SAN DIEGO – Given the circumstances, most baseball executives would have found a way to avoid the obligation.
Any sort of job-related excuse, even it didn’t seem believable, would’ve been understandable.
Then again, not many baseball executives have a weekly radio show on their organization’s flagship radio station.
Jerry Dipoto, the Mariners president of baseball operations, has never been afraid to discuss the organization, whether it is winning or losing, cresting or crashing toward rock bottom.
So Thursday at 8:30 a.m. – his usual day and time slot – Dipoto joined Mike Salk and Brock Huard on Seattle Sports 710-AM after watching his team go 1-4 to start its road trip and look terrible doing it.
After getting outhit 17-4 in a 10-3 drubbing by the Padres, who might even be more of a disappointment this season, the Mariners dropped under .500 at 30-31.
“Struggling madly, is probably the easiest way to put it in virtually all facets of the game,” Dipoto said. “You see a bit of life in Tuesday’s game against San Diego and we give the life back on Wednesday. That’s kind of been the rut we’ve been stuck in for some time now.”
The Mariners occupy fourth place in the American League West and sit 10 games behind the division-leading Rangers.
While the pitching staff has given up 41 runs over those five games, the Mariners’ lack of offense is the bigger issue. They are averaging 4.3 runs per game, which is below the league average of 4.54, while ranking third in MLB with most strikeouts (592) and strikeout percentage (25.9%). The Mariners ranked 27th in batting average (.227), 24th in on-base percentage (.306) and 27th in slugging percentage (.375) and 20th in homers (63). The rankings have actually improved in recent weeks thanks to a four-game series sweep over the hapless A’s.
“By far the most perplexing is what has roughly been a power outage up and down our lineup,” he said. “We are built to do damage. That’s what our lineup does. That’s what the history of our players says that they are going to do, and we just haven’t done that this year. And I wish I could tell you why, but it’s roughly up and down the lineup with almost every hitter out there.
“To see the power dissipate like it has and with it has gone our ability to consistently score runs because when you’re not hitting the ball for extra-base hits, it’s very hard to score crooked numbers in our league.”
While the struggles of AJ Pollock and Kolten Wong were mentioned, Dipoto wouldn’t put their abysmal starts as the root of the team’s offensive issues.
“It’s not just AJ and Kolten, it’s up and down our lineup,” he said. “It’s guys who’ve been here. It’s guys who were brought in. I’d like to tell you that I feel great about the offseason moves we made, but it’s impossible to tell you that. They haven’t really driven our team or helped to achieve what we want to achieve.
“And frankly, I can’t really cite them as the biggest problem. The biggest problem is it’s happening collectively to our offensive club.”
The concept of “accountability” for this underachieving start was brought up to Dipoto. It’s a favorite cry among fans, who want someone to shoulder the responsibility.
After saying he didn’t understand the question of accountability, Dipoto spoke on the issue.
“I’m accountable for putting the players on the field that are underperforming,” he said. “The players are accountable to upholding their approach. And that’s all we ever asked of the is to uphold the approach. We don’t and can’t focus on the week to week. We have had a crummy week, and there’s no getting around that.”
The negative emotion building throughout the fan base is palpable, accentuated by the “crummy week.”
“When people experience negative emotion, they’re looking for somebody to blame,” he said. “I don’t really know anybody to blame but me. This is what we put together, and we’re .500 team. I don’t think we intended to be a .500 team by the time we got to this point in the season. I don’t think this makes us a bad team. I think it makes us a very talented team that has struggled a lot, especially in the batter’s box, and we have to find our way out of it.”
Dipoto put the onus on the players for finding a better approach to at-bats and maintaining them.
“There’s not a magic hitting coach that’s going to come in and sprinkle pixie dust,” he said. “Nobody’s gonna walk into the clubhouse and flip a table and yell, ‘Get hits!’ and then all of a sudden they’re gonna start hitting. It’s about having a consistent approach.”
Dipoto also talked about where his team stands in relation to adding reinforcements at the MLB trade deadline and was frank about the situation.
“We have checked in with a number of teams in what I would call preliminary trade deadline conversations,” he said. “It’s impossible for us to assess where we will be. And this is just being honest: We could go out and acquire prime Babe Ruth, and it’s not going to help us. We’re not one player away or one magic salad away from fixing this. This is a commitment from 26 players on a roster to reverse our course.”
To be fair, prime Babe Ruth and a 60-homer season might cover up more than one hole in the lineup. But the point was understandable. One player wouldn’t fix teamwide failure.
“If between now and the end of July, we show progress in that way, then we’ll go out and solve what problem or problems we can solve,” Dipoto said. “But we’re not going to flip out our roster for six or eight new players. We are struggling and the worst time to make decisions is when you’re at your worst. I think the appropriate measure is take a deep breath, watch what’s happening around the league for these next 30-40 days and put yourself in a position to make a difference when it comes time.”
If the Mariners struggle in their weekend series in Anaheim or falter against the Marlins to start the homestand, next Thursday morning will be appointment listening.