John Stanton, the investor, Microsoft board member and veteran wireless executive, took over as Seattle Mariners CEO and chairman last fall after leading the group that bought a majority interest in the team from Nintendo of America.
On Saturday at Safeco Field, Stanton joined Mariners president and COO Kevin Mather for a public Q&A with fans during the team’s annual Fan Fest event.
They fielded questions on a wide range of topics including the business of baseball, the impact of the team’s travel schedule, sports analytics and, yes, the prospects for the eventual return of Mariners legend Ichiro Suzuki to the team. GeekWire also asked Stanton a quick tech question as he was signing baseballs for fans afterward.
Continue reading for edited highlights from Stanton’s comments.
On the structure of the Mariners’ new management team: “I get to do all the fun stuff, and Kevin runs the business on a daily basis. He is here every day. I’m not here every day. Kevin is responsible for every department. If you think of the organizational chart, the only person that reports to me is that guy over there [Mather], and [Mariners GM] Jerry [Dipoto] reports to him.”
Mather added, “John has been here since August, and it has been great fun.” Mather said he likes to take a second look whenever people say, “Oh, that’s just how they do it in baseball,” and he said Stanton follows a similar philosophy of questioning the status quo.
Stanton on the impact of jet lag on the Mariners, given a recent study on the topic: “The Seattle Mariners — I think every season, Kevin? — have been the most-traveled team in baseball. If you sell laptops at Microsoft, you’re the most-traveled salesman if you’re based out here in Seattle. It’s just the nature of where we live.
“That study was interesting, although there’s deeper work, and frankly our analytics people do a lot of work. Oftentimes the starting pitcher for our next series will fly a day ahead. They are looking at that issue all the time, and they do a great job of mitigating it. But to a certain extent, you can’t do anything about our location. … With longer days and shorter days, there’s an argument our analytics people might make that they’re actually better off being on the road that much in August and home in April or September. But I love to be in this ballpark in August. My regular seats are right there, and I want to be there watching them.”
Addressing GeekWire’s question about how his tech/wireless experience will shape the team: “I think that there’s more we can do in technology. The things that are going on in the dugout, we now create a video database for hundreds of players that we’re looking at drafting, and I think there’s more and more that we can do.” Asked if he’s involved in those details, he said not much. “I’m a business guy that was in the technology business, not a technologist.”
Addressing a fan’s question on the chances for Ichiro’s return: “Ichiro left an indelible mark on this franchise, and I certainly hope that his number will be resting up next to [Ken] Griffey [Jr.] and Jackie [Robinson]’s number in a few years. It’d be great to have him back here. It’s hard to know, and it really is Jerry’s call, but clearly the franchise owes a deep, deep thanks to Ichiro.
“But I have a suspicion that he’s going to beat Jamie Moyer’s record of the oldest player in baseball. I’m about 10 years older than him and I look at him and think, he could be 61 when he’s still playing. If it happens then, it may be after the time it’s Kevin, Jerry or my decision as to whether he’s going to be here.”
For the record, Stanton is in his early 60s, a bit more than 10 years older than the 43-year-old Ichiro, but who’s counting?
Stanton’s favorite Mariners memory: “In 1993, Griffey hit home runs in eight consecutive games. We were here for four home runs. My son was 2 1/2 years old at the time. He was hanging on to the seat in front of us. We were there for every game, and after the ninth game, when he didn’t hit a home run, my son looks up at me and says, ‘Can we come back tomorrow?’ “