Wednesday, December 15, 2004

A Little Perspective...

Gee, what would an M's blog be without a post on the signing of Richie Sexson. How many angles can we really take on this? Exercising my democratic right of free speech (on a topic that shouldn't really upset the Homeland Security folks, I would hope), it's time to share my thoughts.

In reading all of what I have, there seems to be two major camps on this signing. There are people who are extremely thrilled (or at least relatively excited) to have Sexson, and there are those who are extremely ticked. I'm siding with Jeff Sullivan and the folks over at Leone For Third (and, I suppose, though less so, with Jeremy over at Sports & Bremertonians). What's done is done -- the ink is on the paper. No turning back now. We might as well try and find a positive perspective on all of this. There's got to be a larger reason why this huge contract was given to a player whose risk factor for significant DL time is quite high, right?

Here are a few things to ponder why this can be a positive move.

1) Contrary to popular belief, we do have a hole at first base.
  • Ibanez is an adequate LF with a good arm, and would be a nice fit at DH. They experimented with him at first towards the end of the season, and I honestly wasn't impressed with his defense.
  • Bucky, on the other hand, appeared fairly comfortable there, and I thought he played quite well, considering he'd spent most of his time at DH in Tacoma, and was playing with bum knees. Still, it was pretty much consensus that Bucky was going to inherit Edgar's DH crown.
  • Spiezio also spent time at 1B and was actually the best defensive 1B that I saw play. However, he was signed to cover third, and succumed to the quicksand pit that has been 3B in Seattle.
  • I won't but make mention of BoMel's Willie F. Bloomquist experiment at first. Yuck.

    Personally, I would've liked to have filled this hole with Delgado, but I give a HUGE edge defensively to Sexson. If I had the time to do what Bill James did and try to dig into the stats, I'd venture to guess that I could back up my gut feeling that a guy of his stature has a better chance of picking the ball out -- i.e. it's certainly nice to have a tall guy covering first. Now that we have Sexson, though, I'm hoping Delgado's out of the picture. Keep Ibanez in LF, and leave Sexson at first (though Sexson has never made an error in left). If we do sign Delgado, then there's a little bit of depth, including Bucky, in that there are 4 above-average-to-star players for 3 positions.
2) He adds credibility to our lineup.

How much he improves it singlehandedly is certainly a variable, and up for debate. Still, he does fit the mold of a player who intimidates pitchers at the plate, not just because he's big -- he's got a very solid track record of power and production. In 2004, he showed no signs of slowing down (9 HRs in 23 games; 23 RBIs and 20 Runs) before he went down. The biggest factor, of course, will be how long his shoulder holds out. Sure, he's an above-average risk to spend significant time on the DL, but the wonders of modern medicine and training regimens can certainly lower that risk. Even if he only returns back to 80-90%, those are some decent numbers he'll put up.

Several of us have equated him to Buhner (and I can probably take some credit for being one of the first to make this Buhner-esque comparison in the post-Sexson-signing M's blogosphere). That's a nice piece to have in your lineup. Delgado has been quoted as saying that he's encouraged by the M's signing Sexson. It would make Seattle more desirable for him. Not that I think we should continue our quest for a slugging first baseman, but still, there's a part of me that agrees with the KJR folks (and others) who say that in spite of the glut that it produces, Delgado's bat would fit nicely in Safeco.

3) Taken at face value, this hints at a few things the M's are willing to do:
  • Spend money. Lots of it.
  • Take HUGE risks. Sure, this could pan out to be a complete disaster, and is more likely to than other more calculated risks would be. Still, they've got the cash to play high-stakes poker.
  • Give out a contract longer than three years. I suppose you can count Ichiro!'s deal, too, before 2004. But I consider the Ichiro! thing with the M's a unique situation.

It's finally good to hear Lincoln practice what he preaches. For once, I'm starting to believe him. I'm pretty emotionally scarred by Lincoln's past sins to be too quick to forgive him, but I will give him a little credit for getting things moving. Furthering this, here's Howard's thoughts on this signing from an AP article on the Sexson deal:

Mariners chairman Howard Lincoln acknowledged that Sexson's contract represents "a heck of a lot of money." The deal should counter criticism in recent yearsthat Seattle wouldn't spend what was required to compete.

"We recognize that to get this team back into the playoffs as quickly as possible, we're going to have to spend significant amounts of money," Lincoln said. "We've made no secret of that.

"Right now, we're in the process of spending a lot of money -- and we're not done," he said.

Like I've said before, I'm not going to be quick to forgive Howard. There's a significant leap of faith he needs to take before I abolish my thoughts that he's a 'money-grubbing soulless leech'. Still, he has taken a step (whether it's forward or backward is still debatable), and we have to give him at least a little credit for that. Here's to hoping they spend A LOT more. Heaven knows, in spite of how they spin it, they are not hurting at all financially.

In summary, this deal's done, and there's now nothing we can do to prevent it. Let's welcome Sexson to town, and since the doctors that looked Omar over think that Sexson is OK, let's trust them for now and let Sexson prove he's worth the $50 million they just gave him. I'm fairly shell-shocked in both a good way and a bad way. It's either going to help push things over the hump for getting another big bat in, or it's going to be a complete disaster. I'm rooting for Sexson, for sure!

High stakes poker, indeed. Fortunately, I'm too conservative and poor to play that game, and it's not my money (yet -- though those thoughts were formulated before the market imploded for buyers. I'm considering revising that post, and probably will later...).


At 12/16/2004 5:45 AM, Blogger Jeff Sullivan said...

Beltre Beltre Beltre Beltre Beltre Beltre Beltre Beltre Beltre Beltre Beltre Beltre Beltre Beltre Beltre Beltre Beltre Beltre Beltre Beltre Beltre Beltre Beltre Beltre...

At 12/16/2004 12:40 PM, Blogger (Deleted user) said...

Well, I've been really busy lately but I felt I had to come on here and register my opinion on this move.

First, I didn't want Sexson on the M's, at all. When I heard the rumors of possibly signing both he and Delgado, and playing Richie in LF, I felt it would be a horrible move. I really wanted Delgado at 1B, and that left no room for Sexson on the team, for me. Two pure sluggers, (Delgado & Bucky), would be enough.

Well, now we know it's not going to happen the way I wanted, and you know, I guess after thinking about it I am fine with the move. Provided, of course, the M's don't now go out and sign Delgado. And with him asking for $16 million per season, I REALLY hope they don't pony up for him.

Anyway, to get back to the topic at hand, after thinking it over I believe this was as good a deal as we could have hoped. With Delgado asking for the moon, and not having any other power 1B available, Sexson was really the only choice. We already know that a team generally has to overpay to sign a marquee free agent, and that's what they did. However, it doesn't matter a bit to me if they overpaid or not, as it's not my money they're spending, it's the team's cash.

And the way the deal is structured is fine with me, too. It allows the team the flexibility to sign one or two other free agents, while taking into account the contracts coming off the books next year. They surely have room for Beltre and possibly another veteran shortstop type. However, I am definitely worried that they'll cry "poor" next year when it comes time to sign the marquee pitcher who will take them to the playoffs and beyond.

As far as Sexson's injury, that's really the only problem I have with this deal. Reading how Bill Bavasi described it, though, was a bit of a relief. As I understand it, he said there's a 10% chance that this type of injury could happen to anyone. And, that Sexson's shoulder is back to 100%. And, that there's a 90% chance it will not happen again. Basically, he said there's not really any more chance that Sexson would re-injure it than any other player would have to get that same injury, (contrary to what PosiPaul said in this post.)

Now, of course I take that with a grain of salt, (mmm, salt!), and figure he's overstating Sexson's health and understating the chances of re-injurement. However, the Mariners reportedly did do 2-3 days of testing on the shoulder, and said it turned out pefectly healthy. The skeptic in me, (which constitues 92% of my being), says "well, why did they need to do so many tests if he looked fine in the first one? There's something fishy going on there!", while the diehard M's fan in me, (100%), says "they did that many tests just to make completely sure that he was fine. The tests probably included placing extra stress on the shoulder, swinging, running, catching, poking, prodding, X-rays, physical exams, MRI's, etc. - the full battery - and if he passed all of them he must really be fine! We got us a slugger!" I hope it's the latter scenario.

It really is pleasant to think that the M's finally have another power threat - in his prime - in the lineup, and as PosiPaul pointed out, Sexson was really on fire to start the year last season. If he can start this season off the same way he'll ease the minds of any remaining doubters, (except ├╝ber-hardcore negative nellies, AKA my most-disliked people in the entire world, other than hardcore Democrats and Republicans.) However, if he struggles, get ready for a wave of backlash from the immer-malcontents.

There were incredible signs from the front office that they would be moving on Beltre as soon as possible, and I say, "YES!!!!" One of the reasons I preferred Delgado over Sexson is that Carlos is a lefty. However, after learning that Beltre hits righties much better than southpaws, I don't consider that an issue any longer.

I didn't want Sexson signed, but now that the is, I'm going to root hard for him to succeed. He seems like a nice guy, a team player, a great defensive first baseman, a big target - both at the plate and on the bag - a slugger, and an athlete. That's pretty much the total package. I don't know if any of the other free agents would have been such a perfect first signing for the M's. He'll get the fans excited, and the subsequent signings will really rebuild some genuine fervor about the club. Consider me a Richie convert.

However, as it stands, he is NOT enough to make me end my financial boycott. There are still holes at SS and 3B that need to be addressed, (BELTRE!). I wouldn't cry if they chose a pitcher over the SS, but a slick-fielding veteran with bat skills similar to Winn's would be incredibly helpful at that position. He could either be signed to a 3-4 year deal and have Lopez play 2B, or signed to a 1-2 year deal with Lopez taking over after he's gone. Here's hoping Bavasi can swing another trade to pick up more pieces to the puzzle.

Sorry if this didn't flow - it was very stream-of-consciousness as I eat lunch, and I'm consciously not going back to edit this, as I really want to finish before I have to get back to work.

SIGN BELTRE! (and a shortstop.)

At 12/16/2004 2:37 PM, Blogger PositivePaul said...

More Morsels from Munch as he's munching on lunch. I love it!

And, what I was referring to, with Sexson returning to 80-90%, was that there's some room for decline. A declining Sexson (i.e. if he recovers from injury fully and declines with age, the Safeco April Wet Air factor, etc..) will still produce numbers in the 30-35 HR range and 95-110 RBI range. Numbers badly missing from our lineup, outside of a well-protected Boone.

I'm obviously elated with this move!


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