The 'Mariners' search column on Tweetdeck is an interesting place. To explain, there to the right of a few lists I peruse regularly is a column displaying every Tweet mentioning the word "Mariners." All of them. While I have a curated list of people I trust for news, this section of things shows, in some ways, where the masses' heads are at—or at least a good portion of them.
It's an interesting place always, but certain events will trigger curious behavior that reaches new levels. Yesterday, it was the Dodgers and Don Mattingly parting ways. You can see where I'm going, but yes, there was significant amount of outcry requesting that Dipoto expand his list of existing finalists to include the former Dodger skipper.
And honestly, I was curious why. What, specifically, makes someone so passionate about hiring him in particular, so much that they want to cry out in general, or at the @Mariners account? I actually asked this on Twitter and because social media is a dangerous thing where, after much cultivation, you end up having your own opinions echoed back at you, I pretty much only had responses that expressed skepticism and said "some people probably value the name."
This was actually the best response:
Because it would be humorous to make him watch The Double on the big screen multiple times a day https://t.co/UH5jaf8C9Z— Neal Kendrick (@neal_kendrick) October 22, 2015
This is already an overly-extended intro, so I'll get to the point: there's no value, on its own, in a name. Or experience. To have been present while something happened—and presumably, if people want to hire you, something good—does not equate to having been the cause of that thing happening. Not in managing, when we know very little about what makes a good one and what makes a bad one.
The Mariners, in hiring Scott Servais to be the seventh full-time manager since Lou Piniella, made the decision based on one thing they know, or at least believe, will make a manager a good one: the ability to work well with the front office.
I mentioned this in my background piece on Tim Bogar, on why a change in manager was required: baseball, more than ever, is a game played in the margins—or at least on marginal upgrades. Players are acquired, developed and deployed because their value is tied to doing a specific thing or set of things.
It might be rangy centerfield defense or getting on base against righties or throwing one of the best cutter's in the game at generating groundballs.
When a general manager and his team in the front office put in the work, over months and years, to supply what he believes to be an adequate toolbox, he has to have 100 percent certainty that the manager won't be using the handle of a hammer to pound a six-inch screw into the wall two weeks into May.
And I don't want to hear it about "puppets" and "yes men." Do you really want the manager of the ball club to be giving his boss a flat-out "no" on anything important? Healthy conflict is good, and the skipper should feel empowered to disagree and explain why, but in looking at Servais and Dipoto specifically, the fact that they've worked together ensures those conflicts will indeed be healthy ones.
Does anyone think, having known each other for as long as they have, and operated in a professional setting for a chunk of it, that Dipoto and Servais have never disagreed? They know the back and forth. Beyond that, as Shannon Drayer put so well in her post first laying down the sentiment I'm trying to here, Dipoto and Servais know they speak the same language in the context of baseball. They have a unified belief in what works and what does not.
And that starts with one of the core tenets laid down by Dipoto in his early briefings, that being player development. Jon Heyman made a good point in noting that Servais' path to the bench closely mirrors that of the Astros' AJ Hinch, who previously rose up through the ranks in Arizona to eventually become their director of player development, as Servais did with Texas before serving under Dipoto as AGM in Los Angeles.
It should be noted Hinch did become and then unbecome the manger of the Diamondbacks before eventually excelling with the Astros, but the thought process is still there. With the success of young talent clearly being one of the biggest differentiators in the game today, developing that talent is crucial, even at the major league level.
There's so much more to worry about as a manager, because of course there is—and the lack of experience can be concerning, even here. But it's a clear teams don't value experience like they used to, and sure, that's tripped up a few contenders (*cough*, Washington, Detroit), but going the old retread route has tripped up others for years. Look at what the smart kids are doing in Los Angeles, where the Dodgers are expected to move Gabe Kapler from farm director to manager.
And it extends beyond baseball, where fit and progressive thinking are targeted above all else. The reigning NBA champions hired a guy who'd never coached at any level, and Steve Kerr fostered an environment with the Warriors that's the envy of nearly all 29 other teams.
Teams in all sports know how crucial a front office and its executives are to the teams playing the games, too crucial to risk losing any level of value in the translation from planning and strategy to execution.
None of this is to imply Servais is the perfect hire, one who is guaranteed of success here in Seattle. We've watched this long enough to know nothing's guaranteed, and most would say what's desired isn't even likely. I'll never go there.
But I like this hire, and I think there's ample reason to.
This is the way the game's heading. It's the way sports are heading. And it's good, finally, to have the Mariners moving with—ahead of?—the trends. Whether or not it'll work out, we can't know. But right now, it looks good.