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Getting To Know the Seattle Mariners’ New Friends, Jerry Dipoto and Scott Servais

Thursday, November 05, 2015

 

Hey, remember Jack Zduriencik? *dodges thrown shoe*

How about Lloyd McClendon? *evades lobbed tomato*

Did you know they’re both gone? No, seriously! They were relieved of their duties before the conclusion of the World Series! Now can you please put that chair down?

After the miserable embarrassment that was the Seattle Mariners’ 2015 season, heads rolled quickly as the club’s general manager and his contemporary in the dugout were axed, with Zduriencik receiving a pink slip in August and McClendon being shown the door in October. In their stead, former Los Angeles Angels GM Jerry Dipoto stepped into the same role with the M’s, while Scott Servais (Dipoto’s right hand man in Anaheim) joined the organization as a first time manager.

Dipoto, a former reliever who played eight big league seasons with three different teams, has been employed in front offices regularly since retiring as a player. He worked as a scout for the Boston Red Sox and Colorado Rockies before joining Josh Byrnes in the Arizona Diamondbacks’ front office, where he remained as the director of scouting and player personnel (and served as the interim GM when Byrnes was fired) before joining the Angels after the 2011 season. He was let go halfway through this season, at which time he was hired by the Red Sox once more in an advisory role before landing in the PNW. 

He was the man at the helm when the Angels signed Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson to staggering deals (although the implication is that both were sanctioned by owner Arte Moreno). While the team remained competitive during Dipoto’s tenure, their lone playoff appearance in that time resulted in a quick first-round exit courtesy of the rampaging Kansas City Royals. Now, the farm system is scorched earth, and anyone on the roster not named Mike Trout is expendable in one way or another. These failures are obviously not Dipoto’s alone, but for better or worse, the general manager is usually the first one to take the fall when a franchise stumbles.

Servais played 11 years in the majors for four teams, primarily as a catcher. He spent some time in the Texas Rangers’ front office before joining Dipoto in Anaheim, working as an assistant GM under him, and he too came to Seattle after interviewing for Dipoto’s old position (which eventually went to former Yankees assistant GM Billy Eppler). While this represents his first stint managing at any level, we’ve seen a pattern develop in recent years where former backstops with little to no experience become wildly effective and equally popular managers. As catchers are required to be proficient in calling a game and keeping pitchers on the right track, they’re really the perfect leaders for a baseball team.

While at first glance it may be difficult to see how these men will be any different from the other guys, there’s one clear and vital distinction. You hear it frequently these days: As those in front offices are perpetually looking for the new market inefficiency, teams increasingly seek out field managers who are willing to embrace the chaos and use advanced metrics when making lineup or in-game decisions. This is where the Dipoto/Servais tandem differs most noticeably from the pair of men that preceded them. Zduriencik apparently didn’t understand those stats, and McClendon outright rejected them. Dipoto faced a similar dilemma with the manager of the Angels, the irascible Mike Scioscia. Servais is seemingly more open to implementing platoon splits and defensive shifts in his coaching style than his peer. I’d wager Dipoto is glad to have someone he won’t have to fight on a regular basis.

These men have their work cut out for them. While the Mariners don’t have any notable departing free agents outside of Hisashi Iwakuma, they certainly have a bevy of impact players to choose from on this year’s market. Their first pick in next June’s draft is 11th overall, or the first unprotected pick that would be forfeited should the team sign a player who rejected a qualifying offer. If they make a run for any of the big free agents (a few weeks ago, I suggested they should do just that for Justin Upton and David Price; while the latter is ineligible, the former will undoubtedly receive and turn down the QO), that precious pick is squandered. 

This does not mean that Dipoto and his cavalry should resign themselves to staying out of the frenzy, nor does it mean he should go insane a la A.J. Preller and trade away everyone and everything that isn’t nailed down. If he wants to remain somewhat conservative, the second tier of available pitchers and hitters also contains some guys who would provide any team with a significant boost, many of whom will not be extended a QO.

Servais won’t really play much of a part until Spring Training, which will be the first indication of how well he handles the 25 guys under his command. He has filled out most of his coaching staff already, so all that’s left is for him to craft a plan of attack and enforce it as best he can. With nearly the entire roster returning intact as of now, he’ll have to succeed where McClendon failed with the same players. This may not be an easy task, but then again, when was being in charge of a baseball team considered simple?

It’s been a long, relatively depressing year for the Mariners. Hope is on the horizon, though, and that beautifully cautious optimism is starting to return. Dipoto and Servais have a solid relationship and are missionaries of the Church of Sabermetrics, two things that could not be said about Zduriencik and McClendon. An argument could be made that the latter duo tried their hardest and did their best- *gets hit in the face with a raw egg* 

GoLocalPDX partner Oregon Sports News: Since 2011, Oregon Sports News has provided entertaining, hard-hitting local sports news & commentary every weekday. To read more from this author, check out Oregon Sports News by clicking here.

 

Related Slideshow: 12 of the Greatest Sports Movies of All Time

Hank Stern ranks his top twelve favorite sports films. 

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#12 Rollerball

Some of the non-athletic scenes in this dystopian classic show their age, but Rollerball is a strangely prescient film that anticipated both the corporatization of sport and fans’ limitless taste for violence. Bonus points for the ominous intro music.

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#11 A League of Their Own

A comedy that looks back to the antithesis of corporate sport – a women’s baseball league during World War II with many memorable lines to choose from (e.g.,”There’s no crying in baseball.”)

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#10 Remember The Titans

Yes, filmmakers took liberties with some of the facts dealing with the integration of a high school football team in Virginia. But there’s a reason football teams often screen this film on the eve of big games. It’s a damn inspirational tale.

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#9 The Natural

This film has grown on me over time. Originally, it seemed slow and schmaltzy. Now, it seems well-paced and charming. Then and now, the re-created scenes of pre-World War II ballparks arrive like perfectly preserved postcards from the past.  

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#8 The Longest Yard

Not the remake with Adam Sandler and Chris Rock. But the hilarious original with Burt Reynolds and Eddie Albert as a wonderfully villainous warden who pits the guards against the inmates in a grudge football game that includes former Green Bay linebacker Ray Nitschke and other ex-football players like Sonny Sixkiller and Joe Kapp, both stalwart Pac-8 quarterbacks long, long ago.  

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#7 Slap Shot

The Hanson brothers. Enough said.

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#6 Rocky

Often imitated, but never replicated. The definitive underdog boxing story featuring Sylvester Stallone before he became a self-caricature in multiple sequels. Impossible to hear the theme song without being motivated to get off the couch.

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#5 Seabiscuit

A fantastic book as well as a great movie. Like “The Natural,” Seabiscuit captures its Depression-era setting for modern-day viewers taken back to an era when horse racing actually meant something in America. 

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#4 Requiem for a Heavywei

A too often-forgotten film these days but a wonderful boxing drama that shows the sport’s underside with memorable  performances by Mickey Rooney, Jackie Gleason and Anthony Quinn.

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#3 Hoosiers

Want to know something about small-town America in the 1950s and about Indiana basketball? This hoops movie does all of that with a healthy dose of redemption throughout. 

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#2 Bull Durham

There’s a pretty good case to be made this movie played a huge part in the rebirth and re-marketing of minor league baseball. As written by former minor leaguer Ron Shelton, there are many great scenes to choose from but this one is a favorite. 

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#1 Raging Bull

A rags-to-riches-to-rags story of boxer Jake LaMotta meets the actor born to play him, Robert De Niro. Not a false moment in this black-and-white powerhouse.

 
 

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