Mariners, saddled with 24-45 record, fire GM Bavasi

SEATTLE -- It was Bill Bavasi's last ditch effort, the desperation of a frustrated man trying to find a spark and save his job.

Two weeks ago, Bavasi locked the doors in the Seattle Mariners clubhouse and forced his underachieving 25-man roster to sit together and be publicly held accountable for their spiraling season.

Childish? Yes. Punishment? Yes. Bavasi's last attempt at salvaging his job as Seattle's general manager? Yep.

"What I did was stupid," Bavasi said Monday after being fired. "The goal was to have them for once be in the same place at the same time after a game, after they had played real poorly. Sometimes you lose and sometimes you get beat, there is a difference, and we have lost too many games."

Whether getting beat or flat losing, there's been too much of it in Seattle this season, and Bavasi was relieved of his duties Monday morning in the midst of his fifth season with the Mariners. Seattle is 24-45, worst in the majors, with a roster many thought had the talent to challenge the Los Angeles Angels in the AL West this season.

Now, the Mariners and their $117 million payroll are simply hoping to avoid 100 losses.

"We've just got to win," Seattle manager John McLaren said. "It's kind of mind boggling what we've gone through and I've had a lot of nights staying up late trying to figure things out. We have talent, we play hard and for some reason that's not getting it done."

Bavasi is the fall guy for an underachieving group that he characterized as "dysfunctional." The move will certainly satisfy a large segment of Mariners' fans, who continually questioned some of Bavasi's moves.

It's now up to McLaren and interim GM Lee Pelekoudas to keep a season of promise from morphing into the worst season in franchise history. Otherwise, as CEO Howard Lincoln and team president Chuck Armstrong indicated, more changes could be coming. Both indicated no one is off limits, even franchise stalwarts like Ichiro Suzuki and
Felix Hernandez, however unlikely their departure.

"Clearly the high expectations we had for the team going into the season have fallen by the wayside," Lincoln said. "It's clear that we need a new leadership, a new direction, a fresh approach.

"We're going to make whatever changes necessary to get this thing turned around as quick as possible," Lincoln added, "and nothing is off the table."

Only once in his five years did Bavasi turn out a club that finished with a wining record. That was last year when Seattle won a surprising 88 games, and was in contention for a playoff spot into September.

That performance, and the offseason acquisitions of pitchers
Erik Bedard and Carlos Silva, caused many to believe the Mariners could overtake the Angels in the AL West this season.

But the Mariners have underachieved from the start. When the pitching was strong the offense failed to help out, and visa versa. Clubhouse chemistry was questioned, and Bavasi wondered aloud Monday if fiery Jose Guillen, who anchored right field for the Mariners last season, might be the personality missing from the roster that would hold teammates accountable for their play.

He also said he believes other player moves need to be made.

"I see people that are underperforming for no good reason. I don't have a good reason for that," Bavasi said. "They should be able to perform better and I think they have to take it upon themselves. I don't think they can look to a manager to a coach to lead them out of this. Their ultimate rescue is going to be themselves."

Bavasi was hired after the 2003 season, replacing Pat Gillick. He inherited an aging team that just two years earlier had won 116 games, but failed to make the World Series. He was also asked to rebuild a lagging farm system, tapped of top-end talent through various moves.

The Mariners have redeveloped their minor league system, but the major league product has struggled.

Bavasi tried signing big-name players, locking up slugger Richie Sexson and third baseman Adrian Beltre after the 2004 season. While Beltre continues to be a defensive standout at third base, his offensive production hasn't come close to matching his last season with the Los Angeles Dodgers, when he was a contender for NL MVP and hit a career-high 48 homers.

Sexson was expected to provide the pop Seattle's lineup missed. Instead, he's become the player fans most heartily boo, for his contract that pays him $14 million this season and his 485 strikeouts in four seasons with Seattle.

Bavasi has also missed with the signings of pitcher Jarrod Washburn ($37 million, 20-36 record with Seattle); an $8.35 million, one-year contract for pitcher Jeff Weaver in 2007 (7-13 record); and Brad Wilkerson to a one-year, $3 million contract before this season to be the starting right fielder, only to cut Wilkerson a month into the season.

"Will firing Bill Bavasi make us play better? No. If we start playing better, it's because something happened, we started playing better and figured something out," Washburn said. "It's not Bill Bavasi's fault with how we've been playing."