From the time he was hired as General Manager in Seattle and took reign of a ‘veteran' club, Bill Bavasi has always been under the watchful eye of the Mariners' faithful. After all, he was not the flashy choice like a Paul DePodesta, or a headline grabber like Kim Ng or even the safe pick like the M's own Benny Looper.
No, Bavasi is a thoroughbred. He's an individual with strong bloodlines in baseball, including a father who orchestrated the Los Angeles Dodgers to four World Series titles and two brothers in the business. One presided over the Toronto Blue Jays and Cleveland Indians, and another previously owned the Everett franchise in the Northwest League.
Bavasi was groomed to be involved in baseball since childhood and was even a member of the grounds crew for the San Diego Padres during his adolescence. At one point, he was the youngest GM in baseball at the age of 39 when he was hired by the Anaheim Angels in 1993.
To this day, the 2002 World Series champion Angels General Manager, Bill Stoneman, often credits Bavasi for his work in developing and acquiring many of the talents that made up that title team, such as Troy Percival, Garrett Anderson, and Francisco Rodriguez.
With a background like this, what could go wrong?
In addition, Bavasi is a likeable guy. He is not the stoic - stand at the helm with a deadpan face steering the ship towards the screaming torpedo and jumping overboard before it hits - type guy. He is the antithesis of Pat Gillick. He is easy to listen to. He is loyal to a fault, which is believed to be the reason he resigned as General Manger of the Angels. He is Mr. Nice Guy.
When he was given command of the goodship Mariner heading towards disaster, Bavasi was given grace. That the team had just experienced a few straight years of success including a record-setting 116 win season, gave him that saving grace.
But Mariners fans have developed and demanded certain expectations, therefore, that grace period was granted conditionally. Since the ‘magical' time of 1995, when the vast majority of the M's current fan base met Seattle's professional baseball team, both parties have grown accustomed to a certain gamestyle — a gamestyle that has been derailed since the arrival of Bavasi.
Certainly, Bavasi is not to blame for everything that has occurred. Anyone with half-an-eye to baseball could see the Mariner's were a veteran club on the verge of being an old club. A very old club. It just so happens that Bavasi was at the helm when the torpedo hit. And as the ship began to sink, grace began to slide.
Initially, Bavasi tried to patch the holes by relying on materials within his immediate reacg and the purchasing of discounted veterans leaders. But the plethora of ML-ready talent was not Major League ready, and the discounted veteran leaders turned out to be cheap, worn parts. And the ship continued to sink... and sink... and sink.
Dare I say that Bill Bavasi is on the hot seat?
Dare I comment?
Either way, Bavasi's mulligans were running out.
Under severe pressure and stress, individuals will resort to desperate measures. Bavasi, not far removed, is also making drastic decisions, if not risky undertakings. He tapped a strategy others have tried in the past:
Bavasi's strategy is in the works.
As the General Manger of the Angels, Bavasi was known to make flashy, risky moves, like Bo Jackson and Mo Vaughn, or the less heralded trade of Chad Curtis for fireball Tony Phillips. But one thing is for sure, Bavasi likes to make a splash, and he is returning to that strategy. He is gambling with more money and years than his predecessor - or the franchise - ever has. He shattered the mold - an idea that would not have even been a post-it on the desk of Gillick's office.
During the previous offseason, Bavasi threw a combined nine years and $114.25 million at two players to stop ship from capsizing, and it worked, to an extent. The ship began to right itself, led by Richie Sexson, one of the two headline signings from last winter.
Seattle won 43 percent of its games last year, a near five percent increase in wins from the previous season. Was the slide halting? The 69-win season gave the passengers of the Titanic somehope that things were looming up and instilled a glimmer of optimism. Mr. Nice Guy's strategy is in the works. Bold moves provided him the proverbial dinghy.
How about spending four years and $37.5 million this offseason on a 31-year-old southpaw, who experienced an injury to his throwing elbow last year? Or signing a superstar power-hitting catcher from Japan, even after Kazuo Matsui flamed out in New York, proving that the two leagues don't measure equally?
What percent return will these investments have? Who cares?! It gives the fans optimism. It stops grace from sliding.
Understanding that his personal saving grace is running low, and that his job is in jeopardy, Bavasi has found a plan.
Bavasi's strategy is in the works.
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