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Geoff Baker covers the Mariners for The Seattle Times. He provides daily coverage of the team throughout spring training, and during the season.

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March 14, 2008 4:42 PM

Sights and Sounds: Game day

Posted by Geoff Baker

Today's video is sort of self-explanatory. All pre-game footage shot in the concourse area, the stands, the player walkway and the field here at Peoria Stadium.

Down below was the scene not too long ago, with some of the spring high crowd of 11,454 at Peoria Stadium filing out to the parking lot followng a 9-4 victory by Seattle over the Colorado Rockies.

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Mariners manager John McLaren liked what he saw out of Miguel Batista, who retired 11 in a row at one point and yielded just a pair of runs over five innings.

"I thought he threw the ball extremely well,'' McLaren said. "Didn't show any effects of his hurt hip or his hurt back or anything.''

McLaren added that he thought Batista looked like he was in mid-season form.

"I though he threw extremely hard today to tell you the truth,'' McLaren said. "I thought it's the hardest he's thrown all spring.''

Listen to some of McLaren's post-game audio in this clip.

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Greg Norton had a big day at the plate, going 2-for-4 with three RBI and a run scored as the M's ran the Rockies out of the game early.

Richie Sexson stroked a long double off the wall in right center. We need to see more of that out of him this year. You can see more of Sexson in the video, signing autographs pre-game. He actually stayed for quite some time and got a loud round of applause afterwards. No booing this time.

Cesar Jimenez closed out a perfect ninth, but I don't think he makes the team this time around. Eric O'Flaherty is going to be the situational lefty for now, I'd be willing to wager. We'll see how Arthur Rhodes throws in the next day or two after his fine performance the other day.


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Posted by M;'slover

5:41 PM, Mar 14, 2008

Geoff-
Who is the HOT gal in the McLaren picture?
best sight all year
:-)

Posted by oregongal

6:18 PM, Mar 14, 2008

To use Donovan's memorial acronym, I've been AFK most of the day, so here're my random thoughts.

Geoff, thanks for the Edgar stuff. Even better than a Kenji picture. I know he's not interested, but I'm also one who would love to see him in a teaching role with the team.

Also, thanks for the comment on Richie's reception. I've been wondering what happened since the booing day.

ScottM., yes, waiting for real baseball is driving me nuts. So close, and yet so far--

James, thanks for the shoutout. I used to have family in Milton-Freewater, and the best part of the trip was always going to WW. This is the first time I've paid detailed attention to spring training and it's only because of the blog. Interesting perspectives around here.

I'm not as anti-Vidro as some of my fellow number appreciators, probably because his patience at the plate is like an oasis in this lineup. However, I'm assuming he was picked up with the expectation that Sexson, Ibanez, the RF, and Beltre would provide the pop. I'm perfectly happy with Beltre, but we've obviously had problems with the other positions. Hopefully Ibanez will be healthy all season and we'll get what we expect from him. The other two positions are pretty big question marks for me. It doesn't say a lot for the management of this team that our DH and 1B can't be traded unless we eat their salary. (Though I think the Nats are still picking up a couple of million of Vidro's salary for us.)

Merrill--I was never much of a fan of the original SNL, except that I think Dan Aykroyd is one of the funniest people on the planet. They've had a lot of talent go through there and not done terribly well. My favorite years were the Phil Hartman-Jan Hooks time. I haven't watched it for years, though.

Times tech staff, thanks for continuing to work on the website. I appreciate getting the captcha fixed, since I frequently type in the wrong letters. I don't know what today's new comment format means, except I know you're still tinkering. Much appreciated.

Posted by Charles

6:21 PM, Mar 14, 2008

I was just going to ask the same thing M;'slover did. What a Babe. Geoff if you're not married you should get on that.

Posted by JimmersonPlz

7:11 PM, Mar 14, 2008

good thing she IS married.

Posted by jimy

10:19 PM, Mar 14, 2008

JimmersonPlz, while I applaud and support the sentiments in your name display name, you might want to take a look at your spelling. Let"s give the man the honor of spelling his name correctly.

Posted by DrLo

10:50 PM, Mar 14, 2008


WARNING, following post is a long one. Not sure of blog etiquette, but possibly way too long, and if so, my apologies. No intent to be rude or to force an opinion. Just thought that what is here needed to be said.

WARNING, following post refers to Sexson and never once uses the word "sucks". If this is too much for you, avert your eyes now.

Given that Sexson is such a crucial cog in any success the Mariners might have this year, we need more than "He's terrible and has an old body and he can't bounce back and it's downhill from here...," or Mac's "He'll bounce back because he's a warrior...." sort of casual commentary.

I think there is a reasonable chance that Sexson can rebound in 2008, at least to a level of, say, 75% of his career average production. And even if 75% is all he can do, the Mariners offense will be positively impacted. Reasons for optimism?

1. Sexson has actually had only one bad season. We tend to think of 2006 as a flop, too, because he was so miserable in the first half, but his total 2006 numbers were actually not too far off his career averages. More importantly his second half of 2006, in which he showed that he could come back, was outstanding by any standard. First half OBP .288, Slug .418, and OPS .706 jumped respectively to .399, .613, and 1.012. If he could come back from such a dreadful first half in '06 to produce some of his best numbers ever, why presume that a comeback now is out of the question? (The same "slow swing" and "aging body-type" issues were being discussed in the first half of '06 as well.)

2. Sexson's 2007 was foreshadowed in 2006 in one key area -- he dropped from the 90-100 BB level pre-2006 to 64 in 2006 (and then down to 51 -- in fewer at bats -- in 2007). One can argue that he has suddenly forgotten the strike zone or that his long swing has him chasing too many bad balls, but if so, why did he lose it early '06, only to recover it in the 2nd half and then lose it again in 2007? I think the answer lies, at least partially, in his supporting cast. The first half '06 saw Beltre off to a terrible start (first half split .318 OBP, .392 slug, and .710 OPS, roughly Sexson's '07), before turning it around. And our DH then was Carl Everett, who started poorly and ended worse. Did Sexson suddenly forget the strike zone, or was he trying to do too much to make up for the lack of power around him? Sexson began hitting -- became torrid -- in 2006 after Beltre also began getting hot and others began filling in for Everett. While one cannot prove a cause and effect here, I don't believe a professional hitter suddenly unlearns the strike zone.

3. If Beltre starts out moderately well (say, 85% of career averages or better) and Ibanez does the same, and if Wilkerson can be a factor, there is a good chance that Sexson will see better pitches to hit, or conversely that Sexson will be more inclined to take the walks and hope to be driven in by others.

4. 2007 was likely impacted, early on at least, by Ibanez's terrible start. What happened beyond that is less clear -- injuries, pressing, fragility in dealing with boos -- but even if there was no clear excuse, there is little reason to jump to the conclusion that Sexson is finished. Not many established players drop into an abyss after several productive years (yes, exceptions exist -- see Carlos Baerga). Will he repeat 2005 (which, by the way, was his best ever OPS+ -- nobody points out that arguably his best season ever was in Seattle, presumably becaue the team was terrible and not worth discussing)? Not likely, but with a reasonable supporting cast, its not a stretch to presume that Sexson could produce 27 HR, 105+ OPS+, .333 OBP, and maybe 80 walks. While this would not be a level to justify his salary, it would be a productive season that would energize some of the numbers of the players around him.

This is not a far-fetched scenario. Will it transpire? Anybody's guess. He may well be the black hole in the middle of the lineup that he was in 2007, but there is no reason to be making the presumption that it's a given. He is likely to be somewhere between his 2005 and 2007 numbers, or at worst his 2006 and 2007 numbers. If he hit the midpoint in key categories, his numbers would be something along the lines of:

Midpoint 2006 and 2007 -- .234 BA, 58BB, .316 OBP, 27 HR, 452 slug, 85 RBI, .768 OPS. Not a great line, but not so bad as to horrifically disrupt the whole lineup.

Midpoint 2005 and 2007 -- .234 BS, 70 BB, .332 OBP, 30 HR, .470 slug, 92 RBI, .802 OPS. Still doesn't justify salary, but a productive season and enough to energize the offense.


Doubtless folks will think I am a mindless Sexson supporter. I assure you I am not. I don't boo him (I don't boo any players, ever....), but I have been highly critical of his performance. I just think the debate, and it is THE crucial debate going into the season, deserves a balanced approach. If you've stayed with me this far, now it's your turn to fire away

Posted by Merrill

11:32 PM, Mar 14, 2008

One more point on the AKM'sFan issue: I bet if he and scrappy were having a brew and talking baseball, he could say the same things he's written and everyone would just laugh, with no negativity. Sometimes things don't come across in writing in the spirit they're intended to.

Just a thought...

Oregongal, I agree with you about the SNL talent. I think their post-SNL success has depended on their script choices. The ones that took lame one-note characters and tried to milk movies out of them didn't do well. I could never for the life of me figure out why a talented actor would agree to do a bad script. I usually judge actors and actresses by their script choices. Will Farrell has a pretty good sports schtick going (and the '70s anchorman thing was hilarious); I think baseball might be next on the list. That'd be worth the price of admission, in my book. He also does more serious parts and bit parts to mix it up. Good strategy. Definitely agree about Aykroyd. Also love Murray, and loved the Hooks-Hartman cast, too (wasn't that the one with the "yeah, that's the ticket" liar and the all-around brilliant Dana Carvey? And Nora Dunn, too--she's got a nice little career going as a supporting actress, eh?).

Back to baseball... great atmosphere establishment, Geoff, that was a very nice edition today, thanks.

And thanks for the balance, DrLo. It's nice to know I'm not the only one who thinks it's reasonable Sexson could have a good year. Here's hoping the vitriol stays leashed...

Posted by Adam

12:09 AM, Mar 15, 2008

DrLo - Good post.

I'm a bit torn on Sexson.

On the one hand, I disagree with your assertion that his 2nd half in 2006 has any relevance. He's a year and a half older, he's coming off an entire year of horrible production, and we did see his bat slowing down.

I also disagree that he will benefit from a better lineup. First, I don't think the lineup is any better this year, but second, there is no evidence that hitters perform better when they are "protected" in the lineup. If you go Google "evidence lineup protection hitters" or something like that, you'll find plenty of info on that subject.

I REALLY don't think that his walk rate was at all affected by the rest of the lineup.


That said, the guy's BABIP last year was an incredibly low .217. This after his previous BABIPs were league-average, at about .300. So he was pretty darn unluckly. That said, we also saw his line-drive rate go down, and his groundball rate went up. His HR/flyball rate went down (all this available at HardballTimes.com). And all these declines are part of a trend since 2005.

That tells me his bat was slowing down. So while he may not be as horrible as he was in 2007, he's getting worse. We'll be lucky if he replicates his 2006 season. But I don't see that happening.

Posted by Merrill

1:52 AM, Mar 15, 2008

scrapiron, I am actually shocked to see that I may have been right, and you wrong, about Reed's recent history.

According to Geoff's Notebook article on Reed today, he was the M's CF starter in 2005 and 2006, until he got hurt diving (you go, Ichiro!) in '06. And he still has two (of three total) options left.

So I looked up his ML history and saw that he got a cup of coffee in 2004--losing one option year--and sucked big-time in The Show in '05 and '06 at the plate.

You're right that he did fairly well last year in AAA, but if I remember right (not at all 100% guaranteed--I didn't check his MiL numbers), he hit better than that before, with slightly better power than he's shown since '04.

I think he's lost both average and power since getting his confidence squashed in the majors and that it's likely he developed bad habits that he hasn't quite overcome. I think one more year in AAA will get him back on track. Just a guess.

Mentally, he seems to be in the same place Morse was last spring (bummed--see Geoff's article), and hopefully he can do well this year and spend next offseason working out with Raul. ; )

And next year, Morse steps into Raul's spot--maybe he moves to DH--and Balentien steps into Wilkerson's spot, and Reed becomes the fourth outfielder, likely making Jimerson (if he makes it this year, which seems unlikely given that Cairo's contract is guaranteed--I hadn't seen that before today's article--thanks for mentioning that, Geoff) superfluous. (Bummer!)

Or maybe Morse inherits Bloomie's spot as Uber-Utilityman, they keep Wilky if he does well and doesn't break down--or sign another guy--to pair with Wlad in the corners, with Reed becoming the fourth OF, and heir apparent to Ichiro when-and-if. But I think it's likely Morse has a lot of upside on defense in the OF, and they may think that learning curve balances out his not-so-traditional-for-the-corners lack of power.

Just speculatin'.

Posted by DrLo

2:03 AM, Mar 15, 2008

Adam, thanks for the comments and critique. I agree with you that Sexson is in decline, that his bat has probably slowed down, and that he won't likely repeat 2006. The sets of figures I suggested as entirely possible do not get him to 2006 numbers.

I disagree with two of your assertions, though: 1) that players hitting around one have little impact, and 2) that Sexson's recovery in 2006 is irrelevant.

At very least, a baserunner or two will change the approach to hitting of all but the dumbest or most obstinate hitters (I can hear the comments now that he qualifies on both counts....) even if only to tilt the field toward right. For most hitters, this means letting the pitch get deeper, more line drives and more hits falling, and fewer futile attempts to get out in front and jack the ball. And if a slowing bat is indeed a factor, this need to hit to right with a better supporting cast plays right into Sexson's new-found "strength". Not to mention a tendency for any middle-of-the-order guy to try to do it all with one swing when nobody around him is doing it. Can't comment on what Google results may be, but until I have evidence otherwise, I think I'll hold onto this one.

As for Sexson's second half in 2006, I agree that it is irrelevant as a predictor for 2008. But my point is, simply, that he has shown in the not too distant past that falling off the cliff for a period of time necessarily means that he will stay in the abyss forever. Others have argued that there is no way he can recover, he is finished. All I am trying to point out, as a counter argument, is that we have heard this story before and yet he was able to pick himself up in a big way. Whether the tank is now truly dry or not is anyone's guess, but history shows that it is pretty rare for someone to drive off the cliff in one season.

I am not predicting wonderful things for 2008. I am suggesting that mere adequacy from Sexson in 2008 goes a long way to bolster the offense, and that reaching that adequacy is more easily within the realm of probablity than a number of people are willing to concede.

Anyway, thanks. Love the debate and passion, and with most of the posts at least, enjoy the mutual respect and common interest.

Posted by scottM

6:20 AM, Mar 15, 2008

Well articulated, DrLo. And along with a serviceable level of production from Sexson, we also need our DH, Mr. Vidro, to perform throughout 2008 at the level he did in the second half of 2007. (GEOFF spelled this out in fine detail a couple of months ago). We need Beltre not to start 2008 the way he did in the beginning of 2006, or Raul to start '08, in the fashion he did last year. Jose Lopez needs to have his head in the game both offensively and defensively.

No need to assume the worst from Ichiro, Yuni, or Joh, because they've never given us cause for alarm. Wilkerson is an unproven commodity.

Bottom line, there is a likelihood that at least one of these front line players will falter. This is where we can hope that the McLaren of '08 will be more decisive than what he showed us last season. Namely, he can't afford to mollycoddle any of these guys. If he sees a two week skid, he needs to manage with more keeness toward results, and a higher level of expectation for everyone on this team. Namely, he needs to be prepared to go to his bench (or to AAA) for immediate solutions.

Posted by Ziasudra

6:34 AM, Mar 15, 2008

Geoff - there is a report that Morrow has a sore arm (Kirby Arnold, Everett Herald). Suggests it is due to reliever to starter to reliever routine. No M's fan would be surprised - most of us want him in AAA starting, anyway. Can you see if it is anything noteworthy, or, as Mac says, "just a tired arm?"

Posted by oregongal

11:35 AM, Mar 15, 2008

DrLo, thanks for the thoughts on Sexson. I agree that his performance is going to be key to whatever season the M's have.

I'm expecting some rebound from last year, but not greatness. Your midpoint of 2006 & 07 looks like my target.

One of the things that bothers me is that he's a "second half" player. On the Mariners, that means a lot of his August and September numbers are put up when the team is out of the playoff hunt and the pressure is greatly reduced. That didn't mean a lot to me until I read some of his reaction to getting booed last year. The two together make me wonder if there is a problem. Not know, just wonder.

I think the key to his season is to get out of the gate well. He's going to be in the spotlight and if he doesn't do well, the boo birds may well come back (I'm with you on booing). That makes it more difficult to have a good game, which can start a bad spiral.

Last year we kept hearing that he would heat up. I don't think Mac has the luxury of keeping him out there for months. On the other hand, the same logic used last year--he can carry the team when he's hot--will still be around.

My hope is that whoever ends up on the bench gets used regularly, so that if we have a hot hitter, we can slip him into 1B if Sexson isn't producing.

But I fervently hope that Richie comes out tearing the cover off the ball, stays hot all season, and makes me look like a complete idiot.

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