Geoff Baker covers the Mariners for The Seattle Times. He provides daily coverage of the team throughout spring training, and during the season.
July 10, 2008 12:08 PM
Posted by Geoff Baker
Just got back up from the field on an eventful day for the Mariners. By the way, Ichiro has just been scratched with tightness in his hamstring. Had played in 126 consecutive games since his last off-day. The hits just keep on coming, don't they? Anyhow, it turns out that Richie Sexson was told he'd be released last night at the team hotel in nearby San Francisco. What prompted the team to do this? Interim GM Lee Pelekoudas said the decision had been formulating in his mind the past several days. He said the fact Sexson hit a three-run homer here in Monday's opener and then followed up with a double on Tuesday did not hamper the call one way or the other.
But when I spoke to manager Jim Riggleman moments ago, he told me that the "body language" Sexson displayed yesterday when kept out of the lineup was what ultimately led him not to oppose the release.
"If I felt that he could handle the next couple of weeks with less playing time, I would not have agreed with the move,'' Riggleman told me. "But yesterday, his body language was such that he looked like he wasn't going to handle it at all.''
We've been telling you all year that this Mariners clubhouse has not been the most joyous place. Things have started to look up a bit in recent weeks, after the firings of Bill Bavasi and John McLaren and some winning by the ballclub. The last thing Riggleman wanted was Sexson to become a focal point for disenchantment that would upset the delicate balance the club is trying to achieve for the time being.
Sexson was a popular guy in the clubhouse, with teammates always around him.
"He needs to play, or go someplace else he can play,'' Riggleman said.
That wasn't going to be here. Riggleman had decided to only start him agaunst lefties and then find ways to use him in limited roles versus righthanders.
"The manager's got to be able to make a lineup out without feeling somebody's going to be unhappy,'' he said, "If we sat Willie Bloomquist and he was unhappy, we could handle it. But if one of your big boys is down in the dumps, that can take others down.''
Riggleman likened it to Frank Thomas being released by Toronto a while back. Once a big-time player becomes upset over playing time, he said, it's a potentially huge distraction.
"He's part of the identity of the team,'' he said. "And when the identity of the team is sitting down, everybody wonders what the heck is going on.''
Riggleman added: "Look, I've been managing here for 19 days. I've sat him twice and seen the same reaction both times. It wasn't going to work.''
The team will go with Miguel Cairo at first base today, facing Oakland southpaw Greg Smith, and against other left handers. Jose Vidro gets to face the righties for now. If there's a lefty matchup that historically favors Vidro, he'll be put in as well.
Check out the sink on that baby!