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Salk: The credit for Mariners’ strong start needs to begin with Scott Servais

Scott Servais is in his sixth season as the Seattle Mariners manager. (Getty)

Whether or not the Mariners build on their 11-7 start, the fact remains that not many people predicted they would be leading the American League West after playing the first six series of their season.

M’s Takeaways: Seattle hangs with the champs, Marco finds his groove

There are plenty of reasons you can point to as factors for Seattle’s surprising showing thus far, such as Mitch Haniger returning to an All-Star-caliber form after a year and a half out of action, the bullpen’s current streak of 24 consecutive scoreless innings, or the team’s ability to climb back from early deficits.

But if you’re going to recognize people for their roles in what the Mariners have done thus far, 710 ESPN Seattle’s Mike Salk says you need to start with one person.

“I think any conversation about the success they’ve had early this year, the credit pie starts with Scott Servais,” Salk said on the new edition of the Brock and Salk Podcast.

Servais is in his sixth year as Mariners manager, and while the franchise’s long playoff drought hasn’t yet ended during his tenure, it’s hard to argue that he hasn’t done what the Mariners have asked of him – and probably more.

He and general manager Jerry Dipoto took over the team ahead of the 2016 season, and Seattle posted winning records in two of their first three years, including an 89-73 finish in 2018 that was the franchise’s best since 2003 and sixth-best record in team history. And since Dipoto and the front office started to rebuild the organization after that 2018 season, Servais’ Mariners have shown signs of improvement while growing their own culture and identity.

That’s been especially evident as the M’s have won series this season over the Giants, Twins, Orioles and Astros, and most recently split a two-game set with the defending World Series champion Dodgers.

“He’s had very little talent and very little veteran presence (on his teams over the last three years),” Salk said of Servais. “Now, his veterans (that he does have) are helping him and he’s managed to keep those guys in the fold. … Man, he’s gotten the most out of the rosters that he’s had, hasn’t he? Isn’t that what you ask of a manager?

“It’s not like he’s been given the ’27 Yankees here. He’s been given a team that is young, isn’t spending a lot of money right now – and by all accounts, they probably will starting this offseason – and at the very least won more games than anybody would expect him to. To me, that’s what a manager is being asked to do – set the culture, develop players, keep them playing smart, and win more games than maybe the roster would tend to dictate. And he’s done all of those things.”

Something that stands out not just to Salk but also his co-host Brock Huard and producer James “Boy Howdy” Osborn is how the Mariners have minimized mistakes. If that wasn’t the case, the series against the stacked Dodgers probably would not have been as evenly played as it was.

“The mental errors, you don’t see those,” Huard said.

Added Osborn: “It’s three years in a row now where they’ve been proving more and more maturity as a young team.”

Salk said that wasn’t the case for the Mariners under Servais’ predecessor, Lloyd McClendon, and he credited Servais for making sure that shift happened.

“Scott has gotten his guys to learn, and to play smart, and to play mature,” Salk said. “They don’t make too many (defensive) errors, and they don’t make many mental errors. They don’t make a ton of mistakes on the bases. And because of it, they maximize their potential and that’s why (they have started the season 11-7).”

With all that in mind, Salk advocated for the Mariners to extend Servais’ contract.

“Scott’s up for a contract. … How do you not re-sign Scott Servais based on what he’s shown with the teams he’s had over the last few years?” he asked. “… Isn’t he the guy who has gotten them to play with this kind of emotion? He’s the guy that’s got them playing a pretty mature brand of baseball despite being one of the youngest teams in the game.”

Responded Osborn: “You certainly can’t fault him for anything, it doesn’t seem. For three years, I don’t know what you point the finger at and say, ‘This guy’s a problem here.'”

To hear the full conversation, listen to the podcast at this link or in the player below beginning around the 20-minute mark.

Follow Brent Stecker on Twitter.

More Mariners coverage from 710Sports.com

• Scott Servais Show: Graveman, bullpen ‘unsung’ heroes of Mariners’ start
• Mariners CF Kyle Lewis returns from IL to make season debut
• Why be optimistic about the Mariners? Because this isn’t their best yet
• Mariners Table Setter: With 10-6 start, the fun part of Seattle’s rebuild arrives
• MLB insider Morosi: Haniger has more value staying with Mariners

Brock and Salk podcast