Things are bad. You know things have reached a certain level of misery when there's a touch of comfort, of familiarity in it all—as there is with the Mariners. Even the oscillations between several years of subpar play and single years of semi-decent ball have found something of a rhythm, a rhythm that's lulled fans to a point where even expressing frustration is reserved for the diehards.
In all of professional sports, only one team has not made it to the playoffs since the Mariners won the AL West in 2001. There's a good chance, should Rex Ryan lead the Buffalo Bills to a playoff berth, every team in the four major American sports will have played a postseason game since the Mariners last did—every single NBA team, NHL team, NFL team and Major League baseball team. All of them.
The Sonics have made the playoffs more recently than the Mariners.
Now, Jerry Dipoto owns that. Or more accurately, he owns the obligation to end that. And that is the ultimate measure of success. It isn't hope or progress or anything else—it's tangible accomplishments. Meaningful accomplishments.
This franchise needs someone to rally behind. It needs someone to lay down the vision, and have that vision be something others are willing to work their asses off for. It isn't the obligation of the followers to give buy-in, but of the leader to earn it. And Dipoto must earn it, and earn it quickly.
Dipoto was named general manager in no small part because of his previous experience, experience that included running a front office and leading a team. Of course, he threw his hands up and left his last job because his strategies and tactics couldn't get the buy-in he desired. That can't entirely be ignored.
Though, nor can the context be ignored. I mean, Arte Moreno once threatened to fire then-Angels GM Tony Reagins if he didn't trade for Vernon Wells within 24 hours. Reagins did, it hurt his team, and he was forced to resign.
Still, regardless of reportedly similar owner-meddling here in Seattle, there can be no throwing up of the hands from Dipoto—because we've seen enough of that. He says he's learned a lot since he started with the Angels, and now it's time to show it. If people aren't on your side, get them on your side.
As Kevin Mather said when he began this search, the second word in "general manager" is "manager"—so on the baseball side of operations, it is Dipoto's job to manage everything.
The job isn't to sort out what's in your control and what it isn't, it's to identify as many things as possible that can be in your control, and then make them be in your control. Be proactive. You are not at the whims of your circumstances.
We've seen it too much.
Oh, you needed an ace up front, so you went out and traded for one—and it just so happened he wasn't very good, but the guys you traded away were? Don't do that. So you built the franchise's potential success on a foundation of developing but unproven young players, and they didn't turn into the players you thought they'd be? Develop them better, or get more.
It's easier said than done—but that's why you're there, and we're here. That's the job.
Though speaking of "easier said," Dipoto hit the right notes in the "I'm responsible for everything" song at his press conference earlier today. Aaron Goldsmith noted what might be my favorite anecdote on the matter:
Best part of Dipoto's comments today have to be his numerous references about using Safeco as an advantage. Pitching, athleticism, speed.— Aaron Goldsmith (@aaronmgoldsmith) September 29, 2015
For years, after a singular failed effort of playing into it, Dipoto's predecessor tried through all his might to construct a team that that would beat Safeco Field. Through obtuse power, Safeco's effects would be mitigated, supposedly. And all this happened before and after efforts to literally tear down the walls that stood between Zduriencik's teams and the success he desired.
Dipoto, now, raises the idea that maybe the place you play half your games—your home—shouldn't be added to the list of opponents. While Safeco's effects are not in his control, the impact they have are—and they can be positive. Play to them.
Of course, there was more, as he addressed what is easily his biggest immediate responsibility, in shoring up the bottom half of this roster:
"Depth to me is setting up a Plan A and then having guys in back of Plan A so that in the inevitable case where something of the Plan A doesn't work out, Plan B can step up and provide a productive solution instead of a crash and burn," Dipoto said. "You can't put yourself in a position where one injury, one underperformance creates such a downward spiral that you can't compete."
Anyone can win a press conference. Even Jack Zduriencik's winning percentage in pressers wasn't .000. All that matters is what happens on the field, next year and every year after.
But I said it earlier this year, in years past, and will continue for every year until we see it happen—if someone can turn this thing around, he'll be loved forever.
Seattle is a city that can be a baseball town, because it absolutely has been when given reason to.
Seattle is also a city filled to the brim with people who can create and build things—and an immense appreciation for those who do so successfully.
Look at what Pete Carroll and John Schneider have constructed across the street. Or, not at what they have—as there's little to no relevancy or application here—but in the appreciation for what they've accomplished. Players will come and go, or grow unbearably obnoxious, but those architects will be remembered and beloved here in Seattle forever.
They ended the title drought, but to accomplish something similar with the Mariners would be a feat that might be even more celebrated. There's the fact that their woes seem considerably worse, and then there's just something different when a team can hold in its hand the hearts of an entire city every night for six months.
So, for Dipoto, this isn't going to be easy. It's going to be the most difficult thing he's ever done, actually. But if he own this, if he exerts the level of control this organization needs, lays forth a vision everyone will do everything they can for and—above all—sees results, the rewards will be there.
They'll be there for him, and they'll be there for us. Skepticism is fair, and guarding one's optimism is a necessity at this point. We're all tired of approaching the corner and coming so close to rounding it before fading back. We want to see life on the other side.
So get us there, Jerry. You reward us, and we'll reward you.