past success against the L.A. starter. It also was an acknowledgment that Richie Sexson probably wouldn't be the team's everyday first-sacker anymore. At best, Rightie Richie would platoon with Lefty Benny, as was the case, unwittingly, that very game. To a low chorus of seventh-inning boos, Sexson enterered the fray for Broussard. Presumably it was to pinch-hit, but, as Sexson had managed just a .165 average during July, it proved to be to pinch-whiff. Broussard (.288) had been one-for-three with an RBI and a nifty pick-up at first. Richie was zip for three and was "hitting" .198 to start the Friday, Aug. 3, Red Sox game.
Some (present company included) have been accused of kicking poor Richie when he's down. Those worried about Sexson's tender sensibilities are advised to read the three-thumbs-down critique he recently has been heaping upon his own '07 performance.
The latest key development for the M's presents another passive occasion for G.M. Bavasi. It has to do with the calling up from Tacoma of the organization's minor-league franchise player, Adam Jones. The outfielder (the Aug. 1 call-up was his 22nd-birthday gift from the M's) clearly has nothing left to prove at the triple-A level. The challenge will be to find a way to cram him into a lineup long on outfielders. McLaren could move Raul Ibanez to designated hitter and stick Jones in left. One problem: Ibanez wants to be a position player.
Yes, but it's McLaren's problem, not Bavasi's. Meanwhile, the 59-47 M's are three back of the Angels and near the top of the wild-card stack. They have glaring problems, with inconsistent starting pitching nearly of blinding intensity. Normally such a shortcoming would be critical for a club at this stage of a still-competitive season. On the other hand, the M's have had success so far by just sort of letting the various problems solve themselves. Maybe, then, Bill Bavasi ought to keep doing as little as possible. That way he might even wind up winning the award for American League executive of the year.