The issue regarding Scott Servais’ lack of experience as a manager at any level is, perhaps not surprisingly, no issue at all for Seattle Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto.
“I would actually refute the idea that he hasn’t been a manager at any level,” Dipoto argued Monday when the Mariners held a news conference to introduce Servais as their new manager.
“He’s been a manager at every level. Being a manager is about leading people. It’s about creating a collective consciousness for the group. It’s about connecting with those individuals and managing them day to day.”
Monday’s news conference at Safeco Field came three days after the Mariners confirmed their decision to hire Servais to replace Lloyd McClendon, who was fired Oct. 9 with one year left on his contract.
Servais, 48, readily acknowledged he took “a different path” in becoming a major league manager, which he said has long been a career goal.
“You have to look at where you are at certain parts of your life,” he said. “Coming off a playing career — I played for 15 years in the minors and big leagues — and I wanted to commit to my family.
“To jump right back into minor league managing, or going that route, I didn’t think it was the best thing for my family. Being a roving coach created some flexibility in my schedule and still be a part of my kids’ lives.”
Servais spent 2003-04 as a roving minor league catching instructor for the Chicago Cubs before joining Colorado in 2005 as a pro scout. From there, he went to Texas for a six-year run as senior director of player development.
One of Dipoto’s first acts as general manager for the Los Angeles Angels was to hire Servais after the 2011 season to serve as assistant general manager for scouting and player development.
“Along the way, every step I’ve taken, I’ve always had a uniform on no matter what role I had,” Servais said. “Whether it was an assistant GM role or working with our kids in the minor leagues, that’s who I am.
“There are going to be some challenges. I am going to make some mistakes. I’m not going to get it all right every night. I don’t know a manager in the big leagues who does.
“But I do know I’m smart enough to know what I don’t know. I’ll lean on the coaching staff. Those guys are really going to have a voice. What I do know is dealing with players and how to connect with them.”
Dipoto chose Servias over five other finalists: Tim Bogar, Charlie Montoyo, Phil Nevin, Dave Roberts and Jason Varitek. Dipoto refuted a Boston report that Varitek had been offered the job.
Bogar subsequently agreed to become Servais’ bench coach. Servais also announced former Arizona bullpen coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. will be his pitching coach.
The Mariners previously announced hitting coach Edgar Martinez and first-base coach Chris Woodward would be retained from McClendon’s staff. That leaves two open positions: third-base coach and bullpen coach.
Bogar, 48, spent last year with the Angels as a special assistant to the general manager — he was hired by Dipoto — after closing out the 2014 season as Texas’ interim manager.
Stottlemyre, 51, served as Arizona’s pitching coach in 2009-10, which coincides with Dipoto’s time as vice president of player personnel and, subsequently, interim general manager.
Dipoto said Servais’ career path to becoming a manager is not only no longer unusual, citing numerous examples around baseball, but he also touted Servais’ front-office time as a strength in his new role.
“I think there’s an opportunity here to see an organization from the 10,000-foot level that doesn’t exist in most places,” Dipoto said.
“About one-third of the clubs have seemed to acknowledge that — that there is a definite benefit to having someone who understands how the game works from the grass-roots level to the major league club.”
Servais offered some hints as to how he plans to approach his new job: an increased emphasis on pitching and defense, to take advantage of Safeco’s spacious dimensions, and improved plate discipline.
What I do know is dealing with players and how to connect with them.
New Mariners manager Scott Servais
The Mariners ranked 11th last season among the 15 American League clubs in on-base percentage. They ranked fifth in home runs.
“You’re not going to bang the ball out of the park here every night,” Servais said. “I get it. Fortunately, on our staff is the greatest hitter (Martinez) who ever wore a Mariners’ uniform. He gets it.”
The pitching and defensive numbers are even grimmer. The Mariners ranked 12th among AL clubs in earned-run average and dead last in defensive runs saved as computed by Baseball Info Solutions.
“The pitching and defense has to be a priority here,” Servais said. “We should be near the top of the league standings every year in those categories.”
While Servais mirrors Dipoto’s appreciation for analytics, their use apparently won’t reach the depths employed in some organizations. Specifically, Servias won’t be handed a lineup from the front office.
Dipoto said, “The decisions on the field — who hits fourth, who’s pitching the eighth inning or what changes are going on during the course of the game — that should be up to Scott and the coaching staff.
“We will talk about everything else.”
FILLING OUT THE STAFF
In addition to Bogar, the Mariners could add another of their managerial candidates to Servais’ staff: Roberts as third base coach.
Servais and club officials are also looking at two long-time fan favorites as possible coaching additions: Dan Wilson and Raul Ibañez.
Sources say Roberts, 53, made a strong impression in the interview process as one of three finalists. He closed last season as San Diego’s bench coach, but the Padres are currently searching for a new manager.
Wilson, 46, looms as a possible candidate to be the Mariners’ new bullpen coach after spending the last two seasons as the organization’s minor league catching coordinator.
Ibañez, 43, is a candidate to be the seventh uniformed coach with responsibilities that could include serving with Martinez as an assistant hitting coach. Ibañez could also fill an as yet unspecified front-office role.