With the signing of Jerry DiPoto and the dismissal of Mariners manager, Lloyd McClendon, the Mariners front office signaled change was on the way. The announcement that Andy McKay was coming over from the Rockies to be director of player personnel after being “peak performance” director was the first example the team is stepping outside the box for change. Today the Mariners announced they were hiring Scott Servais, a former player, coach and assistant general manager with no major league coaching or managing experience.
I cannot pretend to know what this bodes for the team on the field and for their performance in 2016. I don’t think anybody does. But what I firmly believe is this is a huge break with the past. I believe this team will be somewhat more stats driven, that there will be a greater emphasis on staff development AND teaching and development of coaches as greater emphasis is placed on advancement of Mariner prospects. Do I know for a fact? No, but based on McKay’s interviews and on DiPito’s earlier comments that seems to be important. Servais also has a background less in coaching and managing than player development, but that doesn’t preclude him from having what it takes to partner with a GM and put a winner on the field. And while I earnestly hope that what seems like a new approach works, I have no way of knowing, but I certainly am excited to find out.
What I do find troubling is the attitude of many who declare their Mariner fandom in Mariners-related Facebook pages. After the August firing of general manager Jack Zdurencik, voices for change were loud and clear. Start over, clean house, and trade everyone (sometimes including Felix and sometimes not) were legion. it was clear a significant portion of the fan base posting on Mariners Nation and the Seattle Mariners groups representing some 16,000 fans were done and ready to move on to something else. Though a few diehards believed Pat Gillick, at age 78, should be wheeled out of retirement, most were ready for something new. And the M’s hired DiPoto.
When Lloyd McClendon’s job seemed to hang in the balance for weeks, the groups split between those who thought Lloyd should go, Lloyd should stay, or those who believed, like me, that Lloyd was likely gone. And then he was.
But Mariners fans seemed to show some real schizophrenia when it came to choosing McClendon’s successor. When names began to roll across Lookout Landing, MLB Traderumors, Seattle Time, and Tacoma News Tribune websites offering names like Dan Wilson, Raul Ibanez, and Joey Cora as potential candidates, fans cheered, and some jeered when Bogar, who worked with DiPoto and came highly recommended from the Rangers joined the ranks of candidates as a favorite. When Servais joined Bogar as a possible, then likely manager, DiPoto was accused of cronyism. Why not Wilson or Edgar, or at the very least why not the tried and fired Don Mattingly, or the tried and true destroyer of young pitchers Dusty Baker? if they weren’t former Mariners, at least they were veteran managers.
So I find it curious that with the announcement of Servais’ hiring today that so many fans, fans who claim to be knowledgeable, and have a passion for the Mariners (though I’m always suspicious of fans who claim to know baseball but whose personal photo is a Seahawk emblem) could express such incredulity his hiring. It’s almost as though nobody had mentioned his name the last two weeks, that he was never an 11-year veteran player, or that they didn’t realize he’d been around the game for decades. Instead of being the step outside the box they demanded, many fans have jeered the move as another example of Howard Lincoln’s penny-pinching ways, or his reluctance to give up the manager’s spot to someone who knows his own mind and won’t follow the company line.
Again, I don’t know if these hirings will work out or not. But they certainly aren’t the same ol’, same ol’. And if fans want something different, the difference has to start somewhere. It seems to me that starts on the field with the manager and coaching staff. You can’t have it both ways.