Drayer: With Jerry Dipoto’s extension, Mariners ensure continuity that the organization has been missing
Sometimes no news is no news.
While the lack of a contract extension for Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto, who was in the final year of his initial three-year deal with Seattle, was a hot topic of concern for some this year, it turns out there wasn’t much of a story there. The two parties didn’t talk much about the multi-year extension that was announced Friday before it was signed.
“It was mostly a phone call and a suggestion,” said Dipoto at his press conference. “This was a no-brainer for me.”
“Normal course of business,” is how team president and CEO Kevin Mather termed the timing.
“We’re 2 1/2 years into a three-year deal, it’s not like I don’t talk to Jerry on a daily basis,” Mather said. “We know where each other’s at, what we are planning on doing. It’s getting to the All-Star break, it’s time to get the extension done and move forward as an organization so everybody can kind of relax and go back to doing their jobs. I’m happy to do it and it was always kind of a done deal in my head.”
Mather and Mariners chairman John Stanton have not been shy in their praise of Dipoto, hitting hard on his mastery of analytics and ability to be creative in his approach to organization building. A complete tear-down and rebuild was never wanted, and at the time of Dipoto’s hiring he said that he didn’t feel that was necessary; they could restructure around a core while trying to win.
It turned out this would involve a dizzying succession of trades, moves that sometimes prompted those on the outside to wonder if Dipoto was actually accomplishing anything with them. In addition to the trades, there were a large number of additions to the front office and baseball operations staff as new systems were implemented.
Two-plus seasons in, it would appear these moves have benefited the organization – the team is just a game and a half out of first place in the American League West and in position for a wild card spot.
“One of the things that I appreciate the most in the freedoms that I have been given to do my job,” Dipoto said, “is we are able to try things that are new and unique and we don’t resist them because they’ve never been tried. And lo and behold, while some of them have flopped, some of them have been wildly successful. That’s what we are trying to achieve, or the level of achievement that we need in order to separate ourselves from competitors who are just as smart, just as creative and have just as much resources. We need to do something just a little different, and I think we are striking on that chord right now.”
Validation comes not only in wins but in the form of a contract. While Dipoto had the support of those above him, it of course is always best to get that deal on paper. Friday afternoon it was made official.
“It’s part of baseball. I’ve worked in the final year of contracts before,” Dipoto said. “It’s something we all deal with. I try not to focus too much on what I don’t have and try to focus on what I do. And now I will try to take care of the people who have helped take care of me throughout the journey.”
While that group could include countless members of the staff he has assembled in Seattle, the name that stands out the most his manager, Scott Servais, who like Dipoto also signed a three-year deal prior to the 2016 season and therefore is currently in his final year under contract.
“Scott has been my partner for far longer than we have been here,” Dipoto said. “I don’t envision a time where I am doing my job without him doing his job. I think so much of what we have accomplished this year is because we have often or always been on the same page. We have slightly different angles that we come from but part of the reason we are in the position where we are in July 2018 is because we won a lot of close games. You don’t win a lot of close games unless your manager makes good decisions. You don’t make those one-run games one-run wins without the right guy pushing the buttons and I think that is Scott Servais.”
The history of Dipoto and Servais goes back to their playing days. While eyebrows were raised when he named Servais manager – Servais had never held a full-time managerial position at any level – because of that relationship he knew what he was bringing to Seattle with him.
“I think what has happened in that clubhouse and as an extension what has happened on our field in 2018, it began really in the winter of 2015 with Scott Servais sitting in offices upstairs talking with our analysts, talking with our baseball ops team and trying to come up with ideas for how to create a new or exciting environment in a major league clubhouse, where for 115 years it was pretty much the same,” Dipoto said. “We found something that was unique to us. I give Scott a ton of credit for pushing the envelope in that area. We have now put 25 players in place who I believe trust the manager, trust the general manager, trust the organization around them.
“He’s been fantastic,” Dipoto continued. “And a partner through the whole thing. We will address it at the appropriate time and my guess is that before too long we will sit down and talk to you about what we are doing with Scott moving forward. He’s the manager of this team and I envision him being the manager and hopefully that is confidence enough. I know that group of players in there trusts him, we trust him, this organization on through ownership holds him in a really high regard and he will be taken care of.”
All too often the conversation around the Mariners this time of year has been about what or who is next. The conversations went well beyond the airwaves – you could feel the uncertainty in the air in every corner of the ballpark. There have been far too many press releases announcing firings, far too many GM and manager searches. Dipoto and Servais have given the Mariners more than 56 wins this year, their success which, as Dipoto pointed out, began before they put their first Mariners team on the field.
This gives the entire organization continuity. Friday was a good day for the Mariners.