After writing, my religion is baseball. I’ve been thinking about starting a baseball blog; having won seven fantasy leagues last season, I’m feeling emboldened to talk about the game.
As a Mariner fan, which is an exercise in protracted patience, it has been frustrating to watch the team, which is one of the most profitable franchises in baseball, fail to step up to acquire high-impact free agents. Ichiro Suzuki may seem to be the exception, but the M’s got him by buying the exclusive rights to negotiate with him (although they did step up to resign Ichiro for four more years last season).
But the signing of Richie Sexson ($50 million for four years; first base) and Adrian Beltre ($64 million for five years; third base) yesterday and today, respectively, is a real bet on the team’s future. Sure, it may fall into the red for the first time in years, but Seattle fans have consistently shown they’ll pack Safeco Field for a winning team and the Japanese TV revenues are only enhanced by a winning record, so even after this novel spending spree the M’s could break even while winning.
With Sexson the main concern is whether his shoulder, which he dislocated and suffered torn musculature twice last season when checking his swing, will hold together. The right-handed batter sends the ball deep about 31 percent of the time and, before he tore up his shoulder, hit 45 home runs two years running. He strikes out a lot, but if he can put the ball in play somewhat more often and return to his power numbers or near them, he should thrive in Safeco. Put him in to bat fourth behind Beltre with Ichiro leading off and Raul Ibañez (who should stay in left field) in the second slot and the M’s will score 50 percent more runs in 2005. Brett Boone should move to sixth or seventh in the order to keep opposing pitching on their toes.
Beltre doesn’t strike out much and his 48 home runs last year led the National League. But he doesn’t get on base percentage hasn’t been so stunning—a fact he made up for in 2004 with a .629 slugging percentage. This is why he should be sitting in the third slot in the lineup, because when he knocks the ball out of the park he will likely have Ichiro on base. With Sexson behind him, there’s no pitching around Beltre. Because Beltre gets the ball in play more than Sexson, he should bat ahead of Sexson in Safeco; when they are playing on the road both Beltre and Sexson will be more dangerous than in stingy Safeco, so the M’s can mix up the lineup to put Beltre lower in the lineup to take advantage of its youthful lineup, if it proves capable of getting on base.
It’s going to be a good season in Seattle, especially if it can pick up a solid pitcher. My pick would be Matt Clement; the M’s could package Randy Winn and Scott Spiezio for a top-flight starter, too.
It would be a coup, too, to pick up Miguel Ordoñez for DH, since no one knows if his legs are ready. If he can play the field, he would solve the M’s center field problem. Heck, they can move Jeremy Reed, who was in the White Sox farm system before the Freddy Garcia trade, to left field and platoon between him and Ibañez in the field and Ibañez and Bucky Jacobsen at DH.