Drayer: A different feeling on Day 1 for Mariners after taste of playoffs

Feb 21, 2023, 5:10 PM
Mariners J.P. Crawford Ty France...
J.P. Crawford reacts after a home run by Ty France during Mariners spring training in 2021. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The first full-squad workout marks the true start of the journey that is a new baseball season. It’s a special day on the baseball calendar, the first day the entire squad is together, and as such the daily morning meeting is a bit more. On the Mariners’ first day, they gather not just the players in camp but all of the coaches, trainers, a good representation of the front office and the full support staff for the meeting led by the manager.

For Scott Servais, who is embarking on his 35th spring training, it is a special day on the baseball calendar.

“Everyone in baseball looks forward to Day 1 when the full squad is in and today is that day,” the Mariners skipper said Tuesday morning. “We have got some things to address, get out on the table. We have some new players. We are excited to get them in the loop and get rolling.”

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Tuesday marked Servais’ eighth first-day, full-squad address as a manager. He’s been there with a young team, a veteran team, a rebuilding team, and at long last as the manager of a team coming off a postseason appearance. You bet that’s different, and he sees it when he looks around the clubhouse.

“You carry yourself a little differently knowing you do have an understanding of what it takes to get there,” he said. “There’s nothing like experience. You have to go through it.”

The majority of those who go through it end the experience with a loss. A poor reward for the tremendous effort it takes to get there, but regardless of how long it takes for the sting to dissipate, the realization that what you are left with hits.

“I was kind of (ticked) off, to be honest,” shortstop J.P. Crawford said. “We got so close. To lose it like we did? You take that into motivation and use it to get ready for next year. Now we have it. We know what it takes now. I’m not the only one who feels that way. Everyone in this clubhouse who was a part of this team last year, you can tell by the way we work, how we do drills on the field. It’s high intensity and everyone has bought in.”

“I don’t want to say were upset because we accomplished something big by ending the drought,” first baseman Ty France said. “But again, that was one of the minor goals. By not accomplishing the major goal, I think it just left a lot of us hungry and ready to get back out and bring Seattle the championship they deserve.”

High, but earned, expectations.

“That’s a good thing,” Servais said. “They should be high. We have a very good team. We now have a team with some postseason experience. We have some young players that are going to continue to get better, we’ve acquired some new players who are going to help us along the way so there is a lot going in the right direction.”

There is a caveat, however, delivered by a surprising admission. Servais is not one to share his learnings as a manager along the way but Tuesday morning he offered one that was a key focus of his message to the team on their first day.

“A year ago at this time, coming off a 90-win season (in 2021), I thought there would be carryover. And then we looked up in May and early June there wasn’t a lot of carryover,” he said. “Every team is different. You have to start from ground zero. You can’t assume anything. You keep going over the basic fundamentals, the core tenants tied to your standards. Make sure everybody understands them no matter if they have been a Mariner their entire career or they are a new guy and this is their first day in a Mariners uniform.”

Much has been invested in the process, which began when president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto was first hired as general manager late in the 2015 season. There have been hits and misses along the way, both with players and systems, and while they start the season at ground zero and will leave nothing to chance when it comes to the understanding, the heavy lifting has been done.

“Where we are as an organization is much, much different from where we were eight years ago,” Servais said. “We have got a process, we have a program, we have stayed very consistent and believe in it, and it works.”

The Mariners can now add experience to process and program, and while every year is a new beginning, and Game 1 is Game 1 and not Game 163, Servais’ message was to lean into that experience.

“It is a hungry group. There is no question about it,” he said. “As great as it was last year and all we accomplished, at the end of the year, I know how I felt, I know how they felt when the season ended. It was a very empty feeling. And that’s a feeling that hopefully these guys carried with them throughout the offseason and into spring training and as we go through some of the adversity and things that will happen in the season. You want to be the last team standing and it’s really hard to win in the big leagues. But we learned a lot going through last season.”

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