Salk: Why Mariners’ Scott Servais is still ‘right manager for this team’
Continuity in the manager position has not been a strength of the Mariners over their 43 seasons as a Major League Baseball franchise.
The Mariners have had 20 managers in their history. Lou Piniella held the job the longest at 10 seasons. Nobody else has reached five.
Well, at least until next year.
Current manager Scott Servais is already second on some notable lists when it comes to Mariners skippers – chiefly second-most wins (321) and second-longest tenure (648 games over four seasons). He also has the third-best winning percentage all-time among all M’s managers at .495, trailing only Piniella (.542) and his direct predecessor, Lloyd McClendon (.503).
And yet as the manager carousel begins around baseball, there is a bit of talk about whether Servais should get the chance to become just the second person ever to manage a fifth season with the Mariners. The main reason for that is the availability of Joe Maddon, who led the Cubs to the 2016 World Series championship but parted ways with Chicago at the end of the 2019 regular season.
Availability is one thing. Viability is another. But whether the Mariners could bring Maddon to town, would there even be reason for them to take Servais out of the managerial position?
“I am not in favor of firing Scott Servais,” 710 ESPN Seattle’s Mike Salk said recently on the debut edition of the weekly Brock and Salk podcast. “In fact, I’m in favor of giving him all the tools he needs because I think he did a heck of a job this year of building culture and letting these young kids grow up.
“… I want Scott to keep the job and we’ll see whether or not Joe Maddon goes somewhere else.”
Servais is in an interesting position. It’s not very often that a manager leads a team to a 68-94 record without finding himself on the hot seat. The Mariners’ front office wasn’t expecting a winner in 2019, however. It was the first season of a rebuild, and Servais didn’t have the same kind of talent on the mound, at the plate and in the field as he did in his first three seasons when he led the team to a combined 253-233 record (.521 winning percentage).
Salk said Servais has not only done what the Mariners have asked him to do but even produced better results than expected when faced with a tough task this year, especially when it came to player development with the big league club.
“They didn’t give him the resources to compete. Nobody thinks they did. This team did what they were supposed to do this year. They didn’t underperform; if anything, they probably won more games than some of us thought they would… and in the meantime I thought we saw some legitimate growth from some of the youngsters.
“First of all, the two catchers, neither of whom I think we expected it from, both grew and got better. (Omar) Narváez became a better defensive catcher and (Tom) Murphy turned himself into a pretty good offensive player, which nobody thought we would see, and as a platoon they were as good as any catcher out there in baseball, right? I liked what I saw from (shortstop) J.P. Crawford. The big deal with him was, can the defense improve? It did – he was a solid defensive shortstop. And then you got a little something out of the Austin Nolas and some of those guys this year. Throw in (outfielder) Kyle Lewis at the end of the season and I think you can make an argument that some of that stage is being set (for Seattle to be competitive in the future).”
Salk’s co-host, Brock Huard, said Servais’ tenure has given the Mariners something they’ve been missing since Piniella’s last season in Seattle in 2002.
“For the first time, this thing feels totally all-inclusive with the Mariners between (director of player development) Andy McKay, (general manager) Jerry Dipoto, Scott Servais – it actually feels like they’ve got some level of continuity and structure,” Huard said.
Salk and Huard agreed that when a name like Maddon is out there, most teams would have a conversation about whether or not to pursue him. They even related it to how Pete Carroll was hired as Seahawks head coach after Jim Mora had just one season at the helm of the team. But Servais isn’t Mora, and ultimately Salk feels the Mariners have the right guy in charge of their clubhouse and dugout.
“It’s doesn’t mean you don’t have the conversation (about Maddon) and I would expect Jerry Dipoto and (majority owner) John Stanton and (team president) Kevin Mather to have the conversation. I don’t think that’s a move they’re going to make because I think that they are happy with what they’re doing,” Salk said. “… I think (Servais) is a very good manager and in many ways the right manager for this team.”
You can hear the full conversation beginning at the 46:40 mark in the Brock and Salk podcast embedded below or at this link.