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Heyman | Mariners GM defends Scott Servais as pressure builds

Jon Heyman

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Seattle Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto speaks with reporters during a baseball news conference Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017, in Seattle. The team finished their season at 78-84, third place in American League West. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

Seattle Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto, who fired two coaches and longtime friends in the wake of Seattle’s very disappointing season, defended manager Scott Servais in the face of word coming out of the clubhouse that some players aren’t exactly enamored with him.

Servais, with two coaches gone, including close friend Casey Candaele, and only a year left on his contract – though it hasn’t been reported, the contracts of both Servais and Dipoto are up after next year; both received three-year deals that have remained in place, FanRag Sports has learned – was supported by Dipoto, who handpicked his good friend and former Angels and Rangers executive to be his manager.

And as for the word of negativity out of the clubhouse, Dipoto said they gave all players a chance to voice any concerns, and he heard little of that – though he doesn’t necessarily doubt there may be whispers from some corners.

“I think that’s typical when a club underperforms. It’s also not anything I’ve heard from our core players. The Canos, Seagers and Cruzes are perfectly happy,” Dipoto said.

There’s no doubt that injuries played a major role in Seattle’s poor 78-84 record and underperformance – their four top pitchers all were out for significant periods. But the year was less than anyone hoped, and some players suggest Servais didn’t help matters.

“I can’t fault Scott for the fact we had to use 40 pitchers and 17 starters. That’s more on me than him,” Dipoto said. “This is the same guy that as a rookie manager received Manager of the Year votes.”

Dipoto acknowledged some “adjustments” needed to be made in the second year, and admitted that the team got “sloppy with fundamentals,” which led to the changes already made. He also said anytime there are expectations to make the playoffs – “and we had those expectations”– that it’s no surprise there’s going to be talk.

The firings of bench coach Tim Bogar, who’s been close to Dipoto for years, and of Candaele, who’s close to Servais, seems to add to the pressure on Servais, a longtime Dipoto ally who was picked over Dave Roberts and many other candidates with more coaching and managing experience.

As for the firings of Bogar and Candaele, Dipoto said, “It’s always difficult parting with guys we’ve known as long as we have. We felt like a change was necessary. We had to change the voice. We got sloppy with fundamental play.”

Dipoto made a record number of trades, and some of them helped keep the team afloat until the final couple weeks, when it faded, and his record and cachet as a GM probably gives him some wiggle room, even with a year to go on his contract. But with Seattle’s MLB-high playoff-less streak now up to 16 years, it might be time to wonder how much pressure is on Servais now.

Jon Heyman is an MLB Insider for FanRag Sports, featuring breaking news, information and his Inside Baseball column, which appears on FanRagSports.com every Thursday. Heyman also has been an insider at MLB Network since the channel launched in 2009 and is a regular contributor to WFAN in New York, where he appears weekly on the Joe and Evan Show and previously appeared on the Mike and the Mad Dog Show. He also appears on WSCR in Chicago, WBZ-FM in Boston and the Petros and Money Show on Fox in Los Angeles. Heyman comes to FanRag Sports from CBSSports.com, where he worked for five years and wrote the popular Inside Baseball notes column. Before going to CBS, Heyman worked for five years at Sports Illustrated and SI.com, where he was a senior writer and started an Inside Baseball Column. Heyman worked for 16 years at Newsday in New York, where he was the Yankees beat writer, a baseball columnist and finally a general sports columnist. Heyman started his career at the Moline (Ill.) Daily Dispatch, then moved to the Los Angeles Copley Newspapers (Torrance Daily Breeze and Santa Monica Outlook) before going to Newsday. Heyman at one time also served as a national baseball writer for The Sporting News. Heyman is a graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. The Santa Fe, N.M. native grew up in Cedarhurst, N.Y., on Long Island.

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