An off-season already stuffed full of accolades culminated in the biggest honor yet for Mariners rookie Julio Rodríguez, who was today named as one of three finalists for the Jackie Robinson AL Rookie of the Year award.
To be nominated as a finalist is a fait accompli for Seattle’s talented youngster, who outpaced the field sometime in the middle of the summer, putting an exclamation point on his candidacy when he was the only rookie to participate in the Home Run Derby and put on a show, falling just short of winning the crown. The bigger question was who would flank him in the finalist field of three, with Jeremy Peña, Adley Rutschman, Steven Kwan, and Bobby Witt Jr. all making their cases at various points during the season. Ultimately, Rutschman and Kwan, both Oregon State alums, got the nods, making this an all-PNW-affiliated field. Kwan showed a consistency all season that Peña and Witt Jr. did not, and while Rutschman was a later addition to the field, his trajectory upward was immediate, without the growing pains one might expect while playing the most difficult defensive position on the field. However, no player in this group combines the consistency and electricity of the J-Rod Show, which is probably why several sports betting sites stopped even giving odds on the race sometime in late August.
Scott Servais’s inclusion was less of a sure thing, with Terry Francona, Dusty Baker, and Brandon Hyde all making strong cases, but ultimately the field was set at Francona, Servais, and Hyde. Both Francona and Hyde have garnered praise for doing a lot with a little, which voters for this award seem to like (Kevin Cash of the perpetually-impecunious Rays won the award last year); Francona recovered from Cleveland’s light sell-off to steer his team to the post-season, while Hyde helped turn around a back-to-back 100-loss team in Baltimore.
Hyde seems to be the early favorite for the award, but my feeling is if Scott Servais didn’t get the award last year, there’s an unfair double standard in giving it to Hyde this year. Some could argue Servais was gifted a better team with Julio and an ownership that actually, you know, spends money, but first of all, Hyde had Adley, and secondly, as bears repeating, Scott Servais oversaw a team that broke the longest playoff drought in North American sports, which marks the first time I actually want to hear about the drought. And that’s to say nothing of Servais’s other accomplishments as Seattle’s manager, who is only the second manager in Mariners history to lead a team to back-to-back 90-win seasons (the other. You probably know that the 2022 Mariners led all of baseball in one-run wins—you know, the ones that have a high degree of difficulty in managing effectively—but did you also know that in Servais’s seven seasons with the Mariners, Seattle leads all of baseball in both one-run wins and one-run winning percentage (.573)? If you don’t give it to him this year, then when?
Regardless of whether or not Servais earns this (deserved) recognition, here’s hoping that the tiresome #FireServais takes will end when the team is going through a rough patch. One of the most enjoyable things about getting credentialed this year was getting to spend more time around the team and see how Servais interacts with his players: how he spoke about them as well as to them, how he values them as people, how he made a point to interact with them individually in a meaningful way every day. Servais takes a lot of flak for not being overly emotionally expressive—which is what made that voice crack when he said PARTEEEEAAAAAYAYY at the clinch celebration both hilarious and heartfelt—but his even-keel nature helps his players modulate their feelings as well. We’ve joked about Scott being a Midwestern Dad for years, but honestly, when it’s late at night and our car is broken down on the side of the highway, there’s no one else we’d rather call.
The awards are voted on by BBWAA writers with two representing every city; AL awards are voted on by AL cities (and NL by NL), making thirty voters for each award. The Rookie of the Year award will be announced on November 14 at 3 PM PT on MLBN; Manager of the Year will be awarded at the same time on November 15.