The Mariners average a new manager about every 2.5 years, so in extending the contract of Scott Servais, the club actually thinks it has its stuff together. Looks to be true.
To those who say manager Scott Servais and general manager Jerry Dipoto were awarded contract extensions too early — they have yet to win a thing in Seattle — the alternative is to screw around again with the Mariners’ baseball management, which historically has been churned like buttermilk. Only to be perpetually sour.
Servais, who as expected was given a multi-year contract extension Friday by Dipoto after he secured his own extension July 6, is the 17th full-time manager in the club’s 42 years. If you do the math, you’ll discover the average tenure of the Seattle job is slightly longer than the average tenure for the campaign chairperson of Tobacco for Tots.
For a change, the Mariners aren’t changing. They are sticking with a plan that broadly resembles what the Seahawks have with Pete Carroll and John Schneider, closer to a partnership than a hierarchy, with a heavy emphasis on player development.
Coaching instruction works best when bosses and coaches pound home the same points while the player progresses. Baseball in particular, with its years-long development before a player is major league ready, needs a buy-in that doesn’t change every other year.
“Continuity is huge,” Dipoto said Friday at a Safeco Field press conference. “Throughout the organization it’s important, but particularly in the relationship we share, that stability is critical to the development of the organizational plan.
“What we do extends so far beyond what you see on the field here at Safeco — analytics, scouting and development — and more than any manager that I’ve been associated with as a primary or secondary supervisor, Scott is in tune with all of the elements.”
It has been nearly impossible to track with data the contributions of a manager to a won-loss record, but Dipoto trotted out a stat that underscored his belief in Servais, who had no previous managerial experience at any level.
Since he took over in 2016, the Mariners have played 139 one-run games, winning 82, or 59 percent.
“That’s a phenomenal record,” he said. “It’s about good decisions and keeping the energy level high, a reflection of what he’s done.”
Asked if he felt vindicated after he was criticized for hiring a manager with no experience, Dipoto said, “I really wasn’t looking to be vindicated. It’s turned out to be fashionable (hiring rookie managers). I trust Scott the person, and as an extension, the coaching staff.
“I never had a doubt the people were right. The fact that we achieved good results is a reflection of the humans, rather than the experience others were looking for.”
Servais took no umbrage at the skepticism.
“Without having done it before, there’s going to be doubters — that’s always going to be part of baseball,” he said. “I’m still learning. You constantly try to get better. I’d like to say I’ve got it all figured out — far from it. I don’t see myself ever being that way.
You gotta be open to new ideas because the game keeps moving forward.”
A major league catcher for 11 seasons before analytics became fundamental to the game, Servais has adapted well to use of data while not being so wonkish that he can’t connect to people.
“Scott has created a culture here in Seattle that allows players to be successful,” Dipoto said in a release. “They are encouraged to be themselves, which has resulted in a loose environment, while still maintaining the focus on team above self. His leadership has also been evident through the ongoing growth and impact of one of the best coaching staffs in Major League Baseball.
“He has been the right leader at the right time for the right team and I look forward to many more years together.”
At 58-39 ahead of Friday’s home game against the Chicago White Sox, the Mariners have the fourth-best record in MLB. But eight losses in the 11 games prior to the All-Star break offered some evidence that injuries and a return to the mean for some players are legit threats for the second half.
Nevertheless, Servais has the fifth-most wins among managers since the start of 2016. Only Joe Maddon (251), A.J. Hinch (249), Terry Francona (248) and Dave Roberts (248) have more.
He’s also already the fourth-winningest manager in Mariners history at 222-199. Granted, the ranking is due in part to the flatness of the surrounding territory. But the fact that Servais and Dipoto are in solid partnership under a baseball-wise majority owner, John Stanton — unlike what Dipoto had in his previous job, where he was on the wrong side of Angels owner Arte Moreno and manager Mike Scioscia — underscores the rationale for keeping together the band.
“We’ve put ourselves in a great position to bring playoff baseball back to the Pacific Northwest,” Servais said. “We have a shot. The fan base is hungry.
“Put your seat belt on. It’s going to be a wild two-and-a-half months.”
It was good to have the warning. Sixteen years is a long time between Octobers, so fan coaching is mandatory too.