New general manager Jerry Dipoto’s hiring by the Mariners raises some serious questions after a power struggle that caused his sudden exit from the Los Angeles Angels.
As soon as I heard Mariners president Kevin Mather reel off his list of criteria for the team’s next general manager after Jack Zduriencik’s firing — experienced, fluent in statistical analysis, willing to delegate — I figured it was Jerry Dipoto’s job to lose.
And he didn’t. Lose it, that is.
Dipoto will be introduced Tuesday as the next Mariners general manager, becoming the third man in more than a decade to try to bring the playoffs back to Seattle.
It’s not exactly a distinguished legacy, particularly in recent years. Dipoto checks off the right boxes, though there are certainly some red flags that I’ll be interested to hear him discuss at his news conference.
Earlier, I expressed a preference for what Mather referred to (on the day he fired Zduriencik, one month ago to the day) as “a young, analytical, computer-nerd type.’’ Dipoto has bona fides in all those areas (he’s 47, which I still consider young), plus he has the bonus of being a former major-leaguer, which gives him a leg up in the scouting realm as well.
It’s particularly heartening to see Dipoto’s background in statistical analysis. The Mariners under Zduriencik simply did not keep pace with the “Moneyball” revolution. Just check the list of playoff teams to see that the bulk of them have relied heavily on metrics and statistical analysis.
But as Dipoto found out quite profoundly during his stint with the Angels, it can be hard to sell those methods to old-school baseball types. By all accounts, Dipoto’s abrupt resignation from the Angels in late June came about because he felt manager Mike Scioscia and his staff were not implementing the analytical data prepared for them by the Angels’ front office.
Dipoto reportedly went to owner Arte Moreno with an ultimatum. Not surprisingly, Scioscia won the power struggle. Scioscia still has three years left on a 10-year, $50m million contract and has numerous playoff appearances and one World Series title on his Angels resume. Dipoto and Scioscia had already clashed over Dipoto’s 2012 firing of longtime hitting coach Mickey Hatcher, one of Sciosia’s closest friends.
Dipoto gets points for not being a yes man, and not acceding to Moreno or Scioscia. But he also needs to make a case why he won’t run into future rifts with the Mariners. My instant judgment, by the way, is that Dipoto’s hiring doesn’t bode well for Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon, who would fall into the “old-school” category of baseball men. Having gone through a tense situation in Anaheim with a manager he inherited, I suspect Dipoto will want to start out with his own hire. Still, McClendon deserves fair consideration. I’m sure that will be one of the first questions at the news conference.
Looking at Dipoto’s transactions, there are triumphs and disappointments, just like every person who has held that position. I tend not to judge him at all on the big-ticket acquisitions of free agents Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton and C.J. Wilson — $440 million worth of contracts for which Moreno was the driving force.
We’ll look more closely at his deals in the near future. The Angels did have the best record in baseball last year (98-64) under Dipoto’s regime, before getting swept in the American League Division Series by the Kansas City Royals. The Angels are fighting for another playoff berth with mostly his players (Mike Trout does not fall into that category because he was drafted while Dipoto’s predecessor, Tony Reagins, was in charge).
Dipoto has legitimate credentials. He also has a daunting task that other seemingly qualified men have failed to conquer. Can’t wait to hear his plan.