The Mariners will be spending their 17thstraight season watching the postseason in October, and they have begun the process of figuring out what went wrong. One issue folks, including even GM Jerry Dipoto, have suggested is a possible chemistry issue. And inside sources suggest there may be something to that theory.
A recent clubhouse fight that featured Dee Gordon and Jean Segura came to light when Gordon had to ask a few Mariners reporters to leave the clubhouse so he could settle matters, and that dustup may be emblematic of an issue that won’t go away easily. The Mariners have a lot of veterans, and they have some egos, and they expected a new manager, Scott Servais, to keep them all together. Servais is smart, and he’s done it at times, but they seem to have come apart at the wrong time — on the field and in the clubhouse.
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There are conflicting stories over how the brawl between the two veteran middle infielders began, but one thing that's agreed upon is that Segura questioned Gordon, either over a misplay or his reaction to being removed early from a game, with a couple saying Segura questioned Gordon over dressing quickly after being removed from a game (there are two different stories and Mariners people seem to be split over what started it). In any case, it's clear Gordon — who my be frustrated by his off year (he has a chance to set a record for lowest walk percentage) — didn't take too kindly to Segura's criticisms, and a source said Gordon retorted, saying something along the lines of, “Who are you to tell me? You’re the worst teammate I’ve ever had.”
Then word is (and Mariners insiders seem to agree on this point), Gordon went after him (after excusing the writers). Word is, too, that some backed Gordon, as Segura's perfectionist ways seem to annoy some folks.
The complaints have been heard before; he’s a perfectionist who doesn’t abide easily by flaws/mistakes of him or others, and some suggest he seems a bit too concerned about personal stats. GM Jerry Dipoto’s trade for Mitch Haniger and Segura has been seen as one of his best moves, as Segura has continued to perform in Seattle — to the point where they gave him a $70-million extension. However, now at least some see Segura as a clubhouse agitator. In hindsight, some in Seattle are wondering if that’s what spurred the Diamondbacks to trade a player as productive as Segura who had just led the National League in base hits and finished 13th in MVP balloting and wondering why Dipoto, who had him in Anaheim, didn’t know that? (Of course, it’s possible he did, but felt the trade was too good to pass up; Segura has produced, and Mitch Haniger has proved to be a gem, the best player for the Mariners this year.)
Word also out of some quarters of the clubhouse is that Servais isn’t seen as a solution by some of the key players — though he and Dipoto both received multiyear extensions after the team got off to a great start and appeared to be on their way to breaking their playoff-less streak, right on the three-year schedule Dipoto laid out for them on his winning interview.
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At any rate, now the wait may go on a few more years. The team is in a tough spot. “The Astros aren’t going anywhere, and the A’s are young and good,” one Mariners person pointed out. So, with a weak farm system that features a few good prospects that are probably at least a couple years away (there last two drafts look pretty good), it appears the Mariners may need to consider taking a step back.
While aging yet still productive high-priced star Robinson Cano and slumping veteran Kyle Seager are probably untradeable, they could consider possible deals for talented starter James Paxton, superb closer Edwin Diaz and maybe a few others — though it isn't known whether that is the direction they will go. Dipoto has never been afraid to deal, and though he’s usually in a win-now mode, he may have to face reality and adjust.
The bigger issue may be how his hand-picked manager handles burgeoning issues in the clubhouse. Gordon has been moved to second base, where he is a past Gold Glove winner, and Cano accepted a super-utility role off his 80-game ban, but word is he’s going to want his second-base job next year, and that should come as no surprise, particularly with Gordon struggling so badly offensively. While Gordon held his tongue for the sake of the team, he didn’t love center field and he wasn’t a Gold Glover there, so they may need to figure out what to do with him.
There seems to be a lot of potential for dissension. And that’s not a good thing when your main competition is the World Champion Astros and the very together A’s.
Jon Heyman is Fancred's baseball insider. He publishes his weekly Inside Baseball column each Thursday on the App and FancredSports.com. You can download the App here and interact with Jon by following him right here.