Today I went and watched Jerry Dipoto talk for two hours about the future of the Mariners. Please go read that, and then come back to this recap, which will be, regrettably, shorter, but will lean on things from that article.
(Did you read it? Are you fibbing? You better not be. Every time an LL reader tells a fib someone starts the wave at a ballpark.)
Today Bob Nightengale published some more nonsense over at USA Today, providing his patented brand of analysis as cutting-edge as a Nerf bat and again proving that everything he knows about the Mariners comes from a 1983 copy of Baseball Hobby News that’s been wadded up and used as insulation in a barn on the peninsula before being unearthed and sent to him. I won’t link it because the small part of me that believes the world should make sense continues to be surprised he is able to have gainful employment while being the Emperor Norton of baseball, but here’s the excerpt, from an article about managers who might be on the hot seat in 2020:
Was it just 14 months ago that Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto and Servais got contract extensions, overseeing a team that looked to be on the rise? Well, they’ve since turned into a laughingstock. The Mariners opened the season winning 13 of their first 15 games, and proceeded to go 49-86. Really. This is a once-proud franchise that looks hopelessly lost, spinning their wheels with countless trades, desperately trying to camouflage their ineptness. It would make sense that if Servais goes, Dipoto should go out the door with him. But these are the Mariners, where nothing makes sense. History tells us that the Mariners will stay patient, but this act is getting stale.
There are so many points to argue in this (chief among them: when where the Mariners a once-proud franchise? Does he mean…2001?), but I’m stuck on the word “laughingstock.” The Mariners have taken it on the chin from national outlets this season (and the last, and the one before that, and before that…), and with merit: the team is bad, by design. They have also attracted praise for developing talent in their system both homegrown and through savvy trades—perhaps Nightengale is not familiar with the continued garment-rending of Mets Twitter over the Kelenic/Dunn trade. They’ve been beaten soundly by teams that are better than them, that were built to compete; they’ve also beaten teams who were supposed to be better than them, lately winning series against the Reds, White Sox, and now the Pirates. The Pirates, who are mentioned directly before the Mariners as managers/GMs who may be on the hot seat. If Scott Servais and Jerry Dipoto are on the hot seat (narrator: they are not), Clint Hurdle and Neal Huntington might be literally on fire.
Today I listened to Jerry Dipoto lay out the Mariners teams of the future, who the foundational building blocks are and the waves of prospects who are coming, and then turned on the TV and watched some of those same players contribute to a 4-1 win over the Pirates.
Justin Dunn got the start and he wasn’t sharp, walking three and striking out just one (the pitcher, which is a lousy way to get your first MLB strikeout), but he was improved from where he was last time, handing Tommy Milone a scoreless game in the third. Milone did what a good journeyman does and carried the shutout into the 9th, when Matt Magill threatened to blow up all that hard work, but Braden Bishop—part of the plan going forward, who Jerry Dipoto today called “the best defender on the field” in every game in which he appears—made a pair of fine catches to inch the game closer to the finish line.
(Dylan Moore made the catch to end the game. He also had a two-RBI double to put the Mariners up 2-0 early on. Dylan Moore’s name was not mentioned today as part of The Plan. Dylan Moore, whose ISO is ten points higher than his weight, would like to be part of The Plan.)
There was also some sparkly defense showed off by another part of The Plan with this slick play from J.P. Crawford, the shortstop of the future:
There was less-slick defense showed off by Kyle Lewis, still getting accustomed to right field and playing with new teammates in new parks under the bright lights, but Kyle Lewis also did this:
It says something about how hard Kyle Lewis hits the ball that I looked at the exit velocity on this HR at 102 and say “meh, he can hit it harder.”
You know who also hits the ball hard? Tom Murphy, aka the catcher tandem of the future, aka one-half of “Tomar” (if you love that, it was my idea. If you hate it, it was John’s.*) This bad boy left the park at a staggering 107 mph.
This team is young, and flawed. No player is perfectly complete with the exception maybe of Kyle Seager, who is looking more and more like himself every passing day. Dunn struggled with his command; Bishop and Crawford are struggling with their hitting; Lewis is struggling with his fielding. This team will have bad at-bats, and they will make fielding mistakes. But there is a joy in watching this team, young and flawed and occasionally thrilling and fun and genuinely fond of each other, that I don’t see in watching the Pirates grind out their last few games. Aside from Cole Tucker, the Pirates do not look like they are having fun. The fans, the few in attendance, certainly don’t. And I will take young and flawed and fun any day of the week and twice on Sundays. Nightengale may think the Mariners are a laughingstock, but anyone who was teased a lot as a kid knows that the best recourse to that is to find your own laughter.
*It really was John’s.