Drayer: Mariners’ path forward is clear and with important continuity with extensions of Dipoto, Servais
The Mariners’ path forward in terms of who will set that path is clear.
The long-awaited announcement of Jerry Dipoto and Scott Servais’ contract extensions put to rest any speculation that there was any sort of wavering from “the plan” or rebuild that was put into action following the 2018 season. The move signifies not only continuity at the top – something that has been rare in an organization that had seen 10 different managers and three general managers in the 14-year span between the end of Lou Piniella’s tenure and the arrival of Dipoto and Servais – but a continued endorsement of that plan.
The strength of that endorsement perhaps reflected in the Mariners giving Dipoto the title of president of baseball operations in addition to the extension. While Dipoto had been reporting directly to Stanton since the departure of former team president Kevin Mather, naming him president ensures that direct line of communication will remain.
“It probably changes very little in terms of my day-to-day,” Dipoto said of the new title. “What the title means to me is probably direct access to John in a way that I didn’t have for many years prior.”
That access could prove important as he looks to improve the club. It is access that in the past was blocked by chain of command, a team president between him and Stanton. An additional gate that had to be passed, an additional opportunity for a no or a change with an idea or request on matters important enough to require sign off by ownership. With Stanton taking on additional responsibilities while a lengthy search for a new president of business operations was conducted, there was opportunity for that relationship to grow with daily conversations taking place.
“I’ve had a great deal of confidence in him,” Stanton said. “In the last five months I have had a chance to work with Jerry much more closely and that has simply just reinforced my view that I held prior to that that we have a plan, Jerry is the architect of that plan, Scott is the executor of that plan and it is essential to keep that group, that team, Jerry and Scott in place in order to realize the objective that we all have of winning a World Series.”
It is a very important relationship as is the relationship between Dipoto and Servais. There was little question that an extension for Servais would follow Dipoto’s.
While they have a history that dates back to their playing days, with the high stakes that come with running and managing a Major League Baseball team, nothing can be taken for granted. Dipoto took a risk on Servais, whose experience was in the front office on the player development side. His managing experience was limited to filling in here and there for organizational teams whose skippers would be out for a few days. Had this gone sideways, Dipoto would have had to fire a friend. Today, he could not imagine moving forward without him.
“It’s huge for me,” said Dipoto. “From my position the thing that you desire the most is just being able to take the car keys and throw them to the driver and then get out of the way. I have that type of trust in Scott and his staff. I don’t have to hover. I don’t have to micromanage. The most important thing you will do is find the right driver and trust him to drive and I do.”
With his position solidified, manager locked in, and organizational systems installed, Dipoto sees himself in a place where he can focus on the big picture. Most of the organizational heavy lifting has been done with the true test of the “the plan” on the near horizon.
“We laid out a plan that we thought was right,” Dipoto said. “And I still don’t know. We certainly haven’t accomplished our goals, but we’re making great progress. When we laid that out with a vision, we did lay out a timeline, and hopefully we’ve done our jobs and are delivering on that timeline.”
The proof will be in the postseason, be it this year or next. While organizational planning meetings are set to take place this week in Arizona, the team we have seen on the field this season has forced attention to the near future.
“We are going to play 33 more days of meaningful baseball and I do think we have put ourselves in a position to where if the chips fall our way, we have an opportunity to do something historic,” said Dipoto on the Mariners Radio Pregame Show. “To have a team that has driven through a season with so many highs and lows, so many emotional wins and frankly with some flaws, to get to the doors of the postseason would be a phenomenal achievement.”
“As importantly,” he continued, “We are situated moving into ‘22 with a young and incredibly talented team, where we have been able to identify various places around the field where we believe that we can help that team be it free agency or trade. In years past we have been maybe more inclined to trade rather than sign free agents as we built that core, and we were trying to establish a foundation for a team. Now we might go the other way where we have built a foundation, we believe we have built enough depth at the high levels to be able to go out and compete at a high level and now we can go out and augment it through free agency where we don’t have to give up future talent to make things happen.”
Dipping into the free agent market this winter is no doubt what Mariners fans want to see. How far they go remains to be seen, but on Wednesday a step in the right direction was taken as a critical piece of business was finally taken care of. It was an important day for the organization.
With continuity comes stability and in an organization that has seen its fair share of turbulence, it would appear all sides are on the same page, with direct lines of communication and most importantly, pulling in the same direction.