Pod Save The Mariners?

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The year 2017 has been a strange one, to say the least. It isn’t out of the question, depending on one’s political affiliation, income, orientation, or affinity for reality, to evoke the famous opening to Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens and apply it to this year. “It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.”

In the world of sports and in the world of media, 2017 has been notable for the full-blown emergence of the podcast. Podcasting started as audio-blogging way back in the 1980’s and started to take off around 2004. But, thirteen years later, in 2017, the podcast has exploded on the scene. A case in point is the ever-expanding pod universe of Bill Simmons. Jettisoned from ESPN a little over two years ago, Simmons has created a podcast empire ranging from sports (general sports, NFL, NBA, MLB, professional wrestling, etc.) to sports betting, television criticism, and food reviews.

And outside of Simmons’ Ringer-sphere, podcasts and podcast eco-systems have popped up everywhere, some in reaction to the presidential election, others just to fill niche interests. So, it should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with Seattle Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto, famous for the frenetic pace of his offices’ trade winds, that Dipoto has become the first GM in any major professional sport to launch his own podcast, aptly named The Wheelhouse with Jerry Dipoto.

What Would Jerry Dipoto Do?

The debut episode of The Wheelhouse with Jerry Dipoto dropped right before the Thanksgiving break during what has been a relatively quiet offseason in MLB. So, you may have missed it among the turkey, side dishes, and wall-to-wall football.

The majority of the podcast focused on the Mariners pursuit of Japanese phenom, Shohei Ohtani. It is no secret that the Mariners and, frankly, all of the other 29 teams in MLB are interested in signing the 23-year-old pitcher/hitter. Ohtani is particularly intriguing, not only for his talent, but for his price tag. After a major league team shells out the posting fee to Ohtani’s team, the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, the first two years of Ohtani’s contract will be limited to an organization’s available international signing money, no higher than $3.5 million, in the form of a bonus, and then a salary commensurate with his service time, essentially the bare minimum. Once Ohtani turns 25, and if he pans out as expected, he could become one of the highest paid players in all of sports.

Dipoto revealed that the Mariners have been pursuing Ohtani for over a year, cultivating the personal relationship with the player and his representation that could prove the difference maker in where he chooses to play. The Mariners track record with Japanese players, including Ichiro Suzuki, Kazuhiro Sasaki, and Hisashi Iwakuma, was discussed as a plus for Seattle. It has been widely assumed that the teams on the west coast and the New York Yankees are the leaders in the Ohtani chase.

Dipoto also indicated that he has already made moves and will continue to try to make moves that accumulate international money from other ballclubs. The Mariners are currently somewhere in the middle of the pack with money to spend on Ohtani, and while the first signing bonus can’t exceed the $3.5 MM range, every little bit helps. Keep that in mind if you see a minor league player you’ve never heard of shipped off for cash. Ohtani is the rationale.

Humanizing Jerry Dipoto

As the podcast was winding down, host and Mariners broadcaster, Aaron Goldsmith, steered the ship towards Dipoto’s family and the then upcoming holiday. Apparently, Jerry rules the Dipoto kitchen 364  days out of the year, but he is banned from touching the turkey at Thanksgiving. His family refuses to risk the traditional meal to the GM’s mad culinary experimentation. But, a recently installed wood burning pizza oven at the Dipoto residence has more than made up for the one day of banishment on the other days of the year.

Not wanting to spoil the entire episode, all you dog lovers out there should download the podcast and find out about Dipoto’s French bulldog and English bulldog. The image of the doggies underfoot while the GM works the phone on a trade and tends the pizza oven is priceless. In the age of baseball Twitter and cynical snarkiness, it may be a good thing to think of the GM as a person sort of like us before we dissect a trade ad nauseum (guilty).

When is Episode Two?

While fun to listen to and unique to the industry, The Wheelhouse with Jerry Dipoto ultimately didn’t reveal that much about baseball operations within the Mariners front office. And, going forward, it probably won’t. After all, other GM’s have iPhones and podcast apps to listen in too.

But, what was interesting was to hear Dipoto’s rationalization for his numerous small moves. The GM definitely believes in incremental improvement which probably irritates some fans who want big splashy moves. Signing Ohtani might end up being that big splashy move.

Since the podcast dropped, Ohtani’s camp released a questionnaire consisting of seven issues important to the pitcher/hitter in making his decision of ball clubs. Dipoto is, no doubt, hard at work on the document wile tending the pizza oven with his bulldogs by his side. Maybe episode two of The Wheelhouse with Jerry Dipoto will give Mariners fans the inside scoop.

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The Wheelhouse with Jerry Dipoto can be found at iTunes, SoundCloud, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. /

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About Author

Brian Hight

Brian Hight lives in Seattle and writes primarily about MLB and the local Seattle Mariners, with a focus on advanced analytics. Occasionally, he delves into the NFL and the NBA, also with an emphasis on advanced statistics.
He’s currently pursuing a Certificate in Data Analysis online from Microsoft, where he hopes to create a prediction model for baseball outcomes for his capstone project.

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