The Seattle Mariners not yet a month into the Jerry Dipoto era, and already there’s been plenty of what the organization needed the most: change. The Jack Zduriencik era wasn’t a failure by mere chance – it was a systematic collapse, a machine that was never capable of success. Dipoto has quickly set about to re-build the machine. And today, that means the hiring of a new field manager: Scott Servais.
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Rumblings about a potential Servais hiring began last night, and now the move is complete, with an announcement soon to come. Dipoto didn’t stop there, as he’s also expected to name Tim Bogar as Servais’s bench coach. Bogar, of course, was considered a front-runner from the get-go. So Dipoto got his guy, and then he got his other guy. One has to imagine he’s quite pleased right now.
So who is Scott Servais? Maybe you remember him best for his 11-year playing career. From 1991 to 2001 he was a major league catcher, a classic all-glove, no-bat type who racked up 4.9 WAR in 2,778 plate appearances. A catcher-turned-manager? Now there’s a novel idea! Servais, as a player, was exactly the kind of guy who you’d expect to end up where he is now. And look where he is now!
Since hanging up his spikes, Servais has put together an impressive resume working with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the Texas Rangers. He’s never been in a dugout before – he served as the farm director in Texas and as an assistant general manager under Dipoto in Los Angeles. Which makes this a particularly interesting hiring.
The last time Servais was in the news, he was interviewing to be the GM of the Angels. The whole Dan Jennings situation aside, you rarely see crossover between field managers and front office folk. Yet here’s a guy who had the brains and baseball acumen to be a serious candidate to run a team. Now he’s going to be calling shots from the Mariners dugout.
And he was a farm director before that! You know who the Mariners just hired to be their new farm director? Andy McKay, who was hired away from his old job as the mental skills coach for the Colorado Rockies. The Mariners player development has been famously, incalculably bad for a long, long time. This new approach is bold, and maybe brilliant. If anything it’s certainly outside the box.
Lloyd McClendon was a lot of fun to have around. I’ve made it no secret that I loved his style and presence in the dugout, and the fact that he was a terrific quote machine certainly didn’t hurt. But he was Jack’s guy, and Jack was super old-school. He loved batting average as an analytical tool, which is just a completely backwards, insane thing to be true in the 21st century. The old manager was fun, but he was that guy’s guy. The new manager is qualified to be a general manager. This is decidedly an analytically-minded hire.
Dipoto isn’t just stocking his new organization with “his guys” – he’s completely rethinking how a baseball team should be governed. The guy in charge of bringing up the kids is a guy who’s specialty is teaching mental toughness. The top two guys in the dugout are used to working closely with the GM, and each is brainy enough to have warranted consideration for their boss’s job. It’s an exciting new formula. And it’s the Mariners – the Seattle Mariners! – who are giving it a shot.
For a team that desperately needed to to try something new, these hires are nothing short of thrilling. The Mariners are doing something that’s more or less unprecedented, and it passes the smell test as an idea worth pursuing. Dipoto’s approach to filling out a coaching staff is creative, and on the surface it appears to make a ton of sense. It’s something he never could have gotten away with in Anaheim, and it seems to hint that there’s plenty of reason to believe in his abilities as GM.
Welcome to Seattle, Scott Servais. Welcome to Seattle, Tim Bogar. Welcome to Seattle, Andy McKay. Hopefully those names come to occupy a special place in Seattle sports lore. I want to remember Scott Servais as a turning point. I want my excitement to be justified. And who knows! Maybe it will be.