Jerry Dipoto likely misspoke when he shared the goal of the Mariners winning 54 percent of games during the regular season. After doing some research and thinking, I have come to the conclusion that this goal is highly unlikely to benefit the players or the fans and may harm the organization overall.
54 Percent and the Post-Season
Dipoto said that using the 54 percent approach would yield some post-season experiences for the Mariners. It is true that it might. For example, Philadelphia won 54 percent of its games last year and made it to the World Series. In 2021, Atlanta won 55 percent of its games and won the World Series. These teams are both in the highly competitive National League East where there are excellent teams and only so many games. Between 2017 and 2022 (and excluding the short 2020 season), Cleveland, Minnesota, Colorado (2017), and the Tampa Bay Rays (2022) made it to the postseason after winning 54 percent of their games.
This chart shows the winners of the American League and National League Divisions for the years listed. For the American League, the chart also shows the wildcard teams.
Division Winners/AL Wildcard Teams to Make the Offseason Over Five Years
ATL 62%/ (PHI 54%)
ATL 60%/NAT 57%
World Series Wins
2022: WS Houston (65%) v. Philadelphia (54%)
2021: WS *Houston (59%) v. **Atlanta (55%)
2019: WS: Houston (66 %) v. Washington Nationals (60%)
2018 WS: Red Sox (67%) v. Dodgers (56%)
2017: WS: Houston (62%) v. Dodgers (64%)
Teams that win the World Series are more likely to have won 60 percent of their games or more.
54 Percent is Not a Winning Approach, But It May be a Financial One
If the Mariners' front office studied recent seasons, they would have found out that while teams winning 54% of their regular season games can go to the postseason, they do not do this regularly or with great success.
What I fear (but only suspect) is that the 54 percent has not been developed for winning but for bringing in the most money. If a team gets 80-plus games over the season, they are good enough to fill T-Mobile Park and interest fans in buying merchandise. If the percentage went much lower than 54 percent, fans might not pay as much attention, and if the goal was higher, more money must be spent. An article from 2000 that I came across noted thatStanton's philosophy at that time was "get more for less." This may no longer be his philosophy, but the 54 percent goal sounds like it. John Stanton brought in the most profit of any MLB team in 2022 according to King 5 and Forbes: 84 million. This figure is nine million more than the next club, the San Francisco Giants.
Any time someone makes a profit, they get more money by shelling out less money. Last season (2022), the owners must have found the financial sweet spot between what they invested in players, other staff, the ballpark, media rights, etc., and what they brought in from fans to emerge with this much profit.
The players and the fans want to go to the playoffs and the World Series. If, in fact, the 54 percent is based primarily on profit, the ownership is indifferent to or ambivalent about this goal. It is one thing when business owners get more for less by buying raw materials in bulk, or negotiating for lower prices based on exclusive contracts, it is another thing when profit is made by paying people less, for example.
The Mariners' Experience is All About People
The "get more for less" approach may mean paying players less than they are worth. While several earn significant salaries, I am bothered to think that money is the bottom line when the front office looks for players. I think that Pete Wordworth can make more out of less because he is a strong pitching coach so can add to a player's value by imparting his knowledge. I do not have the same confidence in the hitting coaches. Players come as iffy or veteran batters and stay that way.
Seattle is not going to attract players if players think that the bottom line is profit for ownership rather than winning. The Mariners will not keep good players if Seattle does not spend some money.
As far as fans go, knowing that the ownership cares about profit but not about winning is going to sell fewer seats and sweatshirts. Fans love the players we have but will get frustrated if the team is always trying to bring in bargain players, especially batters.
John Stanton is worth over one billion dollars. He should not go bankrupt to get certain players but re-investing some of the 84 million dollar profit would not hurt him and maybe he has. At a certain point, if he does not really want to win, he should sell the team to someone who does. Otherwise, the players might play hard 54 percent of the time and the fans might attend 46 percent fewer games.