‘It will take a lot more to break this group down’

Marco Gonzales was the first Mariners player to speak after Kevin Mather’s resignation. (Getty)

When the whole Kevin Mather / Breakfast Bellevue Rotary Club debacle came to light, it was impossible to keep the movie “Major League Baseball” from coming into my mind when I thought of the Mariners.

M is angry and frustrated, but believes the team is ‘strong enough to resist’

While he fully acknowledges how dire the situation is and will remain so until trust is restored both inside and outside the walls of T-Mobile Park, the players and staff took on an evil head office member in a “We’ll show you why. The winning scenario didn’t seem like a terrible path for this group.

That thought perhaps crossed the mind of Mariners pitcher Marco Gonzales as well.

“Sometimes a common goal can unite you, sometimes a common enemy can do the same, if not more. I think that’s the boat we’re on right now, ”Gonzales said in a Zoom press session Tuesday, minutes after the Mariners’ first full team practice ended in Peoria, Arizona.

That’s the man Mather called “very boring” and introduced him as the first Mariners player to speak since the now-former Mariners president and CEO’s insulting comments on Feb. 5 were made public Sunday.

If you know Marco, you wait for the fire. You know the chip on his shoulder is used forever. All that said, you might be a bit alarmed by the “us versus them” mentality, specifically the need for that mentality.

Fortunately, Marco said other things too.

“I think in general, we see this as an isolated incident. Their opinions are his, ”Gonzales said of Mather. “Certainly the relevance it has for this team and this group is not close to us. He’s not here throwing a ball, he’s not here throwing a bat. Although some of his words were hurtful, personal, certainly to me, I think we are much stronger than that. It will take a lot more to divide this group. “

Gonzales spoke about the team’s culture, echoing the words of manager Scott Servais and general manager Jerry Dipoto on the importance of having a team that is beginning to be led and guided by the players themselves. It has been a long process to get to this point, with leadership and values ​​emphasized in the minor leagues and Servais working to create an open and advanced player environment at the major league level.

As someone who has been in the Mariners clubhouse since 2002, the difference that I have seen in the last two years has been remarkable, and perhaps never on display again than on August 26 of last year, when the team voted for unanimously in light of the police shooting of Jacob Blake for not playing his game scheduled that night against the Padres. The decision was made after a discussion between players and Servais in what was called an emotional team meeting.

“I am very proud to be a part of this group,” Gonzales said that afternoon. “We have listened to, loved and supported each other during this difficult time. But I am heartbroken for my brothers and teammates who fear for their lives and the lives of their families on a daily basis. It’s not about baseball right now. It’s about justice, equality and understanding. Thank you to our Mariners family for supporting us and standing up for what is right. “

It’s hard to imagine a team that went through everything they went through together last year, from the uncertainty of even playing a season, to the uncertainty of how they could safely run one out of a bubble, to the issues of social justice that would eventually emerge. posed. to the forefront – would collapse due to a man’s comments.

If Marco says they can take these personal blows as a team, I believe him.

I also think that while a popular axiom is that culture flows from the top down, I don’t think that’s necessarily true in baseball. Gonzales points out that Mather was not around them. He wasn’t swinging a bat or throwing a ball with them. He also did not wear a uniform, nor did he throw batting practice at them, nor did he provide and break down numbers for them, nor did he take care of them in the training room, nor did he help them with the media, or help them with anything else they might need. while taking care of their uniforms and equipment. In short, I wasn’t with them doing something every day to help them be in a better place to win a ball game.

That’s what a team is in this game, and that team doesn’t follow the signals from outside the clubhouse. However, it does not mean that they are immune to the damage that has been done.

“I think it’s something we all feel ashamed of,” Gonzales said. “We all feel that it doesn’t represent our culture, it doesn’t represent the character of this team. We feel like it’s a hit to the gut, but something we can move on from, and we certainly want to make sure we’re all on the same page. Although we have our differences between the players and the main office, we want to be under one organization. We want to move forward as a group. I hope we can make the necessary efforts to achieve it.

“(Dipoto) mentioned that actions speak much louder than words, we have some confidence to regain, but I know that everyone has the right intentions here in the camp. Everyone is doing their best to try to become a better person, a better ballplayer, a better staff member every day. “

As the team does its best, expect to see the same on the other side of the organization. He hopes that no matter how convinced the Mariners are that this was an isolated incident, the whys and hows of this are explored. We owe that to all who fall under the umbrella of “Sailors.”

“I am ashamed,” Dipoto said. “I am ashamed that this is the way they see us. For those of you who have been close to me, Scott or this team, this is not how we are connected. It is embarrassing to be categorized or to deal with the stigma that we are now trapped in and have to get rid of. Now we have to be accountable and find a way to grow further.

“I apologize on behalf of our organization for the comments that were made – again, it was one person’s interpretation. It doesn’t really represent how I feel, Scott feels, our 26 players feel, our player-worthy system feel, and many of the wonderful high-character people who work for the Mariners who also went to bed Sunday night. feeling ashamed this association. The only thing we can say to our fans is that we are sorry. We will do better. “

Follow Shannon Drayer on Twitter.

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