Amid a five game losing skid at the tail end of a season full of disappointment, significant news about the Mariners for the rest of 2015 is likely to occur off the field. I suppose it’s possible James Jones will hit for the cycle, or Vidal Nuno will toss a no-no, but at this point we are watching the last twitching of the 2015 Mariners cadaver.
But I am buoyed with the news today that former Angels GM Jerry DiPoto was hired to fill the vacant GM job. I’ll go into my reasons for optimism about DiPoto shortly, but I really do think Mariners management, particularly baseball operations chief Kevin Mather. are due for some recognition. When he fired former GM Jack Zdurencik, Mather shared his preference for an experienced GM, and he got one. But he did it without resorting to aging retreads like Kevin Towers, Dan O’ Dowd or Larry Beinfest.
Mather also made it clear he wanted to hire a manager who had a variety of skills, knew what he didn’t know, and was comfortable having people around him who could help. Mather’s statement today indicates that DiPoto seems to fit that bill.
During our conversations over the past few weeks, it became clear to me that he has a very solid understanding of our team and organization, both where we are and where we want to be. And he has a strategy to get us there. Few candidates bring the combination of playing the game, scouting, a solid understanding of statistical metrics and a plan for player development.
Mather also made good on his promise to make an early decision. I was surprised a decision was made with six games left to play in the regular season. But the early hire allows DiPoto the opportunity to have his staff together prior to the beginning of the off-season, ready to go with a plan when the free-agent period begins. By contrast Jack Zdurencik wasn’t hired until October 22, 2009.
Will DiPoto succeed where Bill Bavasi and Zdurencik failed? Only time will tell. But one can point to players drafted and developed under DiPoto’s leadership from 2011-2015 and draw some conclusions. They include:
Kole Calhoun age 27. Joined Angels in 2012
C.J. age 25. Joined Angels in 2014
Mike Trout age 23. Joined Angels in 2011
Garrett Richards age 27. Joined Angels in 2011
Dipoto has drafted and developed players and he’s made a passel of trades. Pedro Moura graded his moves for the Orange County Register after his July resignation. Check them out and see what you think. Some hits and some misses. But there is also little doubt in my mind that he was doomed in his job. Angels owner Arte Moreno is a meddler and forced the signings of Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton on the Angels GM. Hamilton was a disaster, and the Pujols contract will be, sooner rather than later. When manager Mike Sciosia refused to use on-field analytics in his game planning, he received the support of the owner, leaving DiPoto to do little more than say “Later . . .” and head out the door.
My view is that DiPoto is a great middling choice. He’s see both sides of the ball-as a player, a scout, and an executive. He embraces analytics but will also employ traditional scouting methods. He’s not all one thing or another. He’s been around longer than highly though of Yankees assistant GM Billy Eppler, but isn’t one the persistently recycled MLB old guard. Does that mean he’ll win immediately? No. Does that mean he’ll please the fan base with his decisions? No.
And just one more point. Be ready for more changes. There will be moves made in the front office and on the field from Safeco Field to Everett Memorial Stadium. It is unusual for a new GM to keep the old field manger around. While views of Lloyd McClendon’s acumen are mixed at best, it’s unlikely he survives this new hiring. Given his relationship with Sciosia, I can’t imagine DiPoto won’t insist on his own guy loyal to him. Another casualty, a little closer to home, however, is likely to be Edgar Martinez. By all accounts Edgar has helped players like Robinson Canoe and Mark Trumbo turn their seasons around. However, a new field manager is likely to insist on their own choice for a hitting coach . A new guy, wanting collaborators he knows and trusts, is likely to pass on the greatest hitter in Mariner history. It’s just business. But that’s the price for failure.
I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s press conference.