New Mariners manager Scott Servais isn’t a big name, and he doesn’t have big-league managing experience, but GM Jerry Dipoto’s logic is sound.
Do you hear that noise? Probably not.
This move made hardly a peep.
A seismic hire? Not even close.
This was an 0.1 on the Richter scale.
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When Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto picked Scott Servais to be the club’s new manager Friday, the reaction wasn’t “whoa!” so much as it was “huh?” A middling catcher with no managerial experience isn’t the type to inject sudden cheer into a jaded fan base.
But while this choice may not have been sexy, the logic behind it was sound.
How does Dipoto start a new Mariners chapter? By making sure he and his skipper are on the same page.
Three-and-a-half months ago, Dipoto resigned from his GM post with the Angels due to differences with Mike Scioscia. The longtime manager balked at Dipoto’s sabermetric philosophy and, given the support he had from team owner Arte Moreno, essentially forced Jerry out.
Dipoto couldn’t risk that kind of division in Seattle. He needed an extension of himself in the dugout. He required a leader who could handle major-league egos without veering from the executive vision.
So he made a call to Servais.
Servais, 48, played 11 seasons in Major League Baseball. He caught for the Astros, Cubs, Giants and Rockies before making his foray into the front office.
From 2006 to 2011, he served as the Rangers’ senior director of player development.
From 2012 to 2015, he was an assistant general manager with the Angels.
But aside from a stint as the Cubs’ roving catching instructor from 2003 to 2004, his on-field coaching resume is blank.
Worried? Don’t be.
Well, at least not for that reason.
Aside from some minor-league instructional duties, Cardinals skipper Mike Matheny had no coaching or managerial experience before he was hired in 2012.
Under his watch, however, St. Louis has made four trips to the postseason, won the past three National League Central titles, and played in the 2013 World Series.
Brad Ausmus was also without managerial experience before the Tigers hired him in November, 2013. In his first year, Detroit went 90-72 and won the AL Central crown.
This isn’t to say that Dipoto’s selection of Servais can be deemed a good hire yet. It could very well be a disaster. But curious as it may seem upon first glance, this is not the type of move that lacks precedented success.
The thing is, baseball isn’t like football or basketball, where you need to make halftime adjustments or rewrite your playbook.
Managing is much more about creating a clubhouse culture than it is scheming or watching film.
And when you played big-league ball for more than a decade — as Matheny, Ausmus and Servais all did — you have instant credibility. Fair or not, credentials like that usually trump those of a minor-league manager who never played MLB.
Helping matters is the fact that Dipoto is expected to name Tim Bogar as the Mariners’ bench coach. Bogar has managed in the minor leagues and coached in the majors. He also served as the Rangers’ interim manager for a month in 2014.
Given his experience, Bogar could essentially be the backstop as Servais learns how to think clearly in his toastiest seat to date. More important, they each would have Dipoto’s trust.
Moreno didn’t necessarily make the wrong decision when he sided with Scioscia instead of Dipoto. There are many ways to win, but as Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas can tell you, catastrophe awaits when signals cross.
Right or wrong, Dipoto is ushering in a new, modern Mariners era.
Nobody is sure if his stat-geek approach will pay off, but he needs a manager who can execute his vision while avoiding wedgies in the clubhouse. Scott Servais appears to fit the mold.
There will be many moves to come with Jerry Dipoto in charge. A new manager may seem minuscule once spring training rolls around.
But perhaps Friday’s announcement sent a key message for the future — that while the Mariners need big changes, they don’t need big names.