Bill Bavasi paces in his office, a cigarette dangling from his mouth. His fingers lightly graze the wood-stained desk as he walks by. He looks up towards the desk at an idle fax-machine. He pauses, takes a breath and moves slowly towards the machine. He examines the green LED screen – nothing. He sighs and continues his pacing.
Suddenly, three knocks on the door of his office. Mike Hargrove walks in. “Bill,” he says in a whisper. “We need to talk.”
Bavasi walks towards his suede arm-chair and plops down. He takes a drag from the cigarette. He looks up at Hargrove, “Mike. I’ll do the talking.”
December 15th, 2004
Bill: What happened this year, Mike? How did we go from 93 wins to 63 wins?
Bill: *Shakes his head*
Bill: It doesn’t make sense! We were aligned for another shot at it!
Mike: Look, Bill. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Things like this take time. Bob Melvin tried his best. They all did. It took me four years to get the Indians to the playoffs. Things like this can’t be rushed.
Bill: Did I make a mistake in listening to Wayne? Was Scott Spiezio a mistake? Was Rich Aurilia a mistake? It was tough to watch these veterans struggle, but I had to release Rich and John Olerud. They just weren’t performing.
Bill: I have holes to fill, Mike.
Mike: You’re right, Bill. One of those holes is catcher. Dan Wilson is getting old, I see the flame burning out. That catcher you traded for, Miguel Olivo – we need to get him more playing time.
Bill: I want to, Mike, but Wilson held together a pitching staff. I don’t think Olivo will ever be able to do that. I see potential in his bat – he batted a .270/.316/.496 when we got him from Chicago. I can see his discipline improving. But I’m going to put my stock in the catcher I signed during the draft: Rob Johnson.
Mike: I like Johnson. I can see him being a cornerstone of this organization. Speaking of draft picks, how about your first pick – what was his name again?
Bill: Matt Tuiasosopo. He’s going to be a star, I know it. He looks like a young Jose Canseco! Scouting reports point to his potential becoming a five-tool player: do you know how rare it is to find a diamond in the rough like that?
Mike: You know it’s been five years since Ken Griffey Jr. left? Imagine what this ballclub would look like with him in the middle of the lineup.
Bill: Sure, but look at this Ichiro Suzuki fellow. This little chinaman can play! He put up a .372/.414/.455 this year. Amazing. If only every outfielder could play like him.
Mike: You know, of ten outfielders with at least 700 plate appearances, only Bobby Abreu had a higher on-base percentage, with .428. Ichi can field, too. He put up a UZR of 20.5! Bobby put up a negative UZR with -13.7.
Bill: U-Z-what?! Uzi? He’s not a gangster, Mike. I told you, stop with the saber-tetris-crap-o-statistician garbage!
Bill Bavasi and Mike Hargrove are interrupted by the sound of a dial-up modem. Bavasi jumps up from his chair and runs to the fax-machine. He grips the edge of the table as each line of the message is transmitted. He tears the paper out of the machine before it is finished. He kisses the page and lifts it up towards the sky.
“We did it,” he says in a whisper. “We have agreed to terms with Richie Sexson.”
January 25th, 2005
Bill Bavasi and Mike Hargrove are enjoying a dinner at El Gaucho in Seattle. The dark, quiet room forces them to talk in their library voices. Hargrove slurps an oyster. Bavasi plays with his escargot.
Mike: I’ve been thinking about our future
Mike: How long do you think we’ll be here?
Bill: As long as it takes, Mike. Why do you bring this up?
Mike: I don’t know. I miss my family. I miss my home. I’m getting too old for this.
Mike: I want to spend more time with my wife.
Bill: You know, the sooner we can win a championship, the sooner you can get all that sh** done.
A cellphone rings. Bill Bavasi pulls it quickly out of his pocket, spitting his escargot onto his plate. He puts it up to his ear. He nods once. He nods again. “Alright, thank you. Great job,” he gloats as he grabs the chewed snail from his plate and throws it back into his mouth. His smile reaches from ear-to-ear, “Great news, Mike. We found our shortstop of the future.”
Mike Hargrove laughs as he pounds a piece of crab with his mallet. “And?”
Bavasi leans over and whispers, “Have you ever heard of Yuniesky Betancourt?”
Adam H. Wong