Seattle Mariners: Ownership & Dipoto, Put Up or Shut Up
We have all heard it before. Either from a manager, front office executive, players, or even Mariners ownership. The message has remained the same for 17 years: we want to win.
And if we are being honest, I don’t think the Mariners are lying. I do believe that they want to want. However, just saying you want to win, doesn’t make it your top priority. We as people make similar claims all the time.
For example, I want to buy a classic Mustang in my life. Does that mean it is my number one priority? Absolutely not. In fact, it doesn’t even crack the Top 50 of life goals (if I actually had a list).
So yes, I believe that Jerry Dipoto, Scott Servais, and new”ish” owner John Stanton want to win. But the real question to ask isn’t WHAT do they want. No. The real question is, ” how bad do they want it”?
And so far, the answer appears to be,” not as much as we want to be profitable”. Now, before I go on and “trash” the Mariners upper-management team, let’s make 1 thing clear: they are not cheap.
In fact, over the past several off-seasons, the franchise (under 2 different owners and General Managers) have spent on the likes of Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager, Nelson Cruz, Jean Segura, Dee Gordon, and Mike Leake to name a few pricey players. They even finish in the Top 10 payrolls in baseball over the past handful of seasons.
So if it isn’t about not spending money, what is it about?
Well, simply put, while the franchise is spending money on contracts mostly inherited by an old ownership group, it isn’t pushing the boundaries of what the franchise can spend. The Mariners are only pushing their payroll far enough that they can still turn a profit every season, or at the very least, minimize their losses.
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In other words, spending large amounts of money is a great facade to convince your fan base that you’re invested in winning, without actually taking any risk to your own personal wallet. On a purely business side of things, the strategy makes sense. By spending enough to put out a competitive team on a regular basis, you keep your fan base interested long enough to collect their money and turn your profit.
Why spend $180 million on an 87 win team when you can spend $160 million on an 84 win team? This is a smart way to run a business. It is a terrible way to run a sports franchise. The sad thing is, that the Mariners need not look far for evidence that spending money now can make them more in the long run.
It was just over 20 years ago that the Seattle Seahawks were so irrelevant that it was nearly impossible to catch their home games on TV. Things got so bad, the franchise was set to move to Southern California before a last-minute save by the late Paul Allen kept the team in Seattle.
Allen knew that in order to turn the franchise around, he would need to give the fans a reason to come back to the franchise. In addition to lowering ticket prices to help sellout games (which in turn allowed fans to watch the team on TV), Allen also spent money on the product itself.
He went out and hired Mike Holmgren to be his head coach, bringing instant credibility to the franchise. He then went on to build a state of the art training facility and continued to spend more on coaches and personnel than any owner in the game.
In 2013, Allen and the Seahawks won the Superbowl, dramatically increasing the hysteria surrounding the team, bringing on thousands of new fans, which caused a sharp increase in ticket prices while also still increasing the demand. By spending money on his franchise, Allen turned the Seahawks from a local afterthought to an international brand.
So what does this all mean for us, Mariners fans? Quite simply, it is time for Stanton to either put up or shut up. Don’t tell me you want the 17 season playoff drought to end. Don’t tell me how you have empowered Dipoto to go get things done. And don’t tell me you care as much as I do. Show me.
Talk is cheap. Acquiring the sort of talent needed to uplift the dormant fan base won’t be. This franchise and this roster don’t need minor changes and tweaks. It needs momentous changes. The kind of changes that moves mountains, and puts Seattle in the center of the baseball conversation.
In the book Moneyball, then Oakland A’s GM Billy Beane describes what he calls a “f*****g A” move. Simply, a move that is so large that it makes the rest of the baseball world stand, mouth aghast at what they just heard, saw, read, etc. The Mariners need this type of move this winter.
Here is the best part Mr. Stanton: this move doesn’t even mean you need to be a player on Bryce Harper. No. In fact, trading Edwin Diaz or James Paxton can be your effing A move. The Mariners have played chicken with the line of truly competing for way too long.
Now is not the time to be safe. Now is the time to be bold. To do something so major that your fan base and the rest of baseball has no choice but to stand at attention and wonder what might happen next.
You need your defining moment. And it is time for this franchise to be bold. It is time for the Mariners to decide if they are in, or if they want to fold and start again. It is time for the franchise to stand, and in one declarative voice make a statement about who they are and what they want to be.
The time for wandering aimlessly through the desert has passed. Be bold. Stake your claim. And if you are unwilling to do this, then the least you can do is stop lying to the fan base and kindly shut up.