Mariners CEO optimistic even as playoff drought goes on

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Seattle Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez toils in the fourth inning against the Texas Rangers on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017, at Safeco Field in Seattle. (Dean Rutz/Seattle Times/TNS)

SEATTLE (AP) — John Stanton’s first full season as the chairman and CEO of the Seattle Mariners ended the same as the previous 15 seasons when he was just a minority owner of the ballclub.

Out of the postseason and like most of Seattle’s fans frustrated by the final result.

“It’s hard. I’m one of them. I think I’ve been at every home playoff game this team has ever played. Unfortunately, that’s not a very big number,” Stanton said. “I think it is incumbent on us to demonstrate to the fans the commitment to doing the things that are necessary to win. My words, I can say that we are deeply committed to winning a World Series, which we are. We are deeply committed to making the playoffs next year and at some point in time my words become hollow. We’ve got to back those words up with action.”

Stanton spoke Wednesday, about 10 days after the Mariners concluded an injury-filled season with a 78-84 record and missed the postseason for the 16th straight year, the longest streak in baseball. Seattle entered the year remodeled by general manager Jerry Dipoto and with hopes of ended that drought, but injuries largely derailed those playoff hopes.

For Stanton, it concluded his first full season after taking over control of the organization late in the 2016 season. He had been part of the Mariners ownership group since 2000, but the sale of the majority ownership of the club in 2016 put Stanton in charge of operations.

Stanton said his evaluation of what happened was similar to previous years, but he was more involved in the daily operations.

“I understand how much scrambling Jerry did,” Stanton said. “I bet if I pulled out my phone my text stream with Jerry is probably 40 percent in the last six months injuries.”

Stanton praised the work of Dipoto and manager Scott Servais, especially in a season where injuries forced the Mariners to use 40 pitchers, a major league record. Stanton said he believes the countless moves made by Dipoto has Seattle in a better place than when Dipoto arrived in the fall of 2015, and he indicated the Mariners should have room for a payroll increase going into next season.

“We’re still planning right now,” Stanton said. “Yes there is room for growth. We’ve taken some huge steps in the last three years in terms of some commitments to some long term contracts that have both current year and future year payroll increases but there is room for growth.”

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