Tim Kurkjian believes that Jerry Dipoto and Scott Servais have a lot of work to do with the Mariners. (AP)
The Mariners are the talk of the baseball world today, and not for the right reasons.
M is angry and frustrated, believes the culture is ‘strong enough to resist’
The Mariners were put under a microscope after comments that now former team president and CEO Kevin Mather made to a local Rotary club were made public. During the approximately 45-minute talk, Mather made racially insensitive comments about players from other countries, insulted several veteran players and hinted at the practice of serving time manipulation with the team’s number one prospect, among other problematic comments.
Mather resigned from his position Monday as team members, including manager Scott Servais and general manager Jerry Dipoto, work to repair the damage done to the players.
We’ve heard from Mariners president John Stanton along with Dipoto and Servais since Mather resigned, but the comments have made national news and are now being discussed by players, coaches and executives across the league.
Someone who has been covering the game for a long time and is connected to what’s happening in MLB is ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian, who shared his thoughts with 710 ESPN Seattle’s Jake and Stacy on Tuesday.
Kurkjian used the word “shocked” to describe his initial reaction to Mather’s comments and went into detail about how the situation impacts not just the Mariners but the MLB in general.
“If you hear that kind of thing from a normal boy on the street, you get a little offended if not more,” Kurkjian said. “But when it comes to the guy running (the team), it’s the voice, it’s the club president of a major league team, so it’s shocking that he did that.
“It was racially insensitive, culturally insensitive, it was an insult to so many people. He was so deaf through this, I’m really surprised that someone who’s been doing that work at that level for so long falls into something like that. “
Let’s take a closer look at what Kurkjian had to say regarding Mather’s comments and where they leave the Mariners and baseball.
The comments could affect the negotiations of the collective agreement.
What Mather said will likely be an important part of an upcoming negotiation between the MLB Players Association and the league’s owners. The current collective bargaining agreement between MLB and its players ends after the 2021 season. The relationship is already shaky after last year’s controversial talks about pay and the number of games to be played amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
In Mather’s comments, he said that top prospect Kelenic did not accept a long-term contract extension from the Mariners, and that Kelenic would have started the 2021 season with the Mariners if he had accepted the offer, but will instead start in the minors. for at least a few weeks. This would prevent Kelenic’s MLB service time clock from starting long enough for Seattle to keep it under the club’s control until 2027 instead of 2026, a practice known as “service time manipulation” that has been a sore spot for the MLBPA. Mather’s comments are expected to be used as ammunition in upcoming job talks.
“The fact that a club president has made it public will really contribute to the union case,” Kurkjian said. “And unfortunately, service time will be one of many situations and elements that both parties will have to deal with. I am discouraged at the moment by the direction it is taking because the union and the owners have a contentious relationship at the moment. “
Minnesota Twins star third baseman Josh Donaldson tweeted a “thank you” to Mather for making his thoughts on serving time public and made it clear that those words would be used in upcoming negotiations.
Thanks Kevin Mather. I honestly mean it. You said what everyone already knew, but now @MLB_PLAYERS have official evidence that is going to help many players. Thanks again!! Bravo👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻
– Josh Donaldson (@ BringerOfRain20) February 23, 2021
The insensitivity of some of Mather’s comments regarding players, especially those for whom English is a second language, can also be a sticking point for the players’ union, Kurkjian said.
“You just have to wonder how representative of the Major Leagues these comments are. Is he just an isolated guy feeling that way and said it publicly, or is this how other people feel in the game? “He said.” Because if (the latter) is really the case, then we are in much more trouble than we think. “
How do the Mariners look and will that hurt in free agency?
Dipoto said Mather’s comments were embarrassing to the Mariners organization, to which Kurkjian agreed, saying it really hurts the team. However, he added that he doesn’t think Mather’s comments have a huge impact on the way the Mariners are viewed in general, largely because Dipoto and Servais are highly respected.
“I don’t think anyone would look at the Mariners as ‘They don’t know what they’re doing out there’ or ‘This is rampant.’ I never heard that from anyone, ”Kurkjian said. “But this actually taints their organization and they have a lot of work to do to fix it. And the fact that (Mather) is already gone is a very good start, but now they’re working from behind and that’s not a good place to work when you haven’t been to the playoffs in 20 years and you’re in a division where the Athletics and the Astros are clearly better, for me. “
While Mather’s comments may not have a huge impact on the way the Mariners are viewed in the league, Kurkjian believes it could affect free agency down the road.
“I think it is a legitimate concern,” he said.
Kurkjian said that when star outfielder George Springer left the Houston Astros to sign with the Toronto Blue Jays, that move not only changed the team’s appearance on the field, but improved the team’s position as a free agent destination.
“And maybe the opposite is happening now in Seattle,” Kurkjian said.
The fact that the Mariners have Dipoto and Servais should help reduce the damage, Kurjian believes.
“The good thing is, I think Jerry Dipoto is a very good general manager and a total standup guy. And I think when you talk to a free agent, you can explain what happened here, that ‘it’s not me, it’s not the coach and it’s not our players, he was the president of our club and he made a terrible mistake and this is not representative ( organization), ‘”Kurkjian said. “And Scott Servais is as good a guy as the ones in the coach’s uniform these days and he has a great knack with people and he might say to a player on another team, ‘Look, this is not who we are, you.’ I have to believe myself. I think maybe those two guys can really calm things down, but, to repeat, it will take some time. “
Does this situation undo the rebuilding of the Mariners?
After missing the playoffs in 2018, Dipoto and the front office decided to do something the Mariners hadn’t done in decades, which is to implement a full-scale rebuild, either by trading top-paid players or letting them go in free agency. while also accumulating the best prospects.
Going into 2021, the Mariners have the # 2 farm system in baseball according to Baseball America. But Mather’s comments showed contempt for the players’ contracts with Kelenic and Logan Gilbert, and he was also racially insensitive in his assessment of Julio Rodríguez’s English skills.
After all the work Dipoto and his staff have done to create a world-class agricultural system, could Mather’s comments ruin some of that progress?
“Well, it certainly hasn’t helped things because I’m sure Jerry Dipoto and Scott Servais have been on the phone for 48 hours trying to talk to all the people who were offended by what was said about (the special assignment coach and former Mariners pitcher) Hisashi Iwakuma to Kelenic to Julio Rodríguez to everyone else, ”Kurkjian said. “I mean, this is really bad. And Kyle Seager, I mean God. You can’t find a better guy in the game than that guy and saying what you said about him was totally unacceptable as well. “
Kurkjian added that the timing of it all really hurts this young Mariners team because the entire team just showed up for spring training.
“I think this sets them back,” he said, “because instead of figuring out what we’re going to do here in spring training, they’re in damage control talking to people who were offended and trying to make them feel better and somehow. Way, I guess, trying to make sure that people and players from other teams that might one day come to Seattle don’t think this happens all the time, because I don’t think it does. “
Listen to the full conversation at this link or in the player below.
Gallant: Kevin Mather catastrophe doesn’t interrupt Mariners’ process