Mariners’ Scott Servais: High expectations of fans ‘a great thing’

Jan 31, 2023, 6:24 PM

Mariners Scott Servais...

Mariners manager Scott Servais signs an autograph before a game on Oct. 5, 2022. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

There’s a different feeling around the Mariners going into the 2023 season, which has everything to do with their back-to-back 90-win campaigns and reaching the playoffs last year.

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That also comes with different expectations from the fan base, a segment of which has been vocal during this offseason in which the Mariners have made some key additions but have not been a major player in free agency.

Now what’s it like to be the Mariners manager amidst that fervor? Scott Servais himself joined Seattle Sports’ Wyman and Bob in-studio on Tuesday afternoon, and he was asked whether it’s something he pays much attention to.

“Does it feel different for you?” Bob Stelton asked Servais. “Do you sense a difference in anticipation, expectation going into this season because the fans have been given a taste (of success)? They’re reinvested now. … And in the last two seasons, everybody – it’s Mariner fever. And now, ‘Hey, gotta take the next step,’ and I’m part of that. You gotta take that next step, you gotta close that gap between you and the Astros. Do you get a sense of that, or do you just kind of tune out everything that’s going on and are just looking at the product on the field?”

Servais’ answer?

“Heck yeah, I get a sense of that,” he exclaimed. “That’s a great thing.”

Servais, who is second in Mariners team history to only Lou Piniella in seasons as manager (he’s entering his eighth year), wins (528) and winning percentage (.512) – knows that’s something what comes with being a playoff team.

“There have been a few offseasons I’ve come in here and these conversations haven’t been as easy,” he said. “You’re trying to explain how we’re going to get this all turned around, and we’re not talking about one or two things, we’re talking about eight or 10 things. So the fact that the expectations are higher is great. That’s exactly what we’re shooting for.”

The skipper added that he’s feeling the excitement for the Mariners firsthand around town.

“It’s been a different offseason for me in Seattle this year. Every time I go somewhere, somebody’s gonna recognize. ‘I was at the 18-inning game.’ I think we had 250,000 people at the 18-inning game because everybody I talk to was at that game. … It’s fun to see this whole thing come together and just what it’s meant to the community. Living here all year round and getting out, I tell my wife I can’t go to Home Depot. Every time I go to Home Depot, that’s the place where guys are ‘I need to get a picture with you’ or ‘Why did you do this in this game? Why didn’t you bring in this guy?’ It’s the beauty of baseball. Everybody’s into it.”

“Everybody” includes a younger generation that he hopes is connecting to these Mariners like fans were able to before in the 1990s and early 2000s.

“I think it’s exciting to have a team that now young fans, young kids can connect to,” Servais said. “For years I heard – and you saw throughout baseball – everybody was a Ken Griffey Jr. fan. ‘I grew up watching Griffey, I grew up watching Junior and Jay (Buhner) and Edgar (Martinez) and Randy (Johnson) and Jamie Moyer and Dan Wilson.’ Now, maybe we’re shifting to another group or another generation of players, which is great for young people.

“That’s what’s going to drive our game. Young players drive the game on the field. … We’ve got players that our fan base can connect to. If you can’t connect to Julio (Rodríguez) and the Big Dumper (Cal Raleigh) and (George) Kirby and (Andrés) Muñoz – we’ve got guys that can do that, they’re really good players and they’re good people.”

The hope for Servais is that young group will continue to strengthen its connection to the city by meeting the new, higher expectations.

“I’m excited about the expectations,” he said. “I do want to take the next step – I want to win the division. That is the next step.”

You can catch all 22 minutes of Servais’ conversation with Wyman and Bob in the video near the top of this post or in the podcast below.

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