M’s actions speak louder than words

  • By Larry Henry / Herald Writer
  • Sunday, December 19, 2004 9:00pm
  • Sports

See, he really isn’t Ebenezer Scrooge after all. He wants Tiny Tim to have a very merry Christmas.

And all those Mariner fans, too.

That’s why he gave the nod for the M’s to shell out $100 million to sign a pair of free agent sluggers last week.

“One hundred and fourteen million,” M’s CEO Howard Lincoln is quick to remind you with a wag of his index finger.

OK, so we rounded it off.

“And I’m just delighted about it,” he adds.

He isn’t the only one.

M’s fans have to be antsy with anticipation about the 2005 season after the hiring of first baseman Richie Sexson and third baseman Adrian Beltre.

With two flourishes of the hand, the M’s get muscle like they haven’t had since Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez were powering balls into the seats in the late 90s.

And the M’s have become contenders in the AL West again.

Just what many of us thought could not happen. Not this quickly.

But, lo and behold, the keepers of the purse strings kept their promises and when good players became available, they signed them.

In a hurry.

Just when you were beginning to wonder if they’d ever make a move – bam! They made two of them in 24 hours.

Bam is what they got for their buck.

Beltre hit 48 home runs last year. Sexson has had two 45-homer seasons in the past four years.

And I said it would take the M’s at least two years to be a serious team again.

Never underestimate the power of the greenback.

Or the allure of this franchise.

Both Sexson and Beltre want to play here.

And why not?

Seattle’s become a good baseball town. It has a beautiful ballpark. The fans still came out in big numbers last summer despite a miserable team. And the M’s brass is willing to spend big money to get back into playoff contention.

What’s stunning to me is that Beltre left one of the most storied franchises in baseball, the Dodgers. He left guaranteed warm weather to come to a town where it can still be downright cold in April and May. He left a team that won its division for one that finished last. He left an organization that he had been raised in since signing with the Dodgers when he was 15 years old.

Unlike Tommy Lasorda, he apparently didn’t bleed Dodger blue.

“The clear message we were getting from (agent) Scott Boras was that Beltre really wanted to play here,” Lincoln said. “Once that became apparent, we moved pretty quickly. When you get somebody with this kid’s record, you want to snap him up when you find out that he’d like to play here.”

About that record. Beltre hit more home runs last season than in any two of his best seasons combined. So how do you know he can do it again? You don’t. But you’ve got to take a chance. You’ve got to say, “He’s young (25). Maybe last year is a sign of what’s to come.”

Even if he falls off to 30 homers, that’s still more than anyone on the M’s hit last season.

Sexson is another “take a chance” player. You take a chance that his shoulder, which he injured twice last season and limited him to 23 games, won’t go bad a month into the new year.

Every time a team signs a player, it’s a risk.

It’s part of the game. A high-stakes game. A gambler’s game, when you get right down to it.

You place your bets and take your chances.

“I indicated … that we were going to turn things around as quickly as possible and that we would give (general manager Bill) Bavasi the financial flexibility he needed to sign free agents,” Lincoln said, “but in the end, actions speak louder than words.

“We just spoke.”

Before all is said and done, the M’s may have to do some more speaking, but for now they’re back in the good graces of their fans, the 99 losses not forgotten but certainly not uppermost in people’s minds.

Now there is something to look forward to. Spring training will be here before you know it. “I can hardly wait,” Lincoln said. “I can hardly wait for the season to start, to see what this team does this year.”

To see what $100 million can do.

Er, forgive me, $114 million.

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