Dipoto takes over a franchise that has not been to the playoffs for 14 seasons -- the longest drought in baseball. The Mariners have underachieved at the big-league level and have one of the lower-rated minor-league systems. But he believes success, at least at the big-league level, is not far away.
There were no postseason promises or World Series guarantees. And though exact goals were not listed, the belief that they were attainable was championed.
Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto’s introduction to the Seattle media Tuesday morning at Safeco Field was no different than those of his predecessors, Jack Zduriencik and Bill Bavasi. There was hope for the future with the inherent, if unmentioned, belief that the team is close to achieving the typical goals of sustained success, postseason appearances and maybe, yes, baseball’s ultimate prize.
“Today is a big day,” Mariners president Kevin Mather said, his voice slow and pausing with emphasis. “Today is an exciting day for the Seattle Mariners. The Seattle Mariners baseball team got better today.”
In the most basic sense, he is correct. The Mariners improved by admitting the regime under Zduriencik had underachieved and failed to meet expectations over a seven-year period.
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Mather whittled a list of 40 names to six and then arrived at three finalists — Dipoto, Yankees assistant GM Billy Eppler and Dana Brown of the Blue Jays.
Dipoto’s resume and success with the Angels as general manager could be viewed as an upgrade. Dressed impeccably in a trim navy suit and with his wife, Tamie, and daughter, Jordan, watching, Dipoto gave the impression of a young and vibrant executive filled with energy and ambitions.
“I am thrilled to be here,” Dipoto, 47, said. “Like Kevin, I’ve been in the game a fairly long time — 27 seasons and a lot of different roles. This is one that I’m thrilled to undertake. It’s a dream job for me.”
But that dream job has produced nightmarish results for others. Dipoto takes over a franchise that has not been to the playoffs for 14 seasons — the longest drought in baseball. The Mariners have underachieved at the big-league level and have one of the lower-rated minor-league systems.
“I look forward to the challenges,” Dipoto said. “There will be challenges. I say this every day. I don’t know what mistake I’m going to make today. But I’m going to make one. I’m going to make one tomorrow, too. I just hope it’s not a very big mistake. We’ll learn to minimize those and maximize the successes and make this organization a championship organization, and then … sustain it.”
How does he plan to do that?
“My baseball philosophy is to build flexibility, build versatility, create balance, and that will lead to sustainability,” he said. “I believe that starts today.”
Dipoto didn’t sound like a person committed to blowing up the roster and starting over. He believes success, at least at the big-league level, is not far away.
“I believe the foundation level here is fantastic,” he said. “Our job is to surround that group with as good of a foundational core as we can, create as much balance on the roster as possible. We want to create a model here that can be sustained where we have a steady flow coming from the minor-league system.
“There will be areas where we improve quickly and other areas that will take some time. Minor-league development is a slow build, takes time. The major-league roster foundation is here. What we need to do is work in the between.”
When Dipoto interviewed with Mather, he gave a frank and thorough assessment of the team, good and bad.
“Some of it was hard to hear,” Mather said.
Some of those assessments were the lack of depth of the 25- and 40-man roster, minimal athleticism in the organization as a whole, far too many strikeouts at the big-league level and defense not commensurate to playing in spacious Safeco Field.
“I think the one that we are missing right now is just a general roster depth,” Dipoto said. “The lineup needs to be a little longer, the rotation needs to be a little deeper, the bullpen needs to have more layers than it presently has.”
Perhaps the most pressing issue for Dipoto will be to make a decision on the future of manager Lloyd McClendon and his big-league staff. McClendon is under contract for 2016.
He and Dipoto met for two hours Monday to discuss the team. Dipoto was non-committal to McClendon’s future.
“My time yesterday with Lloyd was great,” Dipoto said. “Lloyd is a great baseball guy. He’s been around the game a long time. I’ve come across Lloyd many times in our career journeys. But I’ve never spent much time with him.”
That will change.
“This week will be a very important one for Lloyd and I to spend time together,” Dipoto said. “We’ve decided to spend time together each day to sit down and talk, mostly to get to know each other’s baseball, for lack of a better way of putting it.”
The baseball is what the relationship will be predicated on and whether differing philosophies would make co-existing difficult as it was in Anaheim for Dipoto with manager Mike Scioscia.
“Personality-wise, I think we both found out yesterday, we aren’t going to have a problem getting along,” Dipoto said of McClendon. “We seem to hit it off pretty good. It doesn’t scare me in the least. Lloyd is a good person and had a challenging career path to get here and deserves consideration moving forward.”
But Dipoto’s issues with Scioscia likely will have an effect on the decision. The two disagreed on the implementation of analytics, which led to Dipoto’s resignation this season.
“The best marriages are those in which you fall in love and then get married rather than someone arranging it from a thousand miles away,” Dipoto said. “It will take time to get know one another.”
Asked if that makes it important to bring in his own manager, Dipoto outlined his belief in the relationship.
“To have someone I believe in and that I trust and who trusts me and believes in what I’m doing is terrifically important, and I think that’s the foundation to all we do,” he said. “In this game, and in particularly in the post, I hold you communicate up and you communicate down and you have to communicate laterally, and to me the manager of the major-league team more than any other is a partner.”
“We are partners in what we are doing in building an organization and trying to create a dynamic that puts players in a position in which they can succeed, day in and day out,” he said. “That’s his job and my job, and when we do it together, we’ll succeed. When there is a divide, we are going to have problems.”
Per club policy, the length and terms of Dipoto’s contract were not disclosed.
Jerry Dipoto bio
Born: May 25, 1968.
Personal: Wife, Tamie; daughters Taylor and Jordan; son Jonah.
Front-office career: 2001, Rockies special assistant to the GM; 2003-2004, Red Sox scouting department; 2005-2006, Rockies director of player personnel; 2006-2010, Diamondbacks vice president, player personnel & interim general manager; 2011-2015, Angels general manager; 2015 Red Sox special assistant.
Playing career: Was a right-handed reliever for eight major-league seasons, pitching for the Indians, Mets and Rockies. Was 27-24 with a 4.05 ERA in 390 appearances.
Previous Mariners general managers:
- Lou Gorman, 1977-80
- Dan O’Brien, 1981-83
- Hal Keller, 1984-85
- Dick Balderson, 1986-88
- Woody Woodward, 1988-99
- Pat Gillick, 2000-03
- Bill Bavasi, 2004-08
- Jack Zduriencik, 2009-15