Mariners: Is Scott Servais Part of the Problem?

Apr 30, 2017; Cleveland, OH, USA; Seattle Mariners manager Scott Servais (9) makes a call to the bullpen in the third inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 30, 2017; Cleveland, OH, USA; Seattle Mariners manager Scott Servais (9) makes a call to the bullpen in the third inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports /

Mariners manager Scott Servais has piloted the team to a disappointing season so far, and his managerial mistakes cost Seattle a win Tuesday and nearly cost them the series against the L.A. Angels last night. How long is his leash?

Mariners manager Scott Servais came to Seattle as an extension of General Manager Jerry Dipoto‘s reign over the team from his luxury box above the field. The mild-mannered ex-catcher didn’t have any MLB managerial or coaching experience on the field making in-game decisions before he took over in 2016.

Servais spent 11 seasons in the big leagues as a catcher and assisted Dipoto when he ran the Angels. He was also the Director of Player Development for the Texas Rangers at one point. Servais was relatively successful as a junior executive, but as a manager, his faults are showing on the field.

I’ve second-guessed Servais’s decisions many times during his tenure with the Mariners. At times last year, I was right to, and at other times, I was wrong. But in the last two games against American League West rival Angels, Servais made bad managerial decisions that nearly cost them a crucial home series.

Servais Contributed to the Mariners Collapse Tuesday

Seattle Mariners
Seattle Mariners /

Seattle Mariners

On Tuesday night, Servais had two relievers warm and ready in the bullpen in the eighth inning. One was James Pazos, a lefty who, after getting some of the early-season jitters out of his system, had calmed down in recent outings. The other was the closer Edwin Diaz. After Tony Zych managed to direct two line drives into left fielder Guillermo Heredia‘s glove (the scores of both of the previous games would have been much uglier had it not been for Heredia’s excellent defense late in both games), Servais sprang out of the dugout to change pitchers.

Everyone, including Mariners television announcers Dave Sims and Mike Blowers, assumed that Servais was going to the lefty–Pazos–to face the left-handed hitting Kole Calhoun, who was due up with two outs in the eighth. I should have mentioned the Mariners were protecting a 3-2 lead at this point.

Instead of a lefty-lefty matchup, however, Servais threw his closer out to the mound to attempt a four-out save. This decision is easy to question because we know what happened next: Calhoun blasted a go-ahead, two-run home run and the Mariners, despite tying the game in the bottom of the ninth, went on to lose.

I cringed when I saw Diaz making the walk to the mound, however, because it’s not like Diaz has been lights-out so far this year. I don’t doubt that he will continue to calm down with some more regular work, but especially considering his implosion during the 10-9 debacle against the Angels earlier this month, why throw him into a bad situation in the eighth inning? Diaz is not the Mariners’ best pitcher at the moment, so why treat him like he’s Andrew Miller?

Servais Nearly Coughed up the Game Last Night

I’m not the only one who immediately saw the dangers of Servais’s decision last night to insert 25-year-old rookie Emilio Pagan into a dangerous situation with the game on the line.

William Stone, of Sodo Mojo, wrote this about Servais after his questionable call to remove starter Hisashi Iwakuma after 81 pitches for Pagan:

"Servais has proven himself consistently good at one thing in 2017: setting relievers up for failure."

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You could almost see it happening before it happened. Pagan had never pitched in the Major Leagues before his disastrous third of an inning last night. He pitched in high-leverage situations for the Puerto Rican national team in the World Baseball Classic, but coming in to protect a two-run lead in the sixth with the tying run already on base is entirely different.

Again, Servais had other options. Kuma had just served up a two-run home run to Mariner-killer Mike Trout, but who hasn’t served up a homer to Trout (I’m seriously asking…not really)? Kuma was cruising before the sixth inning, and the veteran can go over 81 darn pitches, right? After Pagan allowed three runs on three hits in a third of an inning, Nick Vincent, another right hander (who was warming up with Pagan!) came in to stop the bleeding.

I nearly turned the TV off after the six-run inning by the Angels. Instead, I angrily tweeted:

Followed by:

Why, indeed. The only out Pagan recorded last night was this incredible catch by Heredia to prevent a three-run bomb by Angels shortstop

Andrelton Simmons


And a run still scored, partially because Albert Pujols was somehow allowed to go from first to third on a single by Luis Valbuena (that’s an article for another day).

How Many Mistakes does Servais have Left?

The Mariners are third in the AL West at 12-16. They’ve managed to keep hope alive so far this year, but if they don’t get hot or at least warm soon, they’ll be buried in the standings before the end of the month.

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At a time when wins are critical, they can’t be hampered by poor managerial decisions. Servais doesn’t have a firm grasp on his bullpen, and it could cost him his job sooner rather than later.