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MLB Hot Seat: Seattle Mariners Scott Servais

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The Seattle Mariners have been a failure so far in the 2022 season. The Mariners have been a failure since losing in the American League Championship in 2001 after setting the Major League record for single-season wins in 2001, going 116-46. With the longest active playoff drought in Major League Baseball, standing at 20 consecutive seasons, Mariners fans are mad, sad, frustrated, disappointed, and angry. As of June 21st, their record stands at 29-39, which puts them in fourth place in the American League West. Many Mariners fans are calling for the manager, Scott Servais, to be fired. Firing Scott Servais is not the answer.

Servais Managed the 2021 Seattle Mariners

The 2021 Seattle Mariners won 90 games. The roster that was constructed in 2021 should not have won 90 games. How did they have such a successful season? The answer is very simple; they managed to go 33-19 in one-run games. The team had a -51 run differential. The 2021 Mariners were an anomaly. The team consistently got clutch hits and lights-out games by their bullpen. If you are one to believe that managers make a major impact on a team, you can easily say the 2021 Mariners win significantly fewer games with a manager other than Scott Servais.

A Manager’s Impact in 2022

As mentioned in a previous article about Gabe Kapler, managers have less say in the lineup card and bullpen decisions now, than at any time in major league history. Bullpen decisions, for the most part, are made before the game by analytical departments. The lineup is dealt with similarly as well. The manager does have an impact on the relationships that he has with his players. But other than clubhouse relationships, a manager makes minimal decisions come game time. We have seen that Scott Servais is not afraid to stand up for his players. Just this year, Servais trying to protect his star first baseman, Ty France, caused the benches to clear against the Astros.

For those saying that Scott Servais has not managed his bullpen properly this season, you have a valid reason to feel that way. The bullpen has been a mess. But again, the manager is not making as many bullpen decisions as you think. Regardless of who is making the decisions, the players are still the ones with the ball or bat in their hand with the game on the line. Drew Steckenrider was a top reliever in the league last season, he got sent down to AAA due to an awful stint at the major league level in 2022. Sergio Romo was an established veteran who had pitched in many big games and moments throughout his career and was recently designated for assignment. Your go-to reliever from 2021, Paul Sewald, has been solid but still not the guy we came to know last season. The point is that putting all the blame on Scott Servais for the bullpen issues is not fair.

The Players

New acquisitions like Jesse Winker, Adam Frazier, and Robbie Ray have not lived up to expectations. There is reason to believe that Winker is dealing with a shoulder issue and that could be leading to his poor performance. Winker looks incredibly uncomfortable swinging the bat. He has sat out a couple of games due to shoulder soreness. This is not his first time dealing with shoulder pain or a shoulder injury. In 2018, he had season-ending shoulder surgery. Because of this, I am not concerned for Winker in the future once he becomes healthy if the shoulder is what’s causing his struggles. Robbie Ray is having a very inconsistent season but is turning his performance around with a new sinking fastball. These three guys were supposed to be the big pieces that boosted the team for this season and the seasons to come.

The Seattle Mariners have dealt with injuries to key players, most notably, Mitch Haniger who will be out with a high ankle sprain until July at the earliest. Kyle Lewis returned from a knee injury on May 24th but just four games later was hit in the head with a pitch and suffered a concussion. Lewis really boosted the lineup in those four games with two home runs. Starting catcher, Tom Murphy has been out since early May with a dislocated shoulder. These players are key players but their being absent is not the main reason why the team has underperformed.

Blame Ownership, Maybe Even the Front Office

The Seattle Mariners’ payroll currently sits at $104 Million for the 2022 season. That is 22nd in the league and is even lower than the payroll-cutting Cincinnati Reds. For a team saying they want to compete, you wish that ownership would have been willing to spend more money in the offseason. The current team lacks depth. That would not be a problem if the ownership group allowed the front office to go out and acquire more pieces. The pieces didn’t even need to be superstars like Max Scherzer or Carlos Correa. The pieces could have been signing Tyler Anderson or Joc Pederson. That is a big reason why the team is currently struggling.

This blame could also be shifted to the President of Baseball Operations, Jerry Dipoto, for not spending the money that he did have on the right guys. His big signing, Robbie Ray, had not panned out so far. Adam Frazier has significantly regressed from an all-star campaign in 2021. There is a lack of depth and the front office could have been relying too heavily on a repeat of the 2021 season from the Mariners. I do not think the front office is the main culprit for the Mariners’ 2022 season being a failure so far, but they aren’t completely off the hook for blame either.

Pinning Blame

As a sports fan, you want to find something, someone to blame when things don’t turn out as we hope. A manager is an easy target. If you are a Seattle Mariners fan right now, be upset. The situation is very upsetting. Coming off a series against a division rival like the Angels and losing four out of five games at home is a punch in the gut. Watching the Mariners every night has been so frustrating. I’d be lying to you if I said that I wasn’t thinking of who to blame. The person to blame is not Scott Servais. The Players, front office, and most notably, ownership is to blame.

The 2022 season is not over yet, but with every loss, the end gets closer. The Mariners need to go on a run and they need to do it quickly, otherwise, we may be seeing the 21st consecutive season without playoff baseball in Seattle.

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