The week before the season ended, the Mariners and Jerry Dipoto hosted an open forum “Town Hall.” Designed to sell skeptical fans (especially season ticket holders) on the plan moving forward, the program included a question-and-answer period of unscreened questions. Unsurprisingly, many of the questions focused (rightfully) on ticket prices, (less rightfully) on if Jerry would be willing to fire his “best friend” Scott Servais (Dipoto: “first of all, my wife is my best friend”), and variations on “why should we trust you?”--which, again, fair.
It is perhaps too much to hope that questions coming from the general public have the rigor and specificity of questions asked by the media, and certain hobby-horses were ridden again and again, but it was refreshing to see Dipoto answering questions off the cuff, without either the culling hand of the sanitized questions fielded on the Wheelhouse nor the typical generalized fare of an official press conference. We didn’t get a chance to ask a question, although we had brainstormed some as a staff. Here is what we were most curious to know more about, and what we hope to track down some answers to over the coming year. If you have something you’re especially curious about, leave your question in the comments and we’ll do what we can to investigate some answers over this off-season.
The 2019 draft was universally panned among analysts as being one of the weakest for college pitching, yet the Mariners used almost 40% of their draft picks on college pitching, including their top three picks. Was this a deliberate strategy and if so, what was the thought process behind it? -Kate
Common draft philosophy is you don’t draft for need, but the Mariners using over half their draft picks on pitching in a historically weak draft for pitching sure feels like addressing a need. Zig where others zag?
Despite some recent front office upheaval around the league, you remain the only General Manager with a career as an MLB player. Your ability to swing trades is well-earned, so clearly you’ve had no trouble talking shop with the mix of Ivy Leaguers and
failsons baseball lifers that dominate the game today. Still, do you ever feel any tension or suspect condescension from your more academia-steeped fellow front office executives? -John
Jerry, what’s the deal with ticket prices? Just kidding. Real question: do you regret not tearing down the Mariners immediately upon taking the GM position in order to get an earlier start on rebuilding in order to better compete with the other AL West teams? Follow-up question: why didn’t you fix Félix at some point? Just kidding, but not really…..(maintains eye contact for way too long) -Eric
Related question: The Mariners are attempting to rebuild in half the timespan of a typical rebuild (two-plus years instead of five). What makes you confident this accelerated timespan will produce a team capable of not only taking on the titans of the AL, but also outplaying other teams who have taken a more traditional path to rebuilding? -Kate
Who… who do you think you are? What--What gives you the right? These are Office references, Mr. Dipoto. Speaking of Offices, the MLB front office is currently testing various rule changes (automated strikezones, 3 batter minimums for pitchers, no mound visits, etc.) in the Atlantic League; as an executive of a team, which of these changes would most alter how you perform your job? Are there any changes, proposed or otherwise, you want to see in the game? Thank you for your time. I appreciate this informal, intimate, one-on-one sit down. Thanks for coming all the way down to my house. Please, feel free to play with my cat. Not that one though. That one does not like you. -Nick
Someone actually asked about this at the Town Hall; Dipoto said he’s in favor of all the experiments except pushing back the mound. He pointed to pitch clocks as one thing that’s already shaped the pace of younger pitchers who have come up through the minors with them and said he believes pitch clocks will help pace of play.
The Mariners only run one DSL Academy team, and one AZL team, while several other teams have two. What is the logic behind this, or in limiting the Mariners’ minor-league affiliates in general? Also, what changes have been brought to the Mariners’ international scouting under the new director? Will the Mariners be more aggressive in pursuing top-tier IFAs or maintain the “penny stocks” (gross) method of casting a wide net and hoping to hit it big with a player or two? -Kate
[Confidential to JD: here is a chance to walk back that “penny stocks” comment, which is absolutely not a way human beings should be talked about.]
Gerard, may I call you Gerard? You have been extremely transparent about the Mariners taking a purposeful step back in the hopes of vaulting forward years from now. However, given the putrid state of the Seattle Mariners for the last 18 years, how did you reconcile the fact that you were going to make things even worse? After competing for playoff spots during the Robinson Canó era, the team voluntarily removed itself from the 2019 playoff conversation and is poised to do it again in 2020. How hard was it, on an emotional level, to come to terms with the fact that MLB’s worst franchise of the 21st century would actively become worse under your control? How does one remain measured and patient in the face of a designed last-place finish? Do you have a skincare routine? - Matthew