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Bad Teams Blame Their Best Players And Also Their Worst Players

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Interim general manager Lee Pelekoudas and Mariners executives were in meetings for much of Tuesday to discuss plans for the rest of the season, which could include releasing first baseman Richie Sexson in the upcoming days, according to a report in the Everett Herald.

Richie's release has been a foregone conclusion for a little while now, as he's failed to take any strides forward from a year ago and in so doing has become, on any given day, the most hated man in Safeco. That whole thing about changing his stance made for a good story, but gun to my head, I'd say they did it for two reasons: (1) to have an excuse to bench him over a homestand and shelter him from the booing, and (2) to buy themselves a little more time as they search for a replacement. This gives them a pretense under which they can keep playing him a little while longer "to see how he adjusts" while they wait for someone more qualified than Miguel Cairo to start looking like a qualified stopgap. So in that regard I think the stance thing was intended more to help the Mariners than to help Richie Sexson.

This is the sort of problem we warn against when we say that a player's contract is too long. They're not empty concerns. They're real, and this is a perfect example of why. At first it can be easy to ignore how much a player costs, but if a front office decides to throw caution to the wind and chuck money around all willy-nilly until there's nothing left to spend, danger may swiftly approach. God knows we've seen it first-hand on far too many occasions. I'd rather overspend in years than overspend in players, but I'd also rather overspend in money than overspend in years, and in a hypothetical utopia I'd rather not overspend at all. It's a bigger problem than a lot of people think it is, because even just one bad player living out the end of a long contract can weigh a team down. If you know you're giving too long of a contract you better be damn sure the player in question will make it worthwhile in the short-term, but those players don't come along very often, and Richie Sexson was never one of them.

I'd eulogize Richie, but for one thing, he's not yet gone, and for another, it would be about a year and a half too late. I don't know if he's completely and utterly finished, but he's finished with the Mariners, because he doesn't want to be in Seattle and Seattle doesn't want him to be in Seattle. While I guess you could call it a mutual break-up, this is only happening at the finale of a one-sided abusive relationship, and one party is coming out of it in much better shape than the other. For all the crap he's taken, both justified and not, Richie made his millions while the team sank like a stone, and at the end of the day he managed to outlast the guy who hired him, in no small part due to Richie's own performance. There's something poetic in there, although I don't care to find it.

Learn from this, Mariners. There are lessons in each and every one of your countless mistakes, but lessons are only effective when learnt.