Jerry Dipoto talks Mariners’ ‘frustration’ and ‘level of focus’

Jun 22, 2023, 11:02 AM | Updated: 11:07 am

Seattle Mariners...

Teoscar Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners on June 21, 2023. (Dustin Satloff/Getty Images)

(Dustin Satloff/Getty Images)

The Seattle’ Mariners’ bats went cold again on Wednesday, resulting in a 4-2 loss to the New York Yankees that pushed the M’s to two games under .500.

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“It’s been an ongoing level of frustration,” Mariners president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto said during his weekly Seattle Sports show on Thursday. “And I’d like to tell you that I hope it’s reached its peak, but, I mean, it’s not been a great run for us, and I think we’re all aware of that. I feel like we’ve at least identified where the issues lie, and now it’s on us to figure out how to pull ourselves out.”

So what exactly is the issue?

“Our offense just doesn’t score runs. And it’s been a problem for quite some time now,” Dipoto said. Seattle enters Thursday 20th in runs scored in MLB.

Dipoto thinks overall the Mariners have been better at the plate when it comes to generating baserunners over the last few weeks.

“But we still really struggle to convert that into runs consistently. And that’s the big issue with this team is consistency,” he said. “We show flashes, we have fun players …we have a positive (dominate the zone) number despite an absurdly high strikeout rate for our lineup, we’ve generated a positive run differential, and still we find ourselves scrapping and clawing to try to figure out how to separate ourselves from .500.”

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Lack of focus?

Manager Scott Servais said after a recent loss that the Mariners have a “lack of focus” at times. After Wednesday’s loss, Servais said the team was competitive at the plate late in the game, but the hitters need to be competitive throughout an entire game.

Dipoto also brought up the Mariners’ focus level on Thursday.

“It’s a level of focus. I think we’ve all seen our team’s level of focus, it comes and it goes,” he said. “When we are really focused and we are intent in the batter’s box and we are putting on good at-bats where we’re taking the balls and swinging at the strikes and if our pitchers go out and drill the strike zone, we generally see positive results. And one trait that has shown itself with this team is for a three-, four- or five-inning stretch or even three games, we teeter and we seem to disappear. And I think when Scott says compete, that’s what he’s referencing is it’s 24/7, it’s 162 games a year that you are dialed in and you are competing. And if you let your guard down, the other team is going to pass you by.”

What Dipoto did stress is that the team doesn’t lack effort, as the players and coaches arrive to the park early to get their work in.

“And maybe it is that they’re just there too long and the focus is too much on trying to pull themselves out instead of just breathing and having a little bit of fun with it,” he said. ” … At the end of the day, it’s going to require focus. And right now, we are distracted young players. We are veterans who are not having great years that are trying to figure out how to get back to their norms. And we’ve talked about it before, when that’s happening collectively, it’s hard to find the stabilizing voice in the middle of the room because everybody’s focus might be on something different than just the outcome of the game that night.”

Getting away from their approach

The Mariners simplified things at the plate recently, with Servais stressing hitting the ball up the middle.

The early results were good, but stringing together hits and runs has again been an issue over the last two series.

Why have the hitters gotten away from what was working?

“Really it’s just a panic. I don’t know another way to describe it,” Dipoto said. “And when you run into (Chicago White Sox starter) Lance Lynn on a day when you strike out 18 times, we walk away winning that game, but nobody feels good about that. You get on the plane, you fly to New York and your general thought is, ‘We pulled one out there.’ And roughly we had three good at-bats in the game and we were able to manage that because our pitching was excellent.”

After a Monday offday, the Mariners faced Yankees ace Gerrit Cole, who dominated the M’s over seven innings on Tuesday. Then on Wednesday, Jhony Brito, recently called up from Triple-A, kept Seattle scoreless in 5 2/3 innings.

“We watched it last night against a fairly inexperienced pitcher who had been struggling in AAA before coming back to the Yankees and we went out and we made a lot of soft outs early in counts. We didn’t really do the things that you have to do to grind a team that, frankly, they’re down, too.” Dipoto said. “The Yankees were down when we came in and we let them off the hook a little bit last night … We didn’t focus on the things that we can do to compete against that team in a meaningful way.”

Are the Seattle Mariners not handling expectations?

After back-to-back 90-win seasons and the franchise’s first playoff berth since 2001, expectations were, naturally, high for the Mariners in 2023.

But have those expectations played a part in the team’s struggles?

“Entering the season, we thought we were a good team. And frankly, so did the pundits,” Dipoto said. ” … I really don’t think this is a case of crumbling to the expectations. I think this is more the case of our expectations of ourselves are so high, and that’s from me to Scott to every player in that room. And right now, I’m not sure. We just haven’t done the things that we are capable of doing. And I think everybody in that room feels that. We don’t need external forces to remind us that we’re falling short of our goals or whatever expectations were. We’ve fallen short of our own, and that’s the most important thing is getting back to effectively doing the things that we know we can do.”

Was there any way Dipoto and the Mariners could have seen this level of struggle coming?

“I don’t know how. And I’ve said this before on these airwaves – I take full responsibility for putting this roster together,” Dipoto said. “This is the same team, the same core of a team that did the things that it did a year ago and frankly played a pretty good season in 2021. Our pitching has generally stood up to expectations. Could we talked about park factors and weather in the early season? Sure, but it’s now the third week in June and we’re still doing the same things and making the same mistakes. And at some point, we have to collectively get back on track.

“And I don’t think it’s going to be one player at a time. I really don’t. I think this is going to be one of those things that is contagious and when we have the standard-setter in the room that says, ‘Guys, this is the way we do it.’ And we just we have not really struck on that. I wish I knew what we could have done at the at the start to mitigate this. It’s a collective struggle that I don’t think anybody saw coming, which is why we’re having this conversation and why it’s widely written about. We are falling short of standards that were standards for a reason, they were expected for a reason. This is a good, talented baseball team that’s not playing like a good, talented baseball team.”

Listen to the full Jerry Dipoto Show at this link or in the audio player near the top of this story. 

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