On Tuesday, the 2023 MLB postseason got underway with four exciting Game 1s in the Wild Card Series. Those are best-of-three series, so Wednesday brings us four potential clinchers. Four clubs are on the verge of punching their ticket to the Division Series.
Not among them are the Seattle Mariners. The Mariners were in the postseason race into the final weekend of the regular season, but they went 4-6 in their last 10 games, and that was enough to send them home for October. On Tuesday afternoon, president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto held his annual postmortem press conference and preached patience, albeit in a very condescending way.
“We’re actually doing the fanbase a favor by asking for their patience to win the World Series while we continue to build a sustainably good roster,” Dipoto said (per MLB.com).
This is a franchise that has one postseason berth (2022) in the last 22 years. Fans have been patient. I’m not sure any fanbase has been more patient than Mariners fans. Expectations were raised in 2022 — Seattle has an exciting young core and that playoff run was supposed to be just the beginning — and now a year later the GM is at the podium essentially telling fans, actually, we’re doing you a favor, why aren’t you thanking us?
Furthermore, Dipoto detailed his 10-year plan, which consists of building a team good enough to win 54% of its games. To call that modest would be an understatement — 54% is an 87-win season — but a 54% winning percentage is the goal. Here’s Dipoto:
“If you go back and you look in a decade, those teams that win 54% of the time always wind up in the postseason. And they, more often than not, wind up in the World Series. So there’s your bigger picture process. Nobody wants to hear the goal this year is, ‘We’re going to win 54% of the time.’ Because sometimes 54% is — one year, you’re going to win 60%, another year you’re going to win 50%. It’s whatever it is. But over time, that type of mindset gets you there … If what you’re doing is focusing year-to-year on, ‘what do we have to do to win the World Series this year?’ You might be one of the teams that’s laying in the mud and can’t get up for another decade.”
To be fair, only five teams have won at least 54% of their games over the last decade: Los Angeles Dodgers (61.8%), Houston Astros (57.4%), New York Yankees (56.3%), Cleveland Guardians (54.7%), and St. Louis Cardinals (54.2%). The Tampa Bay Rays are a few wins short at 53.8%. Winning 54% of your games over a 10-year span is difficult. It is.
But also, do fans really want to hear “our goal is to win 54% of our games?” No, they want to hear “we’re going to do all we can to put a World Series contender on the field” or “we missed the postseason and we failed this year.” They want accountability. Dipoto’s job is to be rational behind closed doors, not preach rationality to paying customers starved for a contender.
Dipoto used every executive’s favorite buzzword — “sustainability” — which is nothing more than a patronizing way of trying to lower expectations. Part of being a sustainable contender is actually contending, which the Mariners are not doing right now. They failed to build on last year’s drought-ending postseason berth. Some good things happened in Seattle this year, but the goal was going back to the postseason and make a deeper run, and they failed. Let’s call a spade a spade here.
This was Dipoto’s 11th season as a general manager or higher and his teams have made the postseason twice: 2022 Mariners and 2014 Los Angeles Angels. On Tuesday, he came off like an executive who can no longer hide behind a rebuild and is facing real expectations for the first time, and he doesn’t know how to deal with them. I couldn’t ever imagine telling fans the team is doing them a favor and you should be patience. It’s insulting, frankly.