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Originally published March 4, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified March 7, 2007 at 10:04 AM

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Jerry Brewer

Sexson could use a new identity

Richmond Lockwood Sexson? Of all people, you wouldn't expect the Mariners first baseman to have such a turtleneck kind of name. Richie Sexson, as we...

Seattle Times staff columnist

PEORIA, Ariz. — Richmond Lockwood Sexson? Of all people, you wouldn't expect the Mariners first baseman to have such a turtleneck kind of name.

Richie Sexson, as we know him, isn't so stuffy and formal, although there are times he should be. He's just a laid-back, 6-foot-8 giant who could have the world at his spikes. But he's turned "pretty good" into a derogatory term.

"Sometimes you wonder what people think they're getting with me," Sexson said. "I give you 35-40 homers and 100 RBI. I don't know what they thought they were getting. I don't know what I should do. Hit 70 homers? I don't know.

"I just do what I do."

From now on, he should try doing what he hasn't done. Create a new identity. If he's just Richie being Richie, well, what if Richie tried being Richmond?

Maybe that guy could smooth out the rough spots on his talent. Maybe that guy would strike out less, hit for a higher average and save some of his homers and runs batted in for huge moments.

When Sexson got in trouble as a kid, he didn't hear screams of "Richmond Lockwood!" from the adults. "All kinds of names flew out there," he said, laughing and noting some should be unmentionable.

You know the feeling. His two-plus seasons in Seattle have been full of similar hounding. He didn't expect this when he returned to his home state in 2005. He thought he'd be a catalyst for the Mariners' rebuilding, not a favorite target for everything that's wrong with the ballclub.

The vilification bugs him. He brushes off his shortcomings when defending himself, but he knows he can be better. He wishes he wasn't seen as being flippant.

"I don't have any beefs with my teammates or anybody," Sexson said. "I don't know where that came from. Doing interviews is not my favorite thing. But it's part of the job, so I do them. I don't reveal too much."

He did offer that he spent much of the offseason trying to realize what went right for him late last season.

Sexson hit 34 home runs and drove in 107 last season, but it was a most uneven journey to those statistics. He barely hit .200 the first two months of the year. He collected most of his numbers the final three months. He hit a very un-Richie .365 in September (his career average is .269), but by then, the Mariners were toast.

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He watched videos of the season's final three months all winter, "trying to remember that feeling," he said.

Asked if he thinks that helped, Sexson said: "We won't know the results until this season begins."

He's a realist, at least.

Sexson will make $14 million this season in the third year of a $55 million deal with the Mariners. He must know that, as his salary escalates, so do the expectations. The Mariners need a career year from the 32-year-old. He's running out of youth, at least by pro sports' standards.

The Mariners have taken some risks to ensure Sexson has a good chance to succeed. Same goes for third baseman Adrian Beltre. General manager Bill Bavasi signed Jose Vidro and Jose Guillen, ignoring their injury history, for better support in the lineup.

It could easily backfire. And as much as we ponder what the two Joses must do to justify the acquisitions, much depends on Sexson and Beltre, too.

Sexson should be accustomed to dealing with expectations by now. He was a star in baseball, basketball and football (wide receiver, at 6-8) in high school. He hit 31 homers in his first full major-league season.

Despite spending his entire life as a standout, Sexson seems to want to blend. He disputes that idea, too.

"I don't mind being the guy," Sexson said. "I don't mind being up there with the game on the line. Most teams I've been on, if I'm not carrying the load, we're struggling. I like the accountability of that."

He hasn't won since Cleveland traded him early in his career. So there's more of a load he can carry. Sexson is right at the age in which players talk about winning as if it's mystical. He knows more victories could change his outlook.

And if there's one thing Richmond Lockwood Sexson wants, it's to be appreciated.

"I just want to win," Sexson said. "I think the losing has a lot to do with how my numbers are overlooked. Get on a team that wins, and everything is hunky dory."

Did he just say hunky dory?

Hey, at least for once, we understand him.

Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or jbrewer@seattletimes.com

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About Jerry Brewer

Jerry Brewer offers a unique perspective on the world of sports.
jbrewer@seattletimes.com | 206-464-2277

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