The Mariners Extended Dipoto & Servais As They Try To Contend Down The Stretch

After just totally biffing it against the Royals, the Mariners played three winnable games against the Astros, winning two of them in shutout fashion.

The only loss was in the series opener on Monday, where we bafflingly blew it in the 8th by turning a 3-2 lead into a 4-3 loss. Chris Flexen didn’t have his greatest stuff, but still pitched into the sixth inning, giving up just 2 runs. Casey Sadler locked it down through the 7th, giving us just enough time to take that all-too-brief lead in the bottom of the sixth.

The Astros scored their first two runs in the 1st inning, making the Flexen performance even more impressive. Jose Marmolejos – back with the Mariners after going on the warpath with the Rainiers for much of the season – hit a solo homer in his first at bat to make it 2-1. That’s where it remained until Dylan Moore – pinch hitting for Marmolejos – jacked a 2-run homer to make everyone happy.

But, then Joe Smith was tasked with handling the 8th inning. I don’t totally get it. Was Drew Steckenrider simply unavailable? Did Scott Servais lose his mind? Either way, shaky defense and even shakier pitching meant Smith gave up three singles and two runs, before he was pulled for Yohan Ramirez to get the final two outs of the inning. The Mariners were toast from there.

Tuesday saw Yusei Kikuchi take the mound, desperately needing a quality start to help save his Mariners career. And, to his credit, he went out and dominated: 7 shutout innings, giving up 4 hits and 2 walks, while striking out 4. His fastball was lively, he threw it often, and he got ahead of hitters; when he’s able to do that, good things tend to result.

The game was, nevertheless, scoreless as we headed into the bottom of the eighth. Paul Sewald got the job done in the top half against the top of the lineup, setting the stage for Kendall Graveman, who was making his first appearance in Seattle since the infamous deadline deal.

Graveman still has electric stuff, but the Mariners put a tough challenge on him. J.P. Crawford led off the inning with a walk, Seager singled after a Haniger strikeout, and Ty France was hit on the forearm to load the bases. The table was set … for Abraham Toro of all people, the very centerpiece the Mariners got back in return in the Graveman deal.

Toro got in a 1-2 hole early, whiffing hard on Graveman’s sinkers. But, he finally started making contact – fouling off three pitches while working the count even – before unloading on a sinker in the inner-middle of the plate for a grand slam. It was glorious! I’m not going to say the Mariners won the trade in that single at-bat – lord knows this bullpen has been plenty fallible in Graveman’s absence – but I’ve been a fan of Toro since we got him, and that further cements in my mind the value he brings to this team, both this season and in the years to come.

It was Graveman’s first loss of the season – and it dented his ERA pretty good – but he’s still been wildly effective for the Astros since going over there. Just, you know, not against the Mariners. Against us, he’s gone 1.1 innings and given up 5 runs. Shit, maybe he WAS the world’s greatest teammate! He’s so good, he’s STILL helping us win ballgames!

If the 4-0 shutout was impressive, Wednesday’s 1-0 shutout was truly remarkable. Logan Gilbert – another starter who’s struggled over the last month – went 5 shutout innings, giving up 4 hits & 0 walks, while striking out 4. Again, lots of fastballs and he did a good job of staying ahead of hitters.

This game saw the return of Justus Sheffield, now a reliever since his return from the IL. I don’t know if that’s a permanent move, or if that’s even a role he’s well-suited for, but he got through his one inning unscathed to get the win. Because we scored our lone run in the bottom of the sixth, thanks to a Crawford single, walks by Haniger and France, and a sac fly to center off the bat of – you guessed it – Abraham Toro. It wasn’t a deep fly ball by any means, but with Crawford’s speed – and the sun wreaking havoc on the outfielder – it was long enough.

Then, it was shutdown time. Sadler did his job in the 7th. Steckenrider returned to get two outs in the 8th (before putting two runners on), which necessitated Paul Sewald going in there for the 4-out save. Which he managed heroicly, striking out three guys in the process (while only getting into a little trouble in the 9th before slamming the door shut).

It’s a bummer we didn’t manage to take all three games – because at this point in the season, we could’ve really used the boost – but winning this series was very impressive the way we did it. The Astros have the best offense in baseball, and we absolutely shut them down!

Before the game on Wednesday, it was announced that Jerry Dipoto was extended (and promoted to President of Baseball Operations). Essentially, he’s still the GM, and he still reports to the owner, John Stanton, but clearly this is a big endorsement of his rebuild. It was simultaneously announced that Scott Servais was also extended to continue managing the ballclub; the terms for their contracts were not disclosed, so it’s unknown how long they’re under contract for.

I don’t really know of anyone who thinks Servais is a bad manager. Quite the contrary, I think most of us are really impressed with how hard he gets his guys to play for him, even when they’re lacking in talent compared to some of the elite teams around baseball. We might get blown out here and there – that’s going to happen – but we tend to be IN most of these games at the very least, and as far as the last two seasons are concerned, winning much more of them than anyone would’ve predicted.

I like Servais. I don’t have a lot of regard for managers in baseball in general; I think, for the most part, these teams sort of manage themselves. They get too much of the blame when things go wrong, and probably an appropriate amount of the credit when things go right. But, you can really see how Servais has built the culture here. It’s different than it was under Lloyd McClendon, Don Wakamatsu, Eric Wedge, and on and on dating back to the glory days of Lou Piniella. Honestly, Servais might be the best manager in all of baseball right now, and I’ve been saying for a while: I’d LOVE to see what he does with a team that’s as talented as the Astros or Dodgers or Yankees.

And, for what it’s worth, I do think Servais makes a high percentage of the correct calls when it comes to sticking with a pitcher vs. pulling him for a fresh arm. I mean, that probably has a lot to do with the analytics department, but it’s a credit to Servais that he actually follows the numbers and not just his fucking gut (*cough* Lloyd McClendon *cough*).

As for Dipoto, he’s MUCH more divisive. Fans seem to either love him and lap up the Kool Aid like the thirsty sheep that they are; or fans seem to hate him and want to ride him out of town on a rail.

I’m in the middle. If I had my druthers, we would’ve backed up the Brinks truck to Theo Epstein’s house and made him an offer he couldn’t refuse YEARS ago. But, obviously, that’s never happening. We hired Dipoto after the 2015 season, and while his moves have been hit-or-miss, I think there’s a lot unexplained from his tenure. He inherited an aging roster that was still trying to break the playoff drought. How much did ownership hamper him when it comes to tearing it all down back then and rebuilding immediately? I would argue they meddled quite a bit, with guys like Felix, Cruz, Cano, and Seager playing at the tops of their games.

It wasn’t until after the 2018 season – when we won 89 games, but again fell well short of making the playoffs – that we FINALLY committed to a real, official rebuild. I would say, by and large, Dipoto’s moves before that point were largely disappointing and underwhelming. Again, how much was he hampered by ownership, who likely limited his spending? I would argue quite a bit, with Felix’s dying contract, Seager’s bloated deal, and Cano’s albatross hanging around our neck.

I contend that SINCE the end of the 2018 season, Dipoto has been largely on fire with his trades, his under-the-radar dart-throw free agent signings, and his draft picks. In that time, he turned around a farm system that was one of the worst – if not THE worst – in all of baseball, into one of the best this year (including one publication ranking us #1 overall). The trade of Cano & Edwin Diaz for Jarred Kelenic (and others) is the big draw. But, he also pulled off the Austin Nola deal (for Ty France and Luis Torrens) and the aforementioned Graveman deal for Toro.

It hasn’t worked out perfectly since then. The Mariners really bottomed out in 2019, for instance. But, we played much better in a COVID-shortened 2020 season. And, this year, we find ourselves firmly in contention for a wild card spot with a month left to play.

You can argue that many of the young position players are failing to make the leap from AAA to the Major Leagues, but if that’s Dipoto’s fault, then it’s also on all the scouts and pundits who continue to laud these players as among the most talented of all the prospects coming up in the last two years. They’re still young-enough in their careers to turn things around. Plus, there are more prospects where they came from if they do, indeed, fail at this level.

On top of which, the Mariners have cheaped out long enough. It sounds like after having this year to analyze the guys we’ve got, the purse strings are going to be loosened, allowing us to go out and make some splashy free agent deals. Between that, and the trades we can make by having one of the best farm systems in baseball, as long as we don’t fuck things up COMPLETELY, we should be watching the Seattle Mariners in the post-season sooner rather than later.

So, no, I’m not a Jerry Dipoto hater. But, I’m also not drinking the Kool Aid completely either. He still needs to finish the job. Lots of teams throughout baseball have been in the position we’re in now. VERY few actually manage to morph into World Series champions, let alone enjoy the kind of sustained success you see out of teams like the Astros, Dodgers, Yankees, and Red Sox.

I’ll fully believe it when I see it. Don’t do what the Mariners always do: get swindled in trades for mediocre veterans who come here and shit the bed. DO do what good teams do: ship off shaky prospects for quality starters, and let’s go win us a fucking World Series title!

Kevin Mather Resigned From The Mariners Instead

As soon as word spread about what former Seattle Mariners president Kevin Mather said at that Rotary Club online event on February 5th, it was clear he needed to go one way or another. Obviously, firing him would have been much more satisfying, and sent a more powerful message to the rest of the organization and the fanbase as a whole, but accepting his resignation yesterday works too (while, presumably, reducing the legal ramifications for the club in having to separate from a high-level executive).

To their extremely minimal credit, the remaining Mariners executives are saying the right things, sort of. They’re obviously downplaying Mather’s sentiments as his own, rather than the organization’s (which is, of course, bullshit). As I said before, and as is clear to anyone with half a brain cell, Mather wasn’t just making up total fabrications, he was being just about as candid as possible, without literally tossing out racial epithets. The president of a major sports team is privy to all of the inner-workings of that organization, as well as its plan of action for the next however-many years. What’s that quote? “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” That certainly applies here. Don’t believe Mather’s toothless apology Sunday night after he got caught; believe the 45-minute speech and Q&A that he didn’t realize was being recorded to later be published on the Internet.

Yesterday, John Stanton – majority owner – had to face the music to the press. He will be taking over as president on an interim basis until they find a permanent replacement. That’s not as interesting to me. What’s interesting is how he’s trying to walk back Mather’s statements as one man going rogue. Kind of a play on the One Bad Apple policeman analogy, that totally dismisses the systemic issues at the heart of the Seattle Mariners.

It’s a delicate dance, because the smart thing IS to manipulate with a player’s service time. Look, this is the system that we have in place. There’s no formal salary cap – the players won that battle a long time ago – but in its place, we have this system of Team Control, that might arguably be worse for players than it would be to have a hard cap. Professional sports owners are greedy and fucking RUTHLESS, man. If they’re conceding something to you, I would take a hard look at what you’re agreeing to, because somewhere in there is a huge blindspot that the owners will be more than happy to take advantage of.

Getting back to the dance, though, you have to play all sides. You have to tell the players, “It’s all about competition and having the best players out there to help the Major League club win ballgames,” while at the same time telling them, “Well, you’re young, and don’t have enough minor league reps yet, so we’re going to play this underqualified retread/has-been until you ARE ready,” which just so happens to be however long it takes to maximize that player’s Team Control. You have to tell the fans to be patient, that it’ll be worth it in the end when all of these young prospects are up with the big ballclub, so just hang in there! And, you have to bend to the will of the ownership group, who will cut any corner if it means saving money in the short term. Owners will TELL you they’re desperate to bring back a winner, but in reality, that only matters if it comes with lots of fanfare and beaucoup bucks.

So, where are we now? I would argue, trust in the Seattle Mariners is at an all-time low. The fans are, obviously, outraged, to see that management has – ONCE AGAIN – bungled in the face of zero adversity. The players are, justifiably, outraged, to see that their worst suspicions have been not only confirmed, but given a name and a face to place their scorn. And, shit, the other Major League ownership groups are outraged because everyone knows Kevin Mather and the Mariners aren’t the only ones who think and act this way; and, of course, the Players Association is outraged because they’re looking out for the players who keep getting dicked around in this fashion.

How do we fix it? Well, not fucking up royally again for a while will surely help! Time fixes all wounds or some damn thing. I would also say the Mariners are heading into Spring Training with one arm tied behind their backs. ALL EYES will be on them and the way they go about deciding who makes the Opening Day roster. I would say it’s all but assured that at least Jarred Kelenic is in Seattle at the beginning of April, rather than the end of it. He might not be the only prospect making his Major League debut on such a timetable.

If you’re worried about Kelenic’s Team Control concluding with the 2026 season as opposed to the 2027 season, fear not! If he makes the Mariners effective Opening Day, presumably that means the Mariners will have him starting every day (there’s no reason to call him up and sit him on the bench). If he struggles, they can always send him to Tacoma for a month, telling everyone, “See, we told you, he’s not quite ready yet!” And we’ll get our extra year of Team Control. Of course, if he succeeds, then GREAT, we’ve got another quality outfielder helping us win games right away. This is win-win all around.

But, that’s a short-term solution. In the long-term, you want to know how the Mariners get over this controversy? SPEND SOME FUCKING MONEY.

Put your money where your mouth is, so to speak. You talk a good game about wanting to be a World Class, World Championship organization. Well, you gotta spend money to make money in this game. Or, you gotta spend money to make wins, at least. Because, quite honestly, the Mariners don’t develop to the same high-quality level as the Rays or A’s to think they can get away with being fucking tightwads now and forever. It’s time to put up or shut up, Mariners.

Frankly, it was time to shut up a few weeks ago!

The Mariners Absolutely Must Fire President Kevin Mather Immediately

I don’t come to these types of reactionary decisions lightly. I’m not waiting around, scrolling Twitter all day, just looking for something to be offended by. Indeed, when I come across something that either already has blown up, or clearly WILL blow up in the very near future, I tend to chuckle and think, “Well, that person just ended their own life.”

These types of responses – so and so must be fired immediately – get lumped in with this phony concept of Cancel Culture. For starters, it doesn’t exist. No one is ever canceled; at worst, they go in Time Out for a while and then get to resume earning a living again. If Brett Ratner can get another job directing a major motion picture, if Mel Gibson can be welcomed back into the Hollywood fold, if Louis C.K. can start touring again after a nine-month vacation, you tell me who’s really canceled. Beyond that, you know who NEVER seems to get canceled? Good people. Isn’t that strange? It’s only the fucking assholes, or the idiots who can’t keep their mouths shut and need to boost their own egos constantly who end up taking themselves down (for a period of time). Furthermore, if you don’t know how the game is played by now, it’s your own fault. If you do or say shitty things, you will be exposed eventually … SO JUST DON’T DO OR SAY SHITTY THINGS! Because it very much is a game, and you’re losing if you get found out; there’s no money in being a martyr. Just because good people don’t get canceled doesn’t mean there aren’t bad people absolutely THRIVING; they’re just smart enough to know how the world works.

In fact, I’m annoyed that Kevin Mather’s speech at the Bellevue Breakfast Rotary Club (whatever the FUCK that is; I’m assuming it’s full of the absolute worst of what this area has to offer, when it comes to entitled wealthy pricks) is even SLIGHTLY brushing up against racism, because while he’s certainly being one of those entitled wealthy pricks in his comments about Iwakuma (and other players, not noted in the link above; go find the full transcript for all of his bon mots), and while those are indeed fireable sentiments, I’m not here to tell you what you don’t already know: rich old white guy looks down on those from other ethnicities, news at 11.

I think Kevin Mather should be fired because he’s fucking terrible at his job!

When you are a president of something, your primary job is to be a leader. Handing out all of the Mariners’ internal secrets – when it comes to sabotaging a player’s service time, when it comes to exposing (in broad strokes) the organization’s financial situation, when it comes to fucking badmouthing your employees (you know, the guys you rely on to play the fucking game of baseball) – that’s not being a leader. I mean, in political terms, it’s the baseball equivalent of Joe Biden handing all of our nuclear codes to the Russians; Kevin Mather is helping THE REST OF THE LEAGUE destroy the Mariners.

If you’re a player in the organization, how can you trust anything that anyone says, from manager Scott Servais, to GM Jerry Dipoto, to primary owner and CEO John Stanton? If you are a free agent, why would you ever sign with a team that has this much contempt for its players? IT’S ALREADY HARD ENOUGH TO GET FREE AGENTS TO COME TO FUCKING SEATTLE! Because we’re so far out of the way, because we’ve sucked for almost the entirety of this organization’s existence, and because the weather is fucking shit! Now you’re chopping off both of the organization’s arms and legs, tossing us a sword, and telling us to go fight?

Someone who WANTED to get fired, who went into his boss’s office and shat on his desk and motherfuckered everyone in the most public and ostentatious way possible couldn’t have done a better job than what Mather did at this meaningless online event. He name-drops just about everyone, and NOT in a good way; in fact, he has something derogatory to say about just about everyone.

The thing is, did he lie? As far as I can tell, no. He said what everyone was already thinking. We knew there was no chance that any of the high-level prospects were going to get a shot at the Major Leagues in 2020. We knew that Jarred Kelenic wouldn’t likely be called up until May of 2021, to ensure that the Mariners control his services through 2027. We knew, financially, the Mariners are in good shape, because they have a controlling stake in their own cable channel that earns them countless millions of dollars that they get to hide from the rest of the league (there’s no profit-sharing in Regional Sports Networks; that’s all M’s, baby!). But, you can’t say those things out loud! Major League Baseball has another huge collective bargaining agreement to work out with the player’s union very soon! Do you think the rest of the league wants this type of dirty laundry aired for all to see (and to be used against them)?!

What galls me is that Kevin Mather talked about how confident he is that the Mariners are going to be world champions with this group. First of all, don’t you God damn jinx it! Secondly, if you’re ostensibly so high on these players, why are you making it nearly impossible for them to want to stick around longer than they absolutely have to? Why do I envision some of these guys refusing to play, and forcing their way out of Seattle eventually? Why do I see those championship hopes slipping through our fingers like the sands of fucking time, because one way or another we’re going to shoot ourselves in the fucking foot?

That’s what this is: the ultimate act of self-sabotage. His comments are no good for the Seattle Mariners organization BECAUSE they are the truth. They are the truth and everyone knows it, because there are 29 other MLB organizations who feel the same way about their own players (the only difference is, the other 29 presidents aren’t so fucking STUPID as to speak these words into a recorded Zoom meeting – allegedly while not knowing that it was being recorded in the first place, because he’s old and technologically inept). In that sense, this is the most Mariners thing he could have possibly done. The Mariners are ALWAYS fucking things up for themselves, in new and profoundly shocking and moronic ways. It’s like we’re fucking allergic to winning!

I am usually inclined to give people a second chance, if they speak out of turn or let some small thing slip out in conversation, or if something is taken out of context, but we’re talking about a keynote speech. This isn’t something he just blurted into a hot mic; this is something he worked on and maybe even rehearsed. To not know that this would get out into the world is BEYOND arrogant and/or asinine, because EVERYTHING gets out into the world! Shit man, even Ted Cruz can’t sneak away to Cancun for a weekend – abandoning his state in its time of need like the miserable fucking snake oil salesman that he is – without his picture (ON THE PLANE) circulating throughout every corner of the Internet. You think, you, Kevin Mather, are somehow exempt from the world that is 2021?

Of course, I had completely forgotten about how Mather was wrapped up in that sexual harassment scandal (and somehow got away scot-free with his employment with the organization intact). I was going to say that even though this is his first strike (it would, in fact, be his second strike … that we are aware of), he needs to be fired immediately, because this goes above and beyond damaging to the Seattle Mariners. It’s fucking sabotage.

His apology (riddled with spelling and grammatical errors as it is; perhaps he needs an English interpreter to help him with his statements) is meaningless. It’s also the first time he’s lied to us in this entire ordeal. Those comments are his own, because they are also reflective of the Seattle Mariners’ organization. They come off of years of strategy meetings and conversations with the rest of the higher ups, formulating their plan on how to run this rebuild. He can work to make amends all he wants, but that needs to be done with a pink slip in his back pocket.

Kevin Mather clearly can’t be trusted with delicate, valuable information related to the Seattle Mariners. Furthermore, I don’t know of a damn thing he has EVER done that makes him worthy of keeping his job. The best thing you could say about Mather up to this point is that he managed to stay OUT of the news (again, aside from the sexual harassment scandal). That’s something Chuck Armstrong – his predecessor – couldn’t seem to accomplish, as he kept sticking his big foot in his mouth in seemingly every interview. But, to blow up whatever good will he’d built up in such spectacular fashion is akin to striking out the side on a single pitch.

ONETWOTHREESTRIKESYOU’REOUT, Kevin Mather. I know you’re only fluent in Dumb, but I trust you won’t need anyone else to spell it out for you to help you understand.