Continuity is important. But not as important as winning.
The Mariners, whose past is pockmarked with little of either, are banking on the two playing well together in the future.
At least that seems like management’s plan after the events of the past few weeks.
General manager Jerry Dipoto’s future was staked out first, as the M’s power trust extended his contract earlier this month. At the time, Dipoto made it clear his running mate, field manager Scott Servais, would be given an extension as well.
Though the club never announces terms of such proprietary information – sort of like how Apple protects its text app’s autocorrect function, which seems to be programmed to insert the most embarrassing word possible and automatically hit send – it looks as if Servais will be paid through 2020.
Notice the wording here. There is no guarantee Servais will be the manager through the end of the extension, just that the club is on the hook that long.
When it comes to major league baseball, as opposed to your favorite college, the decision to ax an unsuccessful leader is made with little regard to how much it will cost. That’s just another expense, like Diamond Dry or roof grease.
The Mariners know.
They have paid plenty of managers – and general managers – to get out of town long before their contract was up. And one or two actually turned the tables, but that’s another column.
In this one, we’re concerned with Servais and his place in Mariners history.
If you are looking at the raw numbers, it’s already pretty successful. But you must remember, the franchise’s Mount Rushmore of managers features just one face: Lou Piniella.
If Seattle had waited just a couple of more games to fire Lloyd McClendon, Servais’ predecessor, Piniella would be the only manager in their history with a winning record. As it is, Piniella was 840-711 in his 10 years, by far the most wins of any of the 20 M’s skippers.
McClendon was 163-161 in his tenure, which ended badly (as almost all managerial stints do).
Then there is Servais. He was Dipoto’s choice in 2016 and his first year was above .500. Last year wasn’t. This year? The M’s are the surprise of the American League, solidly anchored in a playoff spot for the first time since Piniella was on the bench.
Sometime this month or early next, Servais will pass Jim Lefebvre (233-253 from 1989-91) on the list of wins for the Mariners. Then the only manager with more will be Piniella.
Dipoto made it clear Friday he’s interlocked with Servais, and has been from before the first day.
“There was really never a time I envisioned doing this job without him managing,” Dipoto told reporters. “He knew that. We had a number of discussions. We thought this was the appropriate time, we had to work through some details, but I don’t think he envisioned not being the manager.”
But he hadn’t been a manager (at any level) when Dipoto chose him in 2016, bypassing two others who hadn’t managed before either, Dave Roberts (a success with the Dodgers) and Tim Bogar (still waiting for his first full-time gig). The choice, at the time, seemed risky and smacked of nepotism of the friendship variety.
It has worked out. Thus far.
“The fact we’ve been able to achieve good results is a reflection of the humans on the other side rather than the experience maybe others were looking for,” Dipoto said this week.
Of course, “good results” with the M’s is relative. They still have yet to experience the postseason since 2001, despite the best efforts of almost two handfuls of managers and a trio of GMs, some of whom stayed long enough to develop continuity.
But that’s not enough. It never is.
Winning is what matters.
If Servais and his M’s win, he and his friend Dipoto are golden. Lose, and continuity is replaced by a simpler word: canned.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.