The Mariners have walloped the rest of MLB this season by going a whopping 67-42. No other team in the bigs has come close to matching, nor has any other club in Mariners history.
Only problem? That’s not an enviable stat. Seattle, you see, has had 67 players show up in a box score this season and 42 of those have stepped on the mound. The other 29 teams in the majors all fall short in both categories.
Couple that astounding turnover rate with a sub-70-win season, and you’d expect the manager’s desk drawer to have as much Xanax as it does Propecia. But for the most part, Scott Servais has found a way to roll with this rocky season.
“I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t difficult for him. I think being the head figure of an ever-changing locker room is not easy,” said Mariners pitcher Marco Gonzales, one of the few players to start and end the year with the club. “I’ve never seen a team have 70-something guys. I’ve never been through a roster change like this before. It’s difficult for me as one of the leaders of the team trying to corral guys and get guys to understand who we are as a team. If it’s difficult for us, it’s gotta be difficult for him.”
Besides the occasional ejection — part of the job description for any skipper trying to stand up for his players — Servais isn’t one for emotional outbursts. You don’t see a lot of chew-outs in the dugout. You don’t see heated exchanges with the media. Inanimate objects are generally safe from his wrath. But you could certainly understand if he wanted to sink into a hot tub and let out a scream now and again.
It’s one thing to know you’re going to be enduring a “step back” season. It’s another thing to actually experience it. It’s kind of like buying an extreme workout video after watching an infomercial. It looked tolerable on TV, but it’s hell when you’re actually doing it.
Such has been the case for Servais and the Mariners in 2019. After a 13-2 start, they were 67-94 heading into Sunday’s finale with 67 players who have showed up in the clubhouse. I wanted to know what it has been like for Servais to be constantly replacing players while seldom winning games. Perhaps predictably, he didn’t want to make it about him.
“As an organization, we knew what we were in for. … We left spring training knowing we were going to have a ton of transition, a ton of turnover on our roster. We have,” said Servais, who’s wrapping up his fourth season as the M’s manager. “Once we got past the trading deadline and started to settle a little bit, a lot of positive things have happened — the things I’m talking about aren’t showing up on the field yet. They’re not helping us win games yet. But we’re getting our process. It’s really exciting to see some our veteran players jump on board.”
There aren’t a whole lot of veterans left from when the season began, with Mike Leake, Edwin Encarnacion and Jay Bruce all having been traded, and Felix Hernandez pitching his last game as a Mariner. And we’ve seen 2019 All-Star Daniel Vogelbach hit just .160 (as of Saturday) in the second half of the season while 2018 All-Star Mitch Haniger has played just 63 games.
But, there has been a surge from Kyle Seager, who has hit 22 homers in 104 games since returning from an injury. We’ve seen first baseman Austin Nola surpass expectations, catcher Omar Narvaez generate an OPS of .811 and rookie Kyle Lewis hit six home runs in his first 10 games.
There is hope. Servais is clinging to that. And he’s done his best to spread that hope to those still in the clubhouse.
“That’s our leader. You go as your leader of the pack, and he’s the leader of the pack. You follow his actions,” Vogelbach said. “Positivity rubs off on other people, and him being positive and always looking at the bright side of things, that makes us do the same.”
Servais has lost a lot of games this season. He’s lost a lot of players, too. But he hasn’t seemed to have lost his cool, nor has he lost the clubhouse — regardless of who may be in it.