It seems that during the 1990s, the Seattle Mariners were one of the best teams in baseball and that bled into the early 2000s. However, the franchise hasn’t had a ton of success outside of that time frame and has one of the worst win-loss records for any franchise in Major League Baseball. In fact, only the Orioles, Phillies, Rockies, Padres, and Marlins have worse winning percentages.
Because of the ups and downs that the Mariners have had, there have been quite a few managers that have been hired and fired. Out of the nearly two dozen managers that the Mariners have had, there are a few that stick out as actually helping the franchise move forward. Here are the five best managers in Seattle Mariners history.
5. Jim Lefebvre
The first manager on the list had a decently long MLB career as a player, spending eight seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers before closing out his playing days in Japan. In 1989, Jim Lefebvre became a manger for the first time as he was introduced as the ninth manager in Seattle Mariners history, and the franchise needed a spark.
Lefebvre was able to provide that spark, as the team finished with a winning record for the first time in franchise history during Lefebvre’s third season. However, the team ultimately decided to let him go after the 1991 season, and he went on to manage the Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers. Lefebvre finished his Mariners career with a record of 233 wins and 253 losses.
4. Bob Melvin
There are some managers that truly get around the game of baseball and end up leading multiple franchises, and Bob Melvin is one of them. Melvin has managed the Arizona Diamondbacks, Oakland Athletics, and San Diego Padres during his career, but his first managerial job came as a member of the Seattle Mariners.
Melvin found a lot of success in his first season, putting up a record of 93-69. Things looked like they were heading in a good direction, but the Mariners lost 99 games the following season and Melvin was let go. It goes to show just how rough the Mariners have had it if one winning season as a manager gets you into the top four.
3. Lloyd McClendon
Another one of those people that seems to get around as a coach or manager in Major League Baseball, Lloyd McClendon was the leader of the Mariners franchise for two seasons in 2014 and 2015. This came after he had spent several seasons as the manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates, and prior to his stint with the Detroit Tigers.
After leaving the Pirates, McClendon was a long-time assistant in Detroit when he was hired to be the Mariners’ manager for those two seasons. Seattle finished with an 87-75 record in McClendon’s first season, but it was followed up with a 76-86 campaign, leading to the franchise and McClendon parting ways despite an overall winning record.
2. Scott Servais
Scott Servais was a long-time catcher in Major League Baseball, spending the bulk of his career behind the dish with the Houston Astros and Chicago Cubs throughout the 1990s. He last played in 2001 with the Astros and went into front office work following his playing days, and said it was his dream to become a manager one day. Servais got his wish in 2016 when he was named the 20th manager in Seattle Mariners history.
Servais posted a winning record in his first season, though things would be up and down over his first few years. Despite a last-place finish in 2019, Servais is one of just two managers to have a winning record with at least three years at the helm in Seattle. In 2022, Servais led the Mariners to their first postseason appearance since 2001, putting together back-to-back 90-win seasons.
1. Lou Piniella
Of course, you can’t talk about Mariners managers without mentioning “Sweet Lou” Piniella, the short-fused skipper that has had success at just about every stop. He spent the late 1980s and early 1990s with the Yankees and Reds, and ended his career with the Rays and Cubs, but much of his managerial career was with the Mariners, spending 10 seasons with the franchise.
Nobody in Mariners history has had a better record than Piniella, finishing at 840-711. Piniella was also the two-time recipient of the Manager of the Year Award in 1995 and 2001, remaining the only Mariners manager to win the award. Piniella is also just one of two managers to lead the Mariners to the postseason, finishing with 15 playoff games won.