Mariners manager Scott Servais finishes second in American League manager of the year vote
Kevin Cash’s ability to take a World Series qualifier in 2020 and lead them to the American League’s best record in 2021 (100-62), despite losing starters Blake Snell and Charlie Morton, was more than l The Mariners’ unexpected success in 2021, under Scott Servais, surpassing expectations and projections in their best season since 2003.
On a Tuesday special on MLB Network, Tampa Bay’s Cash was named 2021 American League Coach of the Year by members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. It was the second season in a row that Cash had won the award.
Cash collected 19 first-place votes, three second-place votes and five third-place votes for a total of 109 points. Servais finished second with 71 points, winning five first-place votes, 13 second-place votes and seven third-place votes. Dusty Baker of the Astros was third. with 33 points, getting two first place votes, five second place votes and eight third place votes.
In his sixth season as manager of the Mariners, Servais led a relatively inexperienced team that defied baseball insider preseason predictions and sabermetric projections.
While most “experts” had the Mariners finishing third or fourth in the American Western League with a losing record and the FanGraphs ZIP projection system predicting a 73-89 record and Baseball Prospectus PECOTA projecting a record. 70-92, the Mariners were second in the division with a 90-72 record. Seattle entered the final game of the regular season with a chance to force a one-game playoff and potentially win one of two wild cards, which would have ended a playoff drought dating back to 2001.
The 90 wins were the most significant in a season since 2003. The Mariners did so despite an offense heavily dependent on the roster’s first four hitters and a starting rotation riddled with injury and inconsistency. Veteran starter James Paxton was lost for the season in the second set of his first start while youngsters Justin Dunn and Justus Sheffield, both members of the opening day roster, made 25 combined starts.
Using a field of largely unknown relievers with no defined roles, the Mariners have excelled in one-point games, posting a 33-19 record. They also had 14 extra inning wins, which tied a franchise record.
“It says a lot about how far we’ve come as an organization,” Servais said in an interview after being named a finalist. “For me, from what our players, our coaching staff and our front office, what we’ve been able to overcome and accomplish this year, I think that says a lot to all of these people. Whenever you’re a finalist or win any of these types of awards, it’s the group around you that really gives you the opportunity to experience something like this.
The season low for the Mariners came at the end of May. After going without a hit twice in the span of 10 days and losing a handful of relievers to COVID-19 protocols, they fell to 21-26 on May 23 following a sweep from the Padres and 31-7.
Servais held a meeting after that Sunday game to reassess what they were trying to accomplish. From there, the Mariners were 69-46.
In the club’s last 48 games, the Mariners are 31-17 (0.646), good for the AL’s best record in that span (Aug 11-Oct 3).
During his time with the Mariners, Servais had 438 management wins and a 0.503 winning percentage, both ranked second in franchise history, behind Lou Piniella.