Who deserves the most credit for the Mariners’ early success?
Everybody in the Mariners’ organization deserves a pat on the back for the hot start that has the team sitting atop the American League West. But who is the primary driver of the early success?
“Brock and Salk” credited manager Scott Servais and Robinson Cano, respectively, but also had praise for many of the other key pieces mentioned by their listeners.
Brock Huard: He’s my choice for multiple reasons. No. 1, the respect that he’s gained from his players. That Robinson Cano, Felix Hernandez and those other veterans have looked at a new guy coming in here and respect him – I give respect credit there, and I think that’s vitally important in this day and age of managing today’s ballplayer. No. 2, he dropped his ego. He’s willing to share the credit everywhere, by bringing in two-time manager Manny Acta at third base and bench coach Tim Bogar, who has a wealth of experience. He didn’t just have a bunch of underlings underneath him, but instead surrounded himself with a group of quality coaches.
Mike Salk: No doubt that Servais has pulled off a couple of very difficult feats. He has walked a very fine line and has so far succeeded in doing it. He has been good enough certainly in his management in games – I don’t think anybody is expecting him to be Tony La Russa from a strategic standpoint, but he certainly hasn’t made any huge mistakes that have come back to bother him. I probably have him third on my list after Jerry Dipoto.
Salk: He’s just been a freak, man. And he’s your best player. It’s not that he’s won every single game with a walk-off home run or hit, but it sure feels like he has contributed offensively or defensively to every game. Dude has been on fire. He is No. 1 on the team in WAR and OPS; he is everything you were paying for. He is doing everything you would ask for in a $240 million player.
Salk: I would put him ahead of Servais because the moves he’s made – not just to bring the right guys in, but also for keeping the right guys and clearing the space for them to play.
Mel Stottlemyre Jr.
Salk: “He’s been sort of a quiet, forgotten name in this as the pitching coach – and throw bullpen coach Mike Hampton’s name under him since he has done a pretty good job of managing that bullpen. But it’s hard for me to point at the pitching coach when we’ve seen such great pitching for the last seven-plus years.
Huard: In my mind, I get a feeling that Stottlemyre has challenged these guys. ‘Hey, Nathan Karns, you’ve got the stuff, stop nibbling. Taijuan Walker, you’ve got the tools, go challenge.’ Sometimes it’s a nebulous exercise attaching success with the specific position coaches, but I do feel some of that presence of, ‘You’ve got this gift, go use it.’
Salk: To say that it’s all schedule might not be totally fair. How have they done against the good teams they’ve played? They did pretty well against Texas, took 2 of 3 against Cleveland, Baltimore, and Kansas City and three straight from Tampa Bay. The schedule has certainly helped pad some wins early, but it’s not like they’ve been bad against the good teams. There are all kinds of difficulties looming in June, and how they come through that gauntlet will be important.
Former GM Jack Zduriencik
Salk: There is no doubt he has to get some of this credit. Not as much for Felix Hernandez since Zduriencik didn’t draft him, but re-signed him a few times. If you’re going to give him credit for Felix, though, you’ve got to give Dipoto credit for clearing space for Ketel Marte to be the everyday shortstop. But he brought in Cano, Nelson Cruz and kept Hernandez through some difficult times. He drafted and paid Kyle Seager. But is he the No. 1 guy to give credit to right now? That doesn’t feel right.
Huard: If you’re going to say Cano, then you’re going to lean on Jack, because then the core of the lineup is the reason you’re 28-18; not the role players. But if you’re going to my side, with Servais, then I’m going to point to Leonys Martin, Chris Iannetta, Dae-Ho Lee and managing the bullpen.