Wednesday, May 03, 2006

As reported in the Seattle PI:

Mariners Notebook: Sexson in serious funkHitting just .216, cleanup man tries to retool swing
MINNEAPOLIS -- Maybe it's a weird time for a makeover, but Richie Sexson doesn't think so.
Sexson is in such a funk with his swing that he's perfectly content to put his old swing behind him and work on a new, improved version.
"The truth is that this is the worst I've ever felt at the plate for this long a period of time," Sexson said before Tuesday's game against the Twins. Five weeks into the season, he came into Tuesday with a .214 average, three homers and 16 RBIs. He went 1-for-4 Tuesday, raising his average to .216.
The average and home run numbers are clearly unacceptable for what Sexson expects from himself. The RBI total isn't bad, save for the fact that 13 of those came by April 15, meaning he's driven in just two runs in the past 15 games.
"I can't remember ever having been this uncomfortable," he said.
What to do? Sexson and hitting coach Jeff Pentland are retooling his swing. There are no illusions it will be a quick process. Sure, there will be occasional explosions like Sexson's 1,000th career hit Monday, a homer. But to remodel a swing isn't the work of a day or even a month.
"If not now, then when?" Sexson said. "The time is perfect for a change, I think. I know I can do better than I've been doing. Right now my swing is in a bad place."
Like most coaches, Pentland waited for Sexson to come to him, knowing that a veteran has got to want to make a change. A coach can make modifications with younger players, as Pentland has done with Jose Lopez and Yuniesky Betancourt, but veterans have their own ideas.

Monday, October 17, 2005

The door was opened Monday morning for Mariners manager Mike Hargrove to be reunited with his longtime pitching coach Mark Wiley.
The position became available when general manager Bill Bavasi announced that Bryan Price was not among the four coaches returning in 2006. Those coming back are third base coach Carlos Garcia, interim first base coach Mike Goff, bench coach Ron Hassey and bullpen coach Jim Slaton.
Wiley figures to be one of the leading candidates to replace Price. He was Hargrove's pitching coach with the Indians and Orioles and served as the Marlins' pitching coach this season. With manager Jack McKeon retiring as Marlins manager, Wiley could become available to the Mariners.
Price, hitting coach Don Baylor and Jeff Newman, who started the season as third base coach before sustaining an Achilles tendon injury, will not return next season.
"I want to thank all my coaches for their hard work this season," Hargrove said in a statement. "I am pleased to be able to offer positions to Carlos, Mike, Ron and Jim. I am sorry that Bryan and Don have decided to resign their spots, but I wish them nothing but the best in their future."
Price has long been regarded as one of the top pitching coaches in the Major Leagues and finished the second year of his two-year contract.
"I have enjoyed my time here but, after 18 years, I think it is time for me to go somewhere else," Price said in a prepared statement issued by the Mariners. "For me to keep growing as a coach I need to get out of my comfort zone and this is a way to do that."
He spent the past six seasons as Seattle's pitching coach and the Mariners' pitching staff has ranked among the Major League leaders four times, leading the league in ERA in 2001 and second in '03 when the same five starters -- Freddy Garcia, Jamie Moyer, Gil Meche, Ryan Franklin and Joel Pineiro -- started all 162 games, the first time that happened since the 1965 Dodgers.
Baylor spent one season with the Mariners, who have had four hitting coaches in the past five seasons -- Gerald Perry, who departed after the 2002 season, Lamar Johnson ('03) and Paul Molitor ('04).
"I have decided not to return as hitting coach so that I will be able to pursue other opportunities," Baylor said.
Garcia began the season as the first base coach, moving to third in late August when Newman departed. Garcia will continue to coach third and work with the Major League infielders. Goff was the Mariners Minor League coordinator of instruction for 14 seasons before being named interim Major League first base coach. He will return as first base coach, as well as coaching the outfielders and baserunning.
Hassey returns as Hargrove's bench coach, as well as working with the catchers.
Slaton has been in the Mariners organization for nine seasons.

The most exciting moments of the 2005 season came after Aug. 3 -- the date teenage right-hander Felix Hernandez was promoted from Triple-A Tacoma.
Hernandez's high-90s fastball, sharp-breaking curveball and tantalizing changeup gave the Mariners and the rest of the American League an indication of why the 19-year-old started the season as the highest-rated pitching prospect in all of baseball. As long as he can stay healthy and focused, he could become the best pitcher in franchise history.
The Mariners batted .500 when it came to signing high-profile free agents. First baseman Richie Sexson bounced back from an injury-shortened '04 season with the Diamondbacks to become one of the most productive run-producers in the AL, while third baseman Adrian Beltre struggled in his first year in a new league.
But while his offense lagged -- at least compared to his monster year in '04 -- Beltre's defense was Gold Glove caliber.
Record: (69-93), fourth in AL West.
Defining moment: An extra-inning loss to the Athletics in Oakland on April 30 marked the beginning of a nosedive that saw the Mariners go 1-11 and fall from second place in the AL West to last.
What went right: Signing Sexson as a free agent turned into an offensive bonanza. He probably exceeded expectations, becoming the first Mariners player in two years to drive in at least 100 runs. Sure, he struck out a lot, but in the long run, his big bat in the middle of the lineup was a huge plus.
What went wrong: Each starter in the rotation went through a prolonged slump during the season, which prevented the team from being able to go on an extended winning streak. Lack of consistency in the starters was the team's Achilles heel.
Biggest surprise: Rookie shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt, who arrived in 2004 from Cuba, was so good defensively that he reminded people of former Mariners defensive whiz Omar Vizquel.
STATISTICAL LEADERSBattingAverage: Ichiro Suzuki, .303Doubles: Sexson and Beltre, 36Triples: Ichiro, 12Home runs: Sexson, 39Runs: Ichiro, 109RBIs: Sexson, 121Stolen bases: Ichiro, 33
PitchingWins: Jamie Moyer, 13Losses: Ryan Franklin, 15ERA (starter): Moyer, 4.28ERA (reliever): (min. 10 appearances) Eddie Guardado, 2.72Saves: Guardado, 36
FORECAST FOR 2006Lineup: The majority of the starting lineup that ended the '05 season is expected to return in '06. All of the starters are either signed to multiyear contracts (Ichiro, Sexson, left fielder Raul Ibanez and Beltre) or too young to be eligible for free agency or salary arbitration.
Rotation: The top priority heading into the offseason is adding a starting pitcher that could fill one of the top three spots in the rotation. Hernandez is a potential ace, but perhaps not in '06. The organization is expected to offer 42-year-old Moyer an incentive-laden one-year contract, possibly with an option year. Don't be surprised if Franklin, eligible for salary arbitration, isn't tendered a contract. Right-handers Joel Pineiro and Gil Meche are huge question marks as far as returning in '06, as either could be traded for a productive left-handed hitter.Bullpen: The organization has until a week following the end of the World Series to pick up the '06 option on closer Guardado for $7 million. If they don't, he could re-up for $4.5 million, and that is unlikely to happen and he would become a free agent. Say goodbye to relievers Jeff Nelson and Shigetoshi Hasegawa.
Biggest need: One would think that a team ranked near the bottom of the AL in runs scored would need more hitters. But a top-of-the-line starting pitcher tops the list of needs, followed closely by a productive left-handed hitter. The Minor League system is stocked with good middle infielders and that could be one way to get either a potential starter or productive bat.
Prospect to watch: Right-handed pitcher Clint Nageotte was signed as a starter, moved to the bullpen a year ago, and now is getting another crack at starting. He has lost weight and gained experience, and becoming the No. 4 or No. 5 starter is a possibility. The best of the Minor League prospects already have arrived.

The Seattle SuperSonics earned their only NBA Championship during the 1978-79 season, defeating the Washington Bullets four games to one in the NBA Finals.
After advancing to the Finals and losing to the Bullets the previous season, the Sonics returned largely the same lineup, with Lonnie Shelton replacing Marvin Webster in the starting lineup after Webster signed with New York and the Sonics received Shelton as compensation.
The Sonics won 52 games, which was then the most in franchise history, and won the Pacific Division during the regular season for the first time ever. Gus Williams led the team in scoring at 19.2 points per game, but a balanced Sonics scoring attack saw seven players average double-figures (including center Tom LaGarde, who played just 23 games after suffering a season-ending knee injury). Center Jack Sikma led the team with 12.4 rebounds per game, while forward John Johnson topped the Sonics with an average of 4.4 assists. Sikma and guard Dennis Johnson were All-Stars, playing for Coach Lenny Wilkens. As a team, the Sonics led the NBA by allowing 103.9 points per game.
By winning the Pacific, the Sonics earned a first-round playoff bye, and were able to wait for the Los Angeles Lakers. They defeated the Lakers four games to one, though all five games were close and the Lakers lost four times by a total of 24 points. The Phoenix Suns presented a more difficult challenge, taking a 3-2 series lead to Phoenix for Game 6. The Sonics pulled out a miraculous 106-105 victory in Phoenix and were able to hold of a late Suns charge for a 114-110 win at the Kingdome in Game 7.
That set up a rematch with the Bullets. In Game 1, Washington pulled out a 99-97 win thanks to some questionable calls down the stretch. The Sonics won going away in Game 2 to even the series heading back to Seattle. The key game would prove to be Game 4, which the Sonics won 114-112 in overtime to take a commanding 3-1 lead in the series. Another close game ended up a Sonics victory in Washington to secure the championship by a 97-93 final on Jun. 1, 1979.
Dennis Johnson was named MVP of the Finals on the strength of his 22.6 points per game and typically outstanding defense. Williams led the Sonics in scoring all five games, averaging 28.6 points per game.

Two years after Mikki Moore was caught in a numbers game that kept him off the Seattle SuperSonics final roster during training camp, he's back, and this time with a roster spot waiting for him. After adding to his NBA credentials with a strong stint late in the 2003-04 season in Utah and an even better performance while spending all of last season with the L.A. Clippers, Moore re-signed with the Sonics as a free agent Wednesday.
"I wanted to play here two years ago when I tried out here in the preseason, but it was a numbers thing - they couldn't get rid of some of the big guys they had," said Moore. "I like the coaching staff here, I like the team. There's nobody that's really thinking they're bigger than the next person. Everybody has one goal - everybody just wants to win." With Jerome James' departure as a free agent for the New York Knicks, the Sonics had an opening on the roster for another veteran center. And while you would never know it from the hype that surrounded them, James and Moore posted very similar statistical lines in 2004-05. James averaged 4.9 points and 3.0 rebounds per game, shooting 50.9% from the field, while Moore posted averages of 5.4 points and 3.3 rebounds and shot 50.2%.
"We basically, like most teams in this league, do center by committee," said Sonics GM Rick Sund. "We needed to get another committee member. We've got a couple of young guys in (Robert) Swift and (Johan) Petro with Vitaly and now Mikki. Mikki's 7-foot and a little different player than Jerome, but their stats are virtually the same. Mikki runs the floor a little better, Jerome gives a little more bulk."
Moore and Vitaly Potapenko, whom the Sonics re-signed last week, likely will enter training camp as the frontrunners for the starting center job. Nick Collison and Danny Fortson, who also play power forward, and Swift and Petro also figure into the mix. Moore is taking nothing for granted as far as his role.
"I don't know exactly how it's going to fall into place," he said. "I'm just coming in to work out hard and grab a position, give this team every bit of energy that I have. I don't know if I'm going to be a backup, I don't know if I'm going to be backing up a backup or I don't know if I'm going to be a starter. I'm not really looking at it like that. I'm just looking at it as coming in with an opportunity to play ball."
"Nobody's got a slot locked up," said Sonics Coach Bob Weiss. "I've got a sneaking suspicion Ray (Allen) will start, but he's got to come here and earn it every year. Ray knows that - he'd be the first guy to tell you that."
Competition is nothing new to Moore. Undrafted out of Nebraska, he spent most of his first two years in the CBA before hooking on with the Detroit Pistons (with Sund then in the Detroit front office). He's also spent time in the NBDL, but has produced whenever he's gotten an opportunity and is a career 52.2% shooter.
"I think the Sonics embrace guys who work hard," said Moore. "They don't look at prima donnas, put it that way. They don't look at guys just because you went to this college, you're going to get a contract, or just because you were drafted this high in the first round three years ago, four years ago, you're going to get a job. They're looking at what you're going to bring to the team and how you're going to produce. That's a big thing for me, because I've been struggling my entire career to prove that just because I came from the CBA up doesn't mean I can't play ball. Mr. Sund knows that, as well as the Sonics coaching staff."
Another player who fits that same mold is guard Rick Brunson, the Sonics other free-agent acquisition this summer and Moore's teammate with the Clippers. ("Most of my success with the Clippers was because of Rick," explained Moore. "He can see the floor very well.") Like Brunson, Moore felt like the Sonics made him feel wanted as a free agent.
"The way that Rick called me himself on my cellphone and we sat down and talked, it made me feel like I was already home," Moore said. "I love the city here. I loved the city when I was here two years ago. The way they approached the whole situation made me feel like I should be here and was supposed to be here."
Moore chose the Sonics over six or seven other teams who showed interest. Notably, in addition to the Sonics, the Clippers and Jazz - the last two teams Moore played for - were also finalists for his services, showing they were interested in a return engagement after having Moore on the roster. The Sonics gained the upper hand thanks to their willingness to grant Moore a player option after this season as well as their success last year.
"That's one of the reasons why I chose the team, is because the core of the team is still here," he said. "They were very successful last year. With my mindset that I'm coming in with, I can only be a plus."
Moore brings the Sonics a defensive presence thanks to his length and ability to block shots, as well as quality finishing ability in the paint. Sund also praised Moore's basketball IQ.
"He knows who he is," said Sund. "Probably one of the good basketball elements that he brings is he's got a good basketball IQ. It was interesting … I called Brunson on him before we signed the deal, just to get his take as a teammate. He had a lot of good things to say, said his feel for the game is very good."
Moore is the 11th player the Sonics have under contract for the 2005-06 season as their final roster continues to take shape. In the remaining month until the beginning of training camp, the key issue will be the status of restricted free agents Reggie Evans, Ronald "Flip" Murray and Vladimir Radmanovic. Even with a frontcourt that is now getting somewhat crowded, Sund indicated the Sonics will have room to bring back all three players should they choose.
"There's no concern, because you won't be able to find minutes for all the guys," noted Weiss. "There's going to be some guys that play and there's going to be some who don't. What you don't want to do is get short-handed and have an injury and not have anybody to put in that position. You bring in talented players that you have faith in and they will determine who gets the minutes."
"One of our concerns has been, and probably always will be - unless you have a (Tim) Duncan or a Shaq (O'Neal) - having enough depth at the center position with enough flexibility so you can match up with all the different teams, because teams give you different looks," said Sund. "That was a strength last year, and it will be another strength for us this year. We have the strength with Vitaly, versatility and talent with a guy like Nick Collison, a low-post game. You have some length now and running ability in Mikki and some youth in Petro and Robert and some toughness and bulk in Danny."