Originally publshed June 6, 2008 in "The Current," Green River Community College's newspaper.
Bill Bavasi deserves to be fired, now.
That is far from a new or unique opinion, but baseball’s “gas prices” have gotten high, and unfortunately the Mariners general manager is a huge fan of old school gas-guzzling hot rods.
I feel that it is unfair to judge trades and signings in hindsight, because even the greatest general managers and talent evaluators are not equipped with crystal balls to view the future.
Through the beginning of Bavasi’s career as a GM of the Mariners, he seemingly took a look at a Heathcliff Slocumb baseball card before pulling any triggers.
Slocumb, whose career was non-descript as a Mariner, was the prize in a trade that sent Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek to the Boston Red Sox.
Bavasi finally made a daring trade in 2008, the six-player Erik Bedard trade, which I wrote an entire column about earlier in the year. Even if Adam Jones is the second coming of Willie Mays, the trade made sense.
Bavasi’s career began with a few bangs, signing Adrian Beltre and Richie Sexson as he entered his second year with the team.
Though Beltre never matched his 2004, near MVP-winning season, he’s been on par with upper echelon third basemen in the MLB. At the time he signed he was young by baseball standards, and entering his prime.
I personally hated the signing of Richie Sexson from day one. He was the second-best first baseman available, behind Carlos Delgado.
Though Sexson was two years younger than Delgado, and a better fielder, Delgado was a far more accomplished hitter and would have served as the left handed power bat that the Mariners have needed since the departure of Ken Griffey, Jr.
Delgado signed a deal nearly identical to Sexson’s, the same length and only $2 million more.
There is a trend in baseball centered on a set of statistics called sabermetrics. Sabremetrics were at one time relegated to basements and meetings among players of the original fantasy sport, rotisserie baseball.
Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland A’s, is one of the foremost respected “Sabermetrician GMs,” as chronicled by the book Moneyball by Michael M. Lewis. Moneyball, I’ll add, is an incredible read for hardcore baseball fans.
Sabermetrician GMs have experienced a lot of success, primarily Theo Epstein, the GM of the Boston Red Sox.
By changing the entire philosophy of a team’s personnel decisions and signing players who have a value greater than their desired salary, Epstein has been able to build a champion by making personnel decisions based on this philosophy.
Bavasi has done an incredibly poor job making personnel moves with good value. However, he had seemingly turned the corner on that in 2008 also.
After letting Jose Guillen skip town to Kansas City, and trading Adam Jones, the Mariners had a hole in right field.
The Mariners signed Brad Wilkerson, who can play all three outfield positions and first base, and walks a lot, the heart and soul of Billy Beane’s philosophy in Moneyball.
Wilkerson signed for 1/9th of what Guillen signed for in Kansas City.
Wilkerson struggled to begin the season, batting below .200, and struggling to hit for power.
However, in the seven games Wilkerson played, leading up to his eventual release, he batted .421, had an OBP of .476, and hit three doubles.
Wilkerson was cut, along with Greg Norton, in favor of Youngsters Wladimir Balentien and Jeff Clement.
Clement has since been sent back to the minors.
With the struggles of Jose Vidro and Richie Sexson, paired with Sexson’s suspension, Wilkerson could have gotten some valuable playing time for the Mariners.
Wilkerson, ironically, signed with the Toronto Blue Jays, led by J.P. Ricciardi, former Billy Beane protégé.
Bavasi’s signings have not been riddled with extreme failure, but not extreme success either.
The reality is that Bavasi’s trades are what make him worthy of firing, having made several very poor trades.
Besides the Bedard trade, Bavasi’s trades have sent Freddy Garcia, Jamie Moyer, Chris Snelling, Emiliano Fruto, Carlos Guillen, Randy Winn, Rafael Soriano, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Shin-Soo Choo to other teams.
Due to the Mariners struggles during Bavasi’s time in Seattle, most of the players traded by the Mariners have been veterans in exchange for prospects, and only four of the players the Mariners got in those are even still in the Mariners organization.
Most of those trades were viewed as lateral moves or worse the day they happened, and have since proven extremely ineffective.
Bavasi, via contract size, has chosen to build his team around a slap hitting, overvalued, overrated leadoff hitter, in the person of Ichiro, but that could be another column for another time.
Somewhere deep in southern California, Paul DePodesta is sitting at a desk as an assistant of the San Diego Padre’s front office. When Billy Beane accepted the Boston Red Sox GM job for a day in 2003, it was Paul DePodesta who negotiated with Beane on Beane’s then-former team’s compensation.
DePodesta has been seemingly “blackballed” from baseball, since struggling with the Dodgers. However, DePodesta was only given two years to rebuild the then struggling Dodgers.
My request to fire Bill Bavasi isn’t simply “out with the old, in with the new,” its more like “out with the ’69 Nova, and in with the 2004 Toyota Prius.”