Scott Servais was introduced to the Seattle media on Monday as the new field manager for the Seattle Mariners (watch the entire news conference here). During a wide ranging news conference, he covered many topics including his path to the dugout, how to prepare a player for the Big Leagues, the importance of analytics, and why he considers himself a football coach in a baseball uniform.
Here are some of the highlights.
What kind of team will the Mariners be under Scott Servais’ leadership?
We will be prepared. I guarantee you we will be prepared. We will be disciplined in how we play. We will play with energy. And I believe it’s okay to show emotion once in a while. And we will compete. And competing is not trying hard. Everybody tries hard in the Big Leagues. I never met a Big Leaguer who didn’t try hard. But we are going to compete every night. I think the big thing is the Mariners fans deserve that.
What’s the difference between trying hard and competing?
Everybody tries hard. I never met a player who didn’t. Competing is making adjustments throughout the game to figure out how to beat the guy out on the mound. Or if you’re out on the mound, figuring out how to beat the guy in the batter’s box. That’s competing. It’s mental and physical. It’s not just physical and trying hard. That’s how I would look at it.
Working with young players as well as veterans.
Players today, seem to respond a little bit better from a pat on the back than maybe screaming at them. The veteran player deserves a certain amount of respect that he has been around the game. It doesn’t mean that he’s not held accountable. All the good teams I was ever on, or were part of, teams in Texas that went to the World Series, the players policed themselves. When your veteran crew buys into the vision, all players want to play for something bigger than themselves. They do. They all want to play in the playoffs. They all want to play in the World Series. That’s why they play. And to get your veteran players on board, and let them hold others accountable as well, is really important.
Managers he’s learned from…
You look at what they’re doing and how they handle situations and people. I played in Chicago for the Cubs and Jim Riggleman was the manager there. Jim gave me a lot of confidence. I was a younger player, trying to establish myself through being out there in an everyday role and he trusted my decision making. I played for Dusty Baker in San Francisco on a very talented team. Dusty was hands down probably the best players’ manager I played for. Clint Hurdle is a guy that I’ve been exposed to. We hired Clint in Texas, when I was there, as a hitting instructor. Clint has unbelievable presence. Clint has the ability to connect an entire organization. I learned a lot from him. The manager I wished I would have played for was Bobby Cox. I thought Bobby Cox did an unbelievable job in Atlanta. Bobby Cox came from the Front Office and went in the dugout. But Bobby Cox had energy, he welcomed young players. Even though he had the stud pitching, he always had the young players coming in – Chipper Jones, Javy Lopez, Raphael Furcal, Andruw Jones, they were always coming and he realized that was his lifeblood, that’s what makes it turn.
What do the Mariners need to do to win more games? What is team missing?
We need to do a better job of getting on base. That’s the one thing that we have to get better at. We have to create more opportunities to score runs. It’s really hard to hit home runs every night and win games. Nelly (Nelson Cruz) had an unbelievable year last year, we know what Robbie can do, what Seager’s about. The core is there. When putting the roster together, you’ve got to have balance. You’ve got to have depth. There are going to be injuries. There are going to be guys who don’t perform the way you think they’re going to perform. When I say depth, I’m talking about your AAA club. You gotta get guys you can go get, pop them in there and they gotta help produce. I’ll let Jerry and the staff upstairs worry about putting the group together. I’m sure they’ll ask me a few questions along the way, but I’m looking at what do we need to do as a club. Getting on base is probably the number one thing we need to tighten up.
Pitching and defense wins championships.
Pitching and defense is what’s playing right now, the teams that are playing in the World Series. Pitching and defense should always be our strength here. Pitching and knowing the ballpark and using it to your strength. The defensive part, putting athletic players on the field that can cover up this outfield, make the plays on the infield. The hitting, you’re not going to bang the ball out of the ballpark every night. I get it. Fortunately, on our staff is the greatest hitter that ever wore a Mariners uniform (Edgar Martinez), he gets it. For me, it’s about creating opportunities, getting on base, keeping pressure on the opposition. But pitching and defense has to be a priority here. We should be here, hopefully, at the top of the League standings every year in those categories.
Information is power.
It’s very important. It’s the way the game is going. If you try to fight it, you’re going to end up losing. You know, why not? It’s information. You have to use it. You have to put it in play. I’m not the guy that comes up with the formulas and spits out the numbers. Like I said earlier, I’m smart enough to know what I don’t know. But what I do know is that when somebody’s showing me that when we have a deficiency in a certain area, my job is how do we fix it? How do we attack the deficiency? How do we get better? I’ve used this term often, I’m a ‘why’ coach. Why is that happening? What are we going to do to fix it here? We couldn’t get the bunt down in the seventh inning. Is it because we didn’t have the right form to bunt, or is it because we didn’t really want to bunt? You have to be willing to run with it. But there’s also some feel to it, and some experience level of being a baseball guy. It goes hand in hand.
A football coach in a baseball uniform.
What I mean by that is I think football coaches are the most prepared and detailed of any of the coaches because they practice so much, they have to be. And in football, the game is won at the line of scrimmage. Over at CenturyLink, they control the line of scrimmage, they win the game… Where is the line of scrimmage in baseball? For me, the line of scrimmage in baseball is the strike zone. You have to control the strike zone, whether you’re on the mound or in the batter’s box. Controlling the strike zone, swinging at good pitches, getting deep in counts, walking maybe a little bit more. And on the flip side, controlling the strike zone, keeping the pitch count down, getting deep in the games, having a chance to win games as a starting pitcher, that’s where it happens, in the strike zone. So looking at the numbers, is there any particular number? Walks to strikeout. Pitching side, hitting side, that’s where the game is won.