Mariner’s CEO Mather out after comments about players become public
The President and CEO of the Seattle Mariners resigned Monday. Kevin Mather angered fans and players over the weekend after a speech he gave to the Bellevue Rotary Club earlier this month became public.
Aside from saying one player was overpaid and that another player was very boring, Mather complained about having to pay for interpreters for Japanese players, and he criticized the Mariners' top prospect for not knowing enough English, saying “Julio Rodriguez has got a personality bigger than all of you combined. He is, he is loud. He is, his English is not tremendous.”
Both Mather and the team owner John Stanton have apologized. A statement from Stanton today says the club has "a lot of work to do to make amends, and that work is already underway."
Joe Veyera is a Seattle-based writer and sports commentator. His tweet thread documenting Mather’s comments sent the story viral.
Veyera: I think the situation was untenable, and the best course of action for the team was to part ways, whether it was through his resignation, or the team choosing to fire him. The remarks were just so damaging to the relationship that the team would have with the players and with the fans, that something had to give.
How would you describe this 45-minute appearance of Kevin Mather that became public and went viral?
Veyera: It was stunning in both what he said, and the nonchalance in which he said it. It felt like his comments kind of fell along this sliding scale from innocuous — things like the team's financial state, for instance; the league may not necessarily want someone talking about that, but it's not a huge deal. To more culturally intolerant remarks regarding foreign players like Julio Rodriguez and Hisashi Iwakuma and their command of English.
What was really jaw-dropping to me was how many different groups managed to take the brunt of his remarks in just 45 minutes: veteran players, prospects, the player’s union, the SoDo neighborhood even. He covered so much ground and none of it in a good way.
Mather also described how the team manipulates what's called the service time of players. Can you explain what that is, and why it's a big deal?
Veyera: This is essentially an open secret in baseball. Teams will attempt to keep their top young players in the minor leagues even after they believe that they're ready to play in the majors in an effort to maximize the amount of contractual team control they have. If you're a player, you have to play six full years to reach free agency. If your team keeps you in the minor leagues for say, a few weeks to start the season, then you can't hit the threshold to hit a full year and start your service clock.
When Mather said that neither outfielder Jarred Kelenic or pitcher Logan Gilbert would break camp with the team and that there were no circumstances last year that prospects would be called up, it is about as close to an admission of service time manipulation that we've heard from a baseball executive.
If you're someone that follows the game closely, you're not surprised that this is happening. You're surprised that he said it.
This is a team that hasn't made the playoffs for 20 years, holding this dubious honor, the longest playoff drought in any major team sport right now. What is the impact of all this on the fan base?
Veyera: Don't remind me about the playoff drought. I was in third grade the last time the Mariners made the playoffs, and I turned 28 in April. So, it has been a while. This fan base has put up with so much, and I think they've been incredibly loyal to an organization that hasn't given them much in return.
What's really unfortunate is that we're starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel from the rebuild effort. Kyle Lewis won Rookie of the Year. Evan White and J.P. Crawford won Gold Gloves for their defense. The prospects like Kelenic and Gilbert are very highly regarded, and we're going to see them this season. This throws cold water on any excitement fans had.
Beyond how you and I and the fans may be feeling about this, how do you think Mather’s comments could affect the success of the Seattle Mariners organization and the team moving forward?
Veyera: The big question for the team now that Mather is out of the picture is that they're going to have to prove that the statements he made were not a reflection of the organizational culture or philosophy. That's going to be an incredibly tough sell on their part. If you're a foreign-born player or an agent, how does it make you feel to hear the team president disparaging a player's English language abilities?
If you're a veteran, what do you think about him calling Kyle Seager, who has been at third base for about a decade now, overpaid, and telling people he probably won't be back next season, even though he has an option in his contract?
Besides that, they have to show that they're willing to call up their prospects when they're ready, not when it's just financially convenient to them.
Will Veyera be watching and cheering them on on opening day?
Veyera: After 20 years of not making the playoffs, I'm still here.
Listen to the interview by clicking the play button above.