Idk, the flashbacks dont really sell me on him having had a whole journey in Hoenn necessairly, especially when he was pretty much shown as a rookie with base evolved mons when he first appeared. Kinda hard to buy hes been on a journey before his first meeting with Ash. Also, the badges youre talking about are when he appears later, im talking about him having one badge only when he first appeared. Im pretty sure that episode explicitly stated he had one gym badge and then when he returns he has 4 more to make a total of 5, correct me if im wrong though
He wasnt treated as a rookie either, which is my point. I could buy Barry still getting through the league and getting badges before Ash did despite debuting late, unlike Sawyer who was portrayed as a rookie with a potential for High IQ. Again, if they wanted to play the rookie angle with him, I wouldnt mind if he appeared way before and was more of a rival from the beginning and appeared around the time Sanpei appeared or something. Or if they wanted to keep him when he appeared, dont show him as a rookie, which is what it felt to me
The thing is, Sawyer lost quite easily, like we have seen rookies being beaten, unlike when Ash struggled or lost.
Im not saying he was incompetent, but the vibe I got was he was still pretty much a beginner trainer aka rookie who had potential and had the smarts, but had to grow first. I dont believe enough was shown to convince ME otherwise, and so I personally found him to be rushed, even if others did not. I just would have liked him to debut earlier around when Sanpei came, or be portrayed more experienced while maintaining the mentor role Ash had. Just my take