Servais is runner-up for Manager of the Year

November 17th, 2021

SEATTLE -- Among the six Manager of the Year finalists across both leagues, no skipper led a team to exceed its preseason expectations in the manner that Scott Servais did for the Mariners. Typically, that’s among the most prominent factors on voters’ minds when casting their ballots, but alas, Servais came up short of taking home the hardware after a 90-win season.

Servais was announced as the runner-up in the American League Manager of the Year Award voting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America on Tuesday on MLB Network. The Rays’ Kevin Cash took home the hardware for the second straight year, becoming the first AL manager in history to do so. The Astros’ Dusty Baker finished behind Servais in third. 

Seattle’s skipper received five first-place votes, 13 second-place votes and seven third-place votes for 71 total points. Each BBWAA voter has three selections on their ballot for this award, and points are awarded on a 5-3-1 scale. Cash received 109 points and Baker, 33.

There are two voters per AL chapter, comprising 30 voters in total. Servais appeared on all but five ballots, underscoring that his highly successful season was recognized across the game. Voting was conducted between the final day of the regular season and the first postseason game two days later as to not account playoff performances.

Servais would have been the first manager to win this honor without reaching the playoffs since Bud Black with the Padres in 2010. And he would’ve been the Mariners’ first to do so since the great Lou Piniella, who won in 2001 and 1995, two of the most significant seasons in franchise history. Piniella remains the only Mariners skipper to win the award.

Despite an array of injuries and the midseason trade of key reliever Kendall Graveman, the Mariners’ pitching staff went from ranking last in the AL in wins above replacement in 2020, per FanGraphs, to fourth-best in the Majors in 2021, and Servais’ in-game management and handling of various bullpen games played a critical role in that success.

Servais also dealt with clubhouse challenges from the start after the resignation of team president and CEO Kevin Mather at the onset of Spring Training, then later in the season with the trade of Graveman, which left many in the clubhouse unhappy. But he served as an anchor to the clubhouse despite those moments and at other points in which Seattle’s season looked like it was on the cusp of a spiral.

“You really have to trust people in the organization,” Servais said Monday on MLB Network. “We’ve done some nice things here. I’ve got a great group to work here in our front office in [president of baseball operations] Jerry Dipoto and [assistant GM] Justin Hollander. But it wasn’t easy; we had some trying days there. But credit to our players. They kept grinding through it and performing and we kept getting better as the season went along.”

Though the Mariners fell short of the postseason, they remained in contention until the final day of the regular season, and their 90 wins were their most since 2003, making them the AL’s biggest surprise team given that most preseason projections had them in the 70-win range. FanGraphs projected that they had just 2.9% odds to reach the playoffs.

Tuesday’s outcome probably wasn’t what Servais or the Mariners had hoped for, but after such a promising season and an offseason that could be among the most significant in recent memory, the trend appears to be heading upward for Servais and his staff.