On Tuesday, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) announced that Kevin Cash of the Tampa Bay Rays won the American League Manager of the Year award for 2021, while the Seattle Mariners’ Scott Servais took home second place with five first-place votes.
Servais led a Seattle Mariners team who many thought would finish last in the AL West to a 90-72 record, despite the team finishing with a -51 run differential. When asked about his thoughts on Seattle’s negative run differential in the middle of the season, Servais coined the term “fun differential”, pointing to his team’s uncanny ability to pull out wins late in games when the odds of victory seemed slim.
A key skill for a manager is determining when to use certain relievers during the course of a game, and Servais excelled in that department in 2021; the Mariners bullpen, comprised of several pitchers on minor-league contracts or with little major league experience, ended the season with the 4th-best bullpen ERA in the American League, and led the league with 51 saves.
In addition to his effective use of the bullpen, Servais also impressed with his ability to keep the team’s morale high throughout the ups and downs of the season. After the infamous trade of clubhouse leader Kendall Graveman to the division rival Houston Astros at the trade deadline significantly dampened the team’s positive atmosphere, the Mariners were able to finish the final two months of the season strong.
Scott Servais may not have pulled out the award for AL Manager of the Year this season, but he seemingly won the hearts of Mariners players and fans this season with his consistency, good-natured approach with the media, and effective in-game strategy.
Servais inked a multiyear contract near the end of the season, so Mariners fans shouldn’t be surprised to see Servais represent Seattle again as a Manager of the Year finalist before long.