BY Art Thiel 06:30AM 08/02/2016

Thiel: Mariners’ Dipoto shuns ‘white flag,’ but . . .

Stark fact of trade-deadline day: The Mariners have little in the way of prospects or veterans to interest other teams. GM Jerry Dipoto stayed put, and Mariners responded with a traditional one-run loss.

Jerry Dipoto didn’t find much of a market for Mariners products at the trade deadline. / Alan Chitlik, Sportspress Northwest

Mariners fans, you know what it’s like to get to town the day after the circus leaves: Peanut shells and elephant poop.

The failure to bust a serious move at the non-waiver trade deadline Monday came as a disappointment to fans eager for a veteran starting pitcher or a lead-off hitter who could get on base consistently.

But to hear general manager Jerry Dipoto tell it, at a game over .500 on the playoff fringe, the market wanted the Mariners to sell their good players. The Mariners said no. The Mariners wanted to buy, but offered the market little of interest.

So there were the Mariners — inert. Their traditional home away from home.

“The greatest opportunities we had were to sell off,” Dipoto told reporters Monday at Safeco Field before the game with the Red Sox, who went on to beat the Mariners 2-1 on another ninth-inning flameout by closer Steve Cishek. “And that’s just not something we were willing to do. We feel like the core of this team is still very good.”

Meanwhile, as Dipoto and owner-in-waiting John Stanton stood by, the Texas Rangers acquired two premier veteran talents in OF Carlos Beltran and C Jonathan Lucroy for a team already eight games up on the Mariners in the American League West.

No seasonal outcome has been determined, of course, and the Mariners still have the month of August and its trade deadline to obtain players who clear waivers. But at the moment, after another familiar loss — 20 of their 52 have been by one run —  it takes a laser-like squint to see a way past the Rangers, or the other wild-card contenders in 2016.

Dipoto tried not to throw in the towel, but there’s no doubt he’s in his windup.

“We are realistic about where we are in this playoff push,” he said. “We feel like we have a chance in August and September, but obviously a lot of things would have to break right for us.

“The best thing we can do is focus on the good parts of our roster and how we are going to transition into 2017-18-19.”

Dipoto made smaller deals that surrendered three veteran pitchers — Mike Montgomery, Wade Miley and Joaquin Benoit — for two pitchers and a first baseman/designated hitter who are unlikely to have much impact this season.

The flag, if not white, is exceedingly pale.

The games Saturday and Sunday in Chicago neatly captured the season for Seattle. When everyone played well against the team with baseball’s best record, they won. But, aside from home runs, this roster has minimal capacity to compensate when a thing goes haywire.

The contrast with the Cubs was startling. In Sunday’s astonishing come-from-ahead collapse by the Mariners, the Cubs entered the game with an emergency pitcher who hadn’t started in four years.

Predictably, he was thumped, giving up two-run homers in each of the first three innings. Brian Matusz was yanked from the game trailing 6-0 and designated for assignment Monday.

Yet a game that the Cubs all but marked as a throwaway defeat turned into a win, thanks to a top-to-bottom lineup more talented than the Mariners and a bullpen that delivered a five-hit shutout over nine innings under the mastery of the game’s best manager, Joe Maddon.

Yes, it was a one-run defeat. But the chasm between the franchises seemed to need a plane to cross.

No one does walk-off home runs better than the Mariners; they lead the majors with six.  They won a three-game series 2-1 despite having never led once during any of the games.

But they are 17-20 in one-run games; the Rangers are 23-7.

Injuries to pitchers coupled with a lineup less athletic and youthful than Dipoto’s stated aspirations the past winter have left the Mariners again on the outside looking in. It was, and is, unrealistic to expect a transformation in a single season for an organization that has busted too often with its top picks — Jeff Clement, Adam Jones, Dustin Ackley, Danny Hultzen, etc. Dipoto has no choice but to adopt the longer view.

“So many good things are happening in our organization below us,” he said. “We don’t want to forsake that, either. I think we did the right thing. We kept the pieces that made the most sense for us. And we found value where we could find value.”

It does make sense. But the affection for baseball is purely illogical and emotional. So calling up Donn Roach from Tacoma, and claiming Mike Freeman off waivers from Arizona, on trade-deadline day, does not appeal to the passions.

The trade-deadline outcome is as familiar as the Hallmark Card sentiments for the category, “For Fans of Teams Out of the Playoffs 15 Seasons.”

Wait ’til next year.


  • Tian Biao

    patience folks (after all it’s been, what, 15 years?). The circus will return. A top to bottom rebuild takes time. The whole organization was rotten when DiPoto took over. Give the man his five years (bavasi, zduriencik) and let’s see what happens. plus the new kid in Tacoma, Vogelbach, looks like he might actually be able to hit. that alone is a novelty. but in the meantime, yeah, it’s another two-month elephant crap cleanup.

    • Cameron Clark

      can we please not repeat the whole, “needs five years to clean up his predecessor’s mess to build a winner?” can we learn from our mistakes? give him resources, latitude and a short leash.

      • art thiel

        Haven’t heard the five-year plan. If I do, I will crush it,

        • Cameron Clark

          Tian, above, suggests we should give dipoto 5 years as we did z and bavasi. I think not. (and please do, crush away!)

          • art thiel

            I haven’t heard it from the Mariners. Dipoto is way too smart for that.

          • Tian Biao

            okay, how about four years? because it takes a while to replenish a minor league system. but that’s how good teams do it: with patience, continuity and a consistent draft strategy. The Cardinals have had two GMs in 22 years. a GM on a short leash makes panicky short term moves. those moves have a name: they’re called Erik Bedard.

    • art thiel

      I’m curious to see Vogelbach. Dipoto is really high on the guy. But the veteran starting pitchers apparently were too expensive.

  • drwheelock

    Ugh. I don’t think there is another Mariner fan that has been more optimistic than me EVERY year since 2001 only to get let down. Whats funny is that each year until we are mathematically illuminated from the playoffs I’m figuring out who has to lose the last few weeks in order for us to get to the playoffs. lol? Not really but sad!

    I don’t like ‘rental’ players, BUT if you are gonna give up a lot of talent then go BIG on someone like Sale from ChiSox that will be controllable for 3.5 years! Take on Votto’s contract and solidify the 1B position for years. Yes we have Dae-Ho and Vogelbach now, which can be platooning too, but a Votto/Dae-Ho/Vogelbach combo in our DH & 1B slots for the next 4-5 years would be the strongest in MLB.

    This August Seattle needs to send out Lind, Cishek, Smith, Gutz on the Waiver wire & find a trade partner for those. With Moving & Saving Miley and Benoit money our 2017 committed contracts are below $90m now. (Blue Jays sent money so we have Storen for virtually free after they DFAd him prior to the trade). So Dipota could take on Votto contract without blinking.

    Just my thoughts as I sit as another frustrated Mariner fan again (but still optimistic somehow our Mariner Brass will pull something off. At least in 2016 there were willing to spend and start the season with a $143m payroll. With the trades I figure (assume) we are down to around the $136m range.

    • art thiel

      For the Mariners, money need not be an issue with the TV revs from Root. My reservation about not busting a move is watching the clock tick on Cano/Cruz. That can’t be the biggest reason for a high-risk maneuver, but a decade and a half is a long time to be kicking the can down the road.

  • Kevin Lynch

    Regarding the Roach and Freeman acquisitions at the deadline I’m tempted to say I thought we spoked the roach and waived the free man. But that’s too ugly a pun so forget you read that. I’ll quote from the Star Wars canon though and say “these are not the droids you’re looking for”.

    • art thiel

      I’ve covered my eyes.

    • Stacyktennyson2

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  • Paul Harmening

    So long Art.

    I’ve learned a lot in the past quarter decade from your very special gift in providing excellence of writing and introspection in this genre.

    HOW-EV-UH, your occasionally subterranean showing of political preferences which have nothing to do with sports, has in my eyes disjointed me from participating in reading or commenting any longer.

    There was a comment on one of your last blogs that really pissed you off and you couldn’t help but respond to, clearly showing which side of the rotten fence you reside on. It was political in nature and you fell for it.

    Not saying I wouldn’t have done the same if I were in your shoes. But, I believe pure journalism, sports or otherwise, has got to be above that temptation.