You would think that days after the Mariners fell short of expectations and missed the playoffs for the 21st time in 22 years, that would not just be the main story in the Seattle baseball realm, but the only story. Well, that and the beginning of the MLB postseason for 12 other teams across the league.
Unfortunately, that is not the case, thanks to Mariners president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto.
In what was supposed to be your run-of-the-mill end-of-season press conference (that also featured general manager Justin Hollander and manager Scott Servais), filled with predictable quotes about the team needing to do more to achieve their goals and how they plan to hit the ground running on both the free agent and trade markets once the off-season gets underway, Dipoto instead borderline set the fanbase on fire.
And all because of a few infamous sound bites that maneuvered beyond the waves of Puget Sound and reached the eyes and eardrums of every major baseball outlet in the country.
There were a handful of statements that Dipoto uttered that could be dissected. But ultimately, there are two that conquer all.
Thanks to Dipoto, the game of baseball has a new favorite number: 54%.
Dipoto made a point that the teams who win 54% of their games over the course of a decade almost always make the playoffs and often find themselves in the World Series at some point over that time period. He also stated that some years in that stretch, a team will win 50% of its games, and some years, a team will win 60% of its games.
In theory, he does have a point. The five teams that have won 54% of their games or more over the last ten seasons are the Dodgers, Yankees, Astros, Cardinals and Guardians. Three of those teams have made an appearance in the Fall Classic over the last ten years, and all five of these clubs are constants in the playoff field.
But two problems lie within this argument.
First and foremost, this is talk that has to stay within the walls of the Mariners front office cubicles at T-Mobile Park. Simply put, expecting this to resonate with the majority of a fanbase that has seldom tasted the postseason in their lifetime is unrealistic, if not downright foolish. The Mariners faithful just watched a team that had preseason expectations to contend for the AL West miss the postseason. They want answers, not excuses.
The other issue is the Mariners have never won 60% of their games since Dipoto took over. If they had, these quotes may have been slightly easier to digest. But the Mariners haven’t reached the 97-win threshold or higher since 2001. So when Dipoto tosses out that number, many sit and wonder when that .600 winning percentage season will show up on the doorstep.
While Dipoto was not wrong for what he said, he could have spun it in a much more thought-out manner than he did.
Proceeding that, he talked about how he is doing the Mariners fanbase a favor by asking for their patience to build a sustainable roster that is talented enough to win a World Series.
This one sent people spiraling.
Seattle has made the postseason five times in 47 years. They are the only franchise to never make the World Series, and one of just six teams to never win it. A large contingent of fans believe that they have been patient long enough and can’t stand to wait around much longer.
Dipoto later claimed that the line was meant to be humor and the joke clearly didn’t land, going on to say that he was embarrassed by his remarks. But the damage had been done.
Once again, the root of the point Dipoto was attempting to make has sound logic behind it.
He mentioned within this same answer how taking the philosophy of “what do we have to do to win the World Series this year?” can leave you “laying in the mud and [unable to] get up for another decade.”
The Mets and Padres, for example, appeared to go all out to win the World Series in 2023 with record breaking payrolls. And while neither appears to be laying in the mud for the long term (at least not yet), neither got close to reaching the playoffs. The Mets sold off at the trade deadline, and the Padres appear to be set to shed payroll moving forward.
Dipoto doesn’t appear interested in that route. And that makes perfect sense. There is more than one way to build a championship roster, and recklessly throwing money around in free agency doesn’t appear to be one of them. But he simply can’t be looking for fans to sing his praises after a season that was a disappointment.
In the end, these quotes will eventually be nothing more than a distant memory… if the Mariners make impact acquisitions this winter. If they don’t, what Dipoto said this past week could long live in infamy.
Seattle has had opportunities to significantly increase payroll and add blue-chip players to the roster over the last couple of offseasons. But it hasn’t happened.
Fast forward to now, and the next four months will be as pivotal as ever in the Dipoto regime. Not only has the nucleus of the team been formed, but the team is coming off a disappointing season.
Fans are growing weary. Their own players are calling for action from the front office and ownership (as can be seen from Cal Raleigh’s comments last weekend with the vocal support of J.P. Crawford, Logan Gilbert and Ty France). And the club desperately needs to bolster the lineup with some thunderous bats.
As they always have, actions speak louder than words.