Richie Sexson during recent months had seemed about as welcome at Safeco Field as Pat O'Day at a frat kegger. The next time (if there is one) he shows up at the Safe, it will be in a different uniform, if not street clothes. The Seattle Mariners finally gave up on the one-time slugger Thursday, July 10, before a series finale at Oakland. The incredible shrinking Big Richie had spent much of the past two seasons hitting in the low-.200 range, kicking up Elliott Bay waves with his persistent whiffing at the plate. M's personnel acknowledged after the deed was done that it had been just a matter of time before team officials felt comfortable eating the remainder of the $15.5 million the southern Washington resident was owed this season.
The roster showed some other changes as the M's commenced the Thursday game. Erik Bedard, the lefty who likes to leave games early, was placed on the 15-day disabled list, even though he wasn't slated to throw again until after next week's All-Star Game break. Some bodies were brought up from the Tacoma triple-A club. One other move: Ichiro Suzuki, with a tight hamstring, sat for the first time this season, entering as a pinch-hitter in the eighth after the M's had scored the first run of a game they'd lose in 11 innings, 3-2, blowing a brilliant four-hit performance by knuckler R.A. Dickey.
The Sexson release is symbolic in that it assures fans that organizational change is ongoing. It's also odd in that, as April dawned, many imagined that Sexson would be the first to go. Instead, it was batting coach Jeff Pentland, followed by Bill Bavasi, the inept general manager, and skipper John McLaren (who infamously predicted that Sexson would earn 2008 American League Comeback Player of the Year laurels). Interim field boss Jim Riggleman indicated Thursday that he'd gotten a bad vibe from Sexson when the lanky first-baseman was excised from the line-up card before the Wednesday, July 9, tiff.
No one expects the M's to play stellar ball the rest of the season. Nor will Sexson likely have been the last to depart. As the July trade deadline approaches, several of the more productive Mariners could be swapped to contending clubs looking for pennant-drive role-players.
Earlier than usual, then, M's fans are left with having to be satisfied seeing their favorite players pad stats. Would Ichiro reach 200 hits yet again? Would Brandon Morrow (who blew his first '08 save opportunity Thursday) be pushed in as an experimental starter to see whether he could sustain his minuscule 1.23 earned-run average while pitching five innings or more at a time? Maybe the rookie catcher Jeff Clement would get to play regularly and raise the batting average to something better resembling what he accomplished in Tacoma. Perhaps Felix Hernandez would have the stellar second half that would establish him as the soon-to-be dominant righty in baseball.
Beyond that, there isn't likely to be much fan interest. At least spectators will be able to rest their voices for football season, because, with Sexson gone, there's no clear guy to boo anymore, not unless Pat O'Day wanders past a beer line.