When new Seattle Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto hired Scott Servais as the new manager of the team to replace Lloyd McClendon, there were some questions being asked about the hire. Servais comes in having no managerial experience, but that may be okay. The Mariners are getting to work building a very good coaching staff to support Servais. This is the same approach that has become more of a norm throughout baseball — hire a manager who will work well with the front office, and surround him with a good support staff. The Mariners have begun assembling a good group around Servais that includes former players and coaches who will bring a different perspective to the dugout.
When Servais was introduced as manager, Dipoto was asked whether or not having experience as a manager was important and he mentioned that about a third of MLB managers now came into their role without experience in the dugout.
“I would actually refute the idea that he hasn’t been a manager at any level,” Dipoto said. “He’s been a manager at every level. Being a manager is about leading people. It’s about creating a collective consciousness in a group and connecting with those individuals and managing them day to day. He has managed people, he has managed players, he has managed situations.”
Servais comes into this job having held multiple positions in baseball as a pro scout and catching instructor, but, most importantly for this Mariners job, might be the time he spent as director of player development with the Texas Rangers. In addition, Servais comes to Seattle straight out of an assistant GM role with the Los Angeles Angels where he served under Dipoto.
The coaching staff also brings a bit of a different set of tools that will no doubt help Servais. Tim Bogar, a former shortstop, is the bench coach, Edgar Martinez, one of the best hitters of all time, is the hitting coach, Mel Stottlemyre Jr. is the pitching coach, and the third base coach will be former Indians and Nationals manager Manny Acta, which was broken by ESPN’s Buster Olney.
What is great about this group, is that they are very diverse. Acta is from the Dominican Republic, Martinez is from Puerto Rico and is a former Mariner, Stottlemyre is from Yakima, WA, and Bogar has a good relationship with Servais and Dipoto.
What Bogar and Acta bring to this team is experience. Bogar was a finalist for the position, and was smartly brought on to the staff to serve under Servais. Acta, on the other hand, has experience in the dugout as he has spent time with the Nationals and Indians as their manager. He may not have the win-loss record to show for it, but Acta brings experience and willingness to adapt to advanced stats, which whether or not you like it, are starting to take over baseball.
With Servais not having managed before, there will no doubt be some tough spots in the early going where he will need some help going in the right direction to make decisions that he has never made. Servais may end up being a fantastic manager, but as with any other job or role, you usually don’t come right into something you’ve never done before without having a few missteps or at least some questions. Having Acta and Bogar there to backup to Servais will help him gain some comfort in the early going.
The Mariners organization has never really taken an analytic stance in their hiring of managers in the past. Now with Dipoto at the helm, the franchise is making a concerted effort to adapt, something that they haven’t done in the past, with advanced stats and forward thinking. For a team and organization that has the longest playoff drought in baseball, making a change like this is worth it.
We are still in the early going of the Dipoto era and there is still a lot of work to be done on the field, but if the Mariners want to have success, it starts with what happens behind the scenes and the early results look promising.