Was 2023 a "Step Forward" for Seattle? Not Sure About That One, Jerry...

The 2023 season came to a close around a week ago as the Seattle Mariners missed out on the playoffs, one year removed from making their first postseason appearance since 2001. A year with all the hype, and sweeping Toronto in the American League Wild Card, and competing in all three games against Houston in the American League Divisional Series had “Win It All” written by the head coach with an expo marker on the whiteboard for 2023… well sure seems fitting that expo markers are easily erasable.

The Mariners’ offense finished 22nd in Batting Average, 20th in hits, 16th in OPS, 11th in home runs, and 2nd in strikeouts in the 2023 regular season. They had just one player, (Julio Rodiguez) rank in the top ten in offensive wins above replacement, hits, total bases, extra base hits, and stolen bases. They had three finish in the top ten in strikeouts, and as a team, hit just .247 with RISP, striking out 430 times in those situations, which was worst in all of baseball…yikes.

The Mariners’ pitching staff, on the other hand, was quite solid. 3rd in ERA and quality starts, tied for 2nd in WHIP and walks allowed. Starter Luis Castillo finished top ten in wins, WHIP, hits per nine innings, strikeouts, and strikeouts per nine innings. George Kirby had a historic year in K:BB ratio and appeared to have made a solid jump from year one to two. The relief pitching ranked better than league average in saves, save percentage, and holds.

Seattle went 12-17 over their final 29 games, and 7-9 in their last 16 to close out the regular season. They knew they had to control their own destiny in the final stretch of ten games, where seven came against Texas and three against Houston, where all three teams were neck-and-neck all the way down to the finish.

In those final ten games, the Mariners went 4-6. They were swept away in Arlington, giving Texas more of a commanding lead in the West. Then it was time to take on Houston at home, trying to solidify a spot over the Astros for WC3. The M’s lost two of the three there, placing them on the outside looking in, no longer controlling their own destiny. Though the Mariners won the series against Texas at home to close it out, it was all too little, too late. Their loss on Saturday evening in game 161/162 resulted in mathematical elimination from postseason contention.

Here was Seattle’s Cal Raleigh following Saturday’s loss: “We’ve got to commit to going and getting those players you see other teams going for, getting big time pitchers, getting big time hitters. We have to do that to keep up.” He then apologized to the media Sunday morning, but fellow teammates J.P. Crawford, Ty France and Logan Gilbert supported Raleigh’s initial statement, as I am sure Mariners fans everywhere did as well.

On Tuesday, President of Baseball Operations Jerry Dipoto addressed the media alongside General Manager Justin Hollander and Manager Scott Servais for their end-of-season presser. Dipoto’s comments were not taken lightly by the city of Seattle, which was expected. Dipoto mentioned that he operates with a ten-year plan to win 54% of the time… “We’re actually doing the fanbase a favor in asking for their patience to win the World Series while we continue to build a sustainably good roster”. Hmm Jerry, not sure patience is the right terminology here. Also, since 2001, the Mariners have finished with a 54% win-rate or higher eight times, and the only time they made the postseason was last year.

Former-Seattle Seahawks’ Head Coach Mike Holmgren, and regular on Sports Radio 93.3 KJR FM took the words right out of fan’s mouths when he was appearing on the Ian Furness show Wednesday. “(Fans) don’t want to hear 54%, they don’t want to hear ‘I just did you a favor.’ It’s hard for me to believe that someone with as much experience he has would go in and say some of the stuff he said.”

Catie Griggs, President of Business Operations for the Seattle Mariners actually said this in February, prior to the season’s start, “We are not asking you to be patient anymore…”. Seems a tad hypocritical, right?

Dipoto also mentioned that this 2023 regular season was a “step forward”. How could that possibly be the case? Like stated in the intro paragraph, the Mariners’ social media team dropped a “hype” video prior to the season talking about winning it all [the World Series that is]. Not only did the Mariners not win the World Series, but they failed to make the postseason for 42nd time in 47 years as a franchise.

Manager Scott Servais exclaimed in that same presser that, “In my [Servais’] mind, we are as good as the Rangers or Astros, except for a couple of games.” Well, those couple of games sure did matter as both of those teams are into round two of the postseason as Houston ended up winning the West for the sixth time in seven years and the Rangers swept Tampa in the American League Wild Card series, 2-0.

On Thursday morning, Dipoto explained that he was embarrassed about the comments he said Tuesday, and that he completely “whiffed”. He told Brock and Salk on Seattle Sports that the M’s are going to add from the outside, find the right pieces, and that the goal is to add one or more middle order bats. It also seems that Teoscar Hernandez’s future with Seattle is in jeopardy, which some could have predicted.

All in all, this last week-ish has been tough on M’s fans. Hearing your lead guy talk about how this season was a step forward, seeing former-Mariner Paul Sewald help the Arizona Diamondbacks advance to the NL Divisional Series, and more.

Take what you will after the 2023 season. Pitching was fantastic (for a vast majority of the season), where the offense, outside of a few dudes, was well below average and hopes.

Yes, Dipoto’s comments were head-scratching, but most, if not all, blame is on the team’s on-field performance. It’ll be a waiting game to see what Seattle does this offseason, and what else comes with this last week’s negative media explosion.

Here is R.J Anderson’s (CBS Sports) top-25 free agent rankings, focused down to just offensive pieces, as Seattle turns their attention toward March 2024: Shohei Ohtani (RHP/DH), Cody Bellinger (CF/1B), Matt Chapman (3B), Kevin Kiermaier (CF), Rhys Hoskins (1B), Jung Ho Lee (CF), Jeimer Candelario (1B/3B), Jorge Soler (DH), Joc Pederson (OF/DH), Justin Turner (DH), J.D. Martinez (DH), Tim Anderson (SS), Teoscar Hernandez (OF).

Who would you like to see Jerry and friends make a splash on? Also, if you can’t get enough M’s content early into this offseason, feel free to give the “Talkin’ Ners with Rory and Ders” podcast a listen. As of late, Anders Hirst, Producer for the Ian Furness Show & Seattle Kraken Audio Network, has had 93.3 KJR-FM hosts like Jason Puckett and Jim Moore on the show, as well as other notable Mariners’ media members to talk all things Seattle baseball:

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