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Dipoto: Why Mariners’ Servais deserves to be Manager of the Year favorite

Sep 9, 2022, 8:44 AM | Updated: 1:55 pm

Mariners Scott Servais...

Mariners manager Scott Servais congratulates Ty France on his home run in an Aug. 28 game. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

A season ago, Mariners manager Scott Servais came in second in the American League Manager of the Year race, with Tampa Bay’s Kevin Cash winning the honor. This year, Servais should be in the conversation again. And if it were up to M’s general manager/president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto, Servais would get his due this time.

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“I mean, fair, unfair, I think he should be the favorite,” the GM said Thursday on Seattle Sports’ Jerry Dipoto Show. “… No disrespect at all to Kevin Cash, who does a great job – we all believe that Scott was that guy last year and I think he’s showing it again. And that’s very similar to where Kevin Cash was in the previous two years – (he’s) done a great job taking the team from young and fledgling to championship-level contender. And I think that’s what you’re watching happen with Scott.”

The Mariners were the surprise team of the AL in 2021, winning 90 games and finishing just outside of a playoff spot. At 77-60 heading into Friday, Seattle is on pace to win 91 games this year, which would likely be enough to earn a postseason berth with the playoffs expanded by an extra team this year. Dipoto believes Servais deserves credit for his role in that, especially since the M’s bounced back from being 10 games under .500 in late June.

“Talking about these things, efficiency and the way this team generally and consistently hits on doing the small things well, I think that’s really representative of a good manager in the dugout and good programs and a good coaching staff,” Dipoto said. “That’s I think what this team is about, so the more we stress or illustrate those things, the more kindly it shines upon Scott as the manager.”

If there’s one thing that paints the picture of Servais’ managerial skills best, according to Dipoto, it’s the way he handles a bullpen that has been a strength of the Mariners for each of the past two seasons. What makes it impressive is the fact that Seattle hasn’t had a set closer in that time, instead utilizing a number of capable arms in high-leverage situations based on the best matchups against their opponents’ lineups and which pitchers are available on a given day.

“Our bullpen management is maybe the best thing that we do, and it too is something the manager in the dugout is the one who is pulling the lever on who’s coming in next,” Dipoto said. “Those pitchers have to execute, and our bullpen for two consecutive years now has been filled with pitchers who have executed, but the magic sauce there is just being prepared, and that’s where I think Scott separates himself. He is always prepared and nothing takes him by surprise.

“The decisions are consistent to the point where I think now most of our fan base can probably with some degree of accuracy determine who’s coming in next because it’s been that consistent. And when the guys are clicking and you know who’s hitting, you can predict who should come next based on where you are in the lineup. We’ve done it without having your standard, 40-save closer or just a simple three-man tandem who are hitting on innings seven, eight and nine. It’s a mix and match, and it’s something that happens at two o’clock in the afternoon, not at nine o’clock at night.”

While Servais’ managerial capability has been on display the last few years, he’s likely not the favorite for 2022 AL Manager of the Year because Baltimore’s Brandon Hyde has led the Orioles to a 72-65 record a year after losing 110 games, and the award tends to go to the skipper of the team that most outplays its expectations coming into the season (Cash beating Servais last year a notable and particularly glaring exception). Servais could bolster his case down the stretch, however, in what may be his biggest test yet as the M’s look to emerge from a crowded field with a wild card spot.

“You’re going to see Scott manage games a little bit more postseason-ish,” Dipoto said. “The little things will really start to be amplified because I think that’s what postseason baseball is about. It’s about converting outs, it’s about pitching well, and in today’s time, hitting the ball out of the ballpark, which we’ve generally done pretty well lately.”

The Jerry Dipoto Show airs at 8:30 a.m. every Thursday during Brock and Salk on Seattle Sports 710 AM. You can listen to the full edition from this week in the podcast at this link or in the player below.

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