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AL West: What's up with Big Sexy?
Gone are the days when we marveled at Richie Sexson's 6-foot-8 stature and the mammoth blasts that it produced (like in this tremendous commercial). Nowadays, Mariners fans are amazed when their first baseman simply makes contact. It wasn't supposed to be like this. Not for Big Sexy.
Back in December 2004, Sexson, a Washington native, inked a four-year, $50 million deal with Seattle, supposedly giving the Mariners the big bopper they'd been missing since the departure of Ken Griffey Jr.. The signing triggered instant adulation: "Any time you had a hitter with numbers like Richie has produced, it helps to legitimize your lineup," then-manager Mike Hargrove told reporters. "Richie is a proven middle-of-the-order hitter and one of the better power and production hitters of the last four years."
Fast forward to Seattle's most recent homestand, though, and little love remains for Big Sexy in the Starbuck City. Against Boston last Friday, Sexson went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. In what has become customary inside the (un)friendly confines of Safeco Field, thousands of fans directed passionate boos toward their first baseman. A large group even sarcastically cheered after Sexson hit a foul ball. "When they cheer you when you hit a foul ball," Seattle manager John McLaren said to MLB.com, "it's a humbling experience."
In fairness to Mariners faithful, they have every reason to be distraught with the play of their native son. Sexson, who owns a .264 career batting clip and averaged 36 homers and 112 RBIs over his first seven full seasons, has completely fallen apart. Simply put, he's the worst everyday first baseman in the bigs this year.
With more strikeouts (82) than hits (72) this season, Sexson possesses the lowest average of all qualified major leaguers (.200) and lowest on-base percentage of all qualified first basemen (.298). Even though he's belted 17 homers, Sexson easily owns the worst slugging percentage (.389) of all everyday first basemen. His .687 OPS is unheard of in today's game; since the turn of the millennium, no regular first baseman has finished below the .700 mark.
Sexson is making a cool $15.5 million this season. This makes him the wealthiest player in Seattle and the 10th-highest paid player in all of baseball.
Richie's Mendoza-line hitting is harming much more than his personal pride. Trailing the Angels by just three games, Seattle's in the midst of its first pennant race since 2003. Ben Broussard and his .295 batting average have started three of the last six games at first base. This could be a left-right platoon or -- as many Mariners fans hope -- a gradual changing of the guard altogether. Though it's extremely difficult to believe the latter; Sexson's due an additional $14 million in 2008 and no team can shell out that much dough on a pinch hitter.
Labels: AL West
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