All-Time Indians: Richie Sexson

All-Time Indians: Richie Sexson


All-Time Indians: Richie Sexson

Name: Richmond Lockwood Sexson Position: First Base & DH
Tribe Time: 1997-2000 Number: 44
  DOB: December 29, 1974
Best Season (1999) 134 479 72 122 17 7 31 116 34 117 3 3 .255 .305 .514
Indians Career 279 988 146 262 47 9 58 195 65 257 5 4 .265 .314 .507
Post Season Career 9 14 1 1 0 0 0 1 3 7 0 0 .071 .235 .071

It’s crazy to think of now, but in the 1990’s, the Indians had too much of a good thing. With a line-up full of some of the greatest sluggers of the decade, they missed out on the majority of the careers of many young players coming up from the middle to the latter half of the decade. Possibly the biggest of those players was Richie Sexson.

Sexson was originally drafted by the Indians in the 24th round in 1993 and by 1996 he was a top 50 prospect in baseball thanks to a dynamic season in Kinston (A+) the year before. After spending 1997 with AAA Buffalo, Sexson made his MLB debut as a September call-up that year with a less than impressive five games.

In 1998, Sexson would start in Buffalo again, but made a strong argument for promotion with more than 20 home runs and doubles in 89 games. He finally got the final call-up in late July (he had a short jump up at the beginning of the month) and continued with more of the same. In his rookie year, Sexson crushed 11 home runs and 14 doubles in 49 games while batting .310/.344/.592, an average and slugging percent he’d never even get close to again in his lengthy career. Incredibly, he struck out 42 times to just six walks and still was that productive.

While a high strike out count would follow Sexson through his entire career, it wasn’t his primary problem in Cleveland. That problem was a lack of position. In 1997, he gave Jim Thome a couple days off at first and to get more playing time in 1998, he played a couple games in left and a couple at DH. There’s an argument that he was a better defensively than Thome (he had a higher total zone rating in both 1998 and 1999), but given Thome’s established career, there was nothing moving him off first. In addition, the team was largely made of older veteran players, particularly David Justice, who needed the DH spot.

With veterans at every position, there simply wasn’t room for the Indians to work new players into the mix, so despite Sexson’s overwhelming success in 1998, he earned only a part time role in 1999 playing quite a bit in left, at first and as the DH. Despite playing only 134 games, Sexson hit 31 home runs, giving the Indians three players with 30 home runs (Manny Ramirez and Thome were the other two) and five with at least 20 (Justice and Roberto Alomar were the other two). In 2001 and 2007 the Indians would have at least five players hit 20 home runs, but they haven’t since matched three with 30.

This would be Sexson’s only full season in Cleveland and there were certainly worries about his strike out rate (117 in 134 games) and lack of OBP as far as being the future at first base. In addition, with the exception of Albert Belle leaving after 1996, the Indians had been extremely successful at extended players indefinitely and every indication at the time lead the team to believe that Thome would resign after 2002. Even if Sexson was better than Thome defensively at first, he was atrocious in the outfield giving him no obvious future with the club.

In 2000, it was more of the same as Sexson struck out 96 times and hit 16 doubles and 16 home runs in 91 games. In what would be an extremely short sighted trade, he was then sent to Milwaukee along with Marco Scutaro, Paul Rigdon and Kane Davis for a trio of relievers, Bob Wickman, Jason Bere and Steve Woodard. While Wickman would quickly become the greatest closer in Indians history, there’s no closer in baseball worth an All-Star position player and that is exactly what Sexson would become.

He’d finish out 2000 with 14 more doubles and home runs to hit 30 of each, something he’d average over 162 for his entire career. After an even more impressive season in 2001, he would become an All-Star in 2002 and again in 2003. Each of his first full three seasons in Milwaukee he knocked in at least 100 and twice he hit 45 home runs. At the same time, Thome left for greener money after the 2002 season and a position finally opened for Sexson, a few years too late.

With free agency looming after 2004, the Brewers traded Sexson to Arizona where he missed most of the season and had the most disappointing year of his career. For the second time, Milwaukee won a trade involving Sexson as they picked up much of their future roster in Chris Capuano, Craig Counsell, Lyle Overbay and more for what ended up being just 23 games of Richie.

As a free agent, Sexson would sign with Seattle and have a resurgence, knocking in more than 100 and hitting more than 30 home runs for two more seasons (he also maxed out with 40 doubles in 2006). After two great years and 1.5 poor seasons, Sexson was released by Seattle with the Mariners essentially getting nothing for the last $31M they paid the former slugger. It was a quick decline for Sexson, who played 22 more games with the Yankees before calling it quits on his career.

While many remember Sexson for his 1,313 strike outs and his poor defensive play (while in the outfield in Cleveland), he hit 260 doubles and 306 home runs during his impressive, 12 year MLB career. A much greater star for Milwaukee and then Seattle, Sexson was still one of the top designated hitters in Tribe history, largely due to the short amount of time the DH has existed.

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