“It’s all about who you know.” A grimy phrase to demonstrate a grimy sentiment, often uttered while discussing job searches, or attempting to break into a certain industry. We’d like to believe this isn’t always the case, but cliches don’t become so by simply being coincidences, and this is a phrase that is particularly apt when it comes to the sports industry and MLB in particular. The Seattle Mariners organization is no different. While doing research for another project I continually stumbled across connections between members of the front office and coaching staff so, in an effort to maintain some sanity, I began to scribble them down. Eventually these scribbles became so extensive I figured I might as well share them with you all, as an assortment of slightly messy fun facts. I distinctly lack the graphics skills of José, but wanted to present this information visually, so I simply resorted to drawing it all out by hand. Was this the best use of my free time? No. Was it satisfying to essentially sit on the floor of my house and color? Absolutely. That said, if anyone knows a good way to learn how to create graphics/data visualization, please let me know.
*Notes: Before you take a closer look at this chart, I want to acknowledge that there are dozens more connections to be found within the Mariners’ coaching staff and front office, but I’ve chosen to include these main eight for simplicity’s sake. Manny Acta is not on this chart because he would have simply been a big ‘ol circle all alone and off to the side. Listed dates refer to seasons, rather than years (i.e. Dipoto was hired in 2015 but the chart lists his tenure with the M’s as having begun in 2016, which was his first full season with the team). Dates and information were gathered from an assortment of online news sources, Wikipedia, Baseball-Reference, and personal LinkedIn pages.
Some highlights that I’d like to point out:
- Andy McKay managed the La Crosse Loggers with Ethan Katz as his pitching coach. The Loggers are a part of the Northwoods League, a summer college league with a degree of competitiveness similar to that of the Cape Cod League. In 2012 their catcher was Tyler Servais (hilariously found on Twitter @YourServais), who had traveled from Princeton back to the birthplace of his father, Scott, who visited that summer while working as the Angels’ Assistant GM (in charge of scouting and player dev). According to a local news channel article, Servais was “very impressed with the team Andy McKay ha[d] put together [that] season.” Apparently Servais “had a contract written up,” to hire McKay to work for the Angels, but McKay instead signed with the Colorado Rockies as their Peak Performance Coordinator. Servais had better luck signing Katz, though, who spent two years in the Angels’ minor league system as a pitching coach.
- Peter Harnisch, the Mariners’ Special Assistant in charge of Player Development, isn’t featured on this chart, but was apparently responsible for introducing Servais and Dipoto. Harnisch and Dipoto both played on the New York Mets from 1995-1996, while Harnisch and Servais spent four seasons together on the Houston Astros from 1991-1994. Notably, Servais’ only career ejection came in a 16 minute brawl against Harnisch, while Servais was on the Chicago Cubs.
- Joe Bohringer, the Mariners’ Special Assistant to the GM, is similarly not featured on this chart, but worked as a pro scout for the Arizona Diamondbacks from 2006-2011, which coincides precisely with Dipoto’s time in Arizona.
- In 2013 Tim Bogar and Mike Hampton coached the Arkansas Travelers together; Bogar was the manager and newly-retired Hampton was the pitching coach.
For all the goofiness of this post, it also offers some interesting insight into Dipoto’s mentality, and the relatively new structure of the Mariners organization. We have seen how Dipoto values known commodities in his trades and acquisitions (most of his bounce back candidates have prior histories of success), but this is also something he clearly values within his front office and coaching staff. Dipoto is an analytics-minded GM but, practically speaking, there are no statistics to evaluate front office personnel or coaching staff. Therefore, in order to assemble the most reliable staff possible, it makes sense that he would turn to those he knows, or those known by people he trusts (such as the McKay- Servais connection). Is this the best way to build an organization? I’m not so sure, but it seems to have worked out reasonably well thus far, and Dipoto’s tenure is still young.