The Chiefs suffered a record top flight loss as the visiting Sharks ran in eight tries at Sandy Park to ensure themselves of a place in next season's new-look European Champions Cup.
Michael Paterson, Tom Arscott, Sam Tuitupou (2), Dwayne Peel, Dave Seymour, Tom Brady and Andrei Ostrikov all crossed for the visitors, whilst the remainder of their points were shared out by the respective boots of Danny Cipriani and Joe Ford.
In reply, the Chiefs countered with tries from Fetu'u Vainikolo and Carl Rimmer - one of which was converted by skipper Gareth Steenson - but it was scant reward on a dismal day for the Devon club.
Understandably Baxter could not hide his disappointment at the final whistle, describing the whole day as a "humbling experience" for everyone associated with the club.
"We let our supporters down today and I would like to apologise to each and every one of them, because I thought we were poor," said Baxter.
"It is not what they pay to expect, and it is certainly not how I want the team to be, and not how I expect we should be rewarding the supporters we have got, because we have got some fantastic supporters, and I don’t feel we have done them proud at all today.
"I am not going to stand here and say I know all of the answers, and ultimately a lot of that’s got to come down to me really, because how the team goes onto the pitch and the motivation they have is largely a big part of my job, and that is probably what I am most disappointed and frustrated about.
"I've just said to the guys - and I include all the coaching staff in that as well - something wasn't right today and I have to dig deep to find out what it is and look to put it right for the Harlequins game."
Having seen London Wasps leapfrog the Chiefs back into the crucial seventh spot, which brings with it the play-off place for Europe next season, Baxter knows his team will have to improve significantly if they are to get any kind of reward from their final games against Harlequins (home) and Newcastle Falcons (away).
Baxter added: "There is a seventh spot to get into a top-flight European competition up for grabs, and we are right in the thick of it. We were in possession of seventh spot before today, but we certainly aren’t now, and we don’t deserve to be either.
"Like anything in a team sport, I think some guys actually had pretty good games individually, and worked very hard, but collectively as a team, we looked as poor as we have looked in the Premiership, not because we conceded tries, because that has happened to us plenty of times in the Premiership, and we have lost by some big scores, particularly away from home, and there are reasons for it, and you have got to learn from it and move on.
"But you kind of hope we have moved beyond having to learn lessons a bit, and one thing I am learning pretty quickly is that, I think the LV= Cup final in a way has hurt us a little bit, because it has proved to be something that has made the season OK for us a bit as a team.
"It has given us a reason to be able to say that this season has gone OK for us, but the season has gone beyond the LV= Cup final, and we are playing some important Premiership games.
"You can never criticise everybody, but today as a group, I can’t sit here and say we looked like a highly motivated Exeter team who were desperate to win a game of Premiership rugby, and that disappoints me.
"You can’t legislate for individual brilliance from the opposition, but when one guy brushes through three, four or five tackles, you have got to sit there and question whether everybody is hitting that guy 100 per cent flat out.
"That (going through so many tackles) doesn’t happen without there being a lack of physicality and intensity and real steel about you, and we lacked the steel that was going to make today a real challenge for Sale."
With skipper Dean Mumm ruled out just prior to kick off with a shoulder injury, Baxter's options in the back five of the scrum were again hampered against a well-drilled Sale pack.
"The truth is the back five of the scrum has taken a hammering all season really, and particularly recently," said Baxter. "Today we were missing Dean (Mumm), Tom (Johnson), Romana (Graham), James (Hanks), and Don (Armand), and it has meant we haven’t been able to train with two packs of forwards. But that really is making excuses, because whatever 15 you put on the pitch, you still expect a bit of fight and do or die stuff.
"We had it at times and with individuals, but collectively we just weren’t where we needed to be to win the game today."
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