Over the course of a 45-minute chat with a local Rotary Club in early February, Seattle Mariners CEO Kevin Mather disparaged a Japanese player for not learning English, disparaged a star prospect from the Dominican Republic for his language skills and taunted another important prospect while admitting to manipulating his service time. He called his team’s best pitcher “very boring” and embellished the pitcher’s actions in a clubhouse incident, told another falsehood about a highly respected veteran, and complained that the franchise’s best player in the last decade was “overpaid. “.
Any of these mistakes is incalculably silly. Together, they expose pathological levels of arrogance, arrogance, and myopia. This is one of the 30 people in charge of managing a Major League Baseball franchise.
It wasn’t just that Mather said what he did. It’s that he thinks about it first. And that he believed that a group of Rotarians represented the right audience to tell their warped version of the truth. And that, in an apology, he regarded the episode as an “error in judgment,” as if fanaticism was something that is proven only once in a call with strangers or telling false stories about the people who are the heart of the business. It is supposed to be working is good management.
However, as the organization proceeds with Mather, the mistrust sown by his comments had a profound impact on the player ranks Sunday, sources told ESPN. The range of feelings ranged from “angry” to “sad” to “what the [expletive] I was thinking? “
Apparently, Mather emptied his reserve of sincerity during the question and answer session, because his statement alternated between false (him trying to appropriate his comments on baseball operations decisions when they clearly reflected the priorities of the entire organization) and empty.
Mather’s statement that he is “committed to making amends” and “will do whatever it takes to repair the damage I have caused to the Seattle Mariners organization” sounded quite familiar to me. Maybe it’s because in 2018, after a Seattle Times report exposed two employee complaints against Mather, he said, “I’m committed to ensuring that every Mariners employee feels comfortable and respected.”
I wonder if Julio Rodríguez feels comfortable and respected. He is 20 years old and is one of the best prospects in baseball, a right fielder from the Dominican Republic. When asked about him, Mather said, “He’s loud, his English isn’t terrific.” Two years ago, the Mariners thought enough of Rodriguez’s English to post a video of him speaking on their YouTube channel. His English sounds pretty good and I don’t think it has gotten worse since then.
I wonder if Jarred Kelenic is comfortable and respected. He is 21 years old and the other prized prospect in the Mariners outfield. The organization thinks so much of Kelenic, Mather told Rotarians, that it offered him a six-year contract with three club options. Because Kelenic turned him down, he said, he will start 2021 in the minor leagues, although the Mariners plan to bring him in in mid-April, by which time they will have made sure he remains under the team’s control for another year. Everyone knows that a fundamental element of comfort and respect is the manipulation of service time.
I wonder if Marco Gonzales feels comfortable and respected. He’s the ace of the Mariners, a 29-year-old who Mather considers “very boring” because … he doesn’t throw very hard? Regardless, Mather loved telling a story about Gonzales “pushing [former teammate Mike Leake] in the locker “after Leake resisted team rules. The problem, a source familiar with the situation told ESPN, is that the story is not true. Although Gonzales confronted Leake, he did not get his hands on him. above.
I wonder if Mitch Haniger is comfortable and respected. As was the case with most of Mather’s comments, they included compliments, and he initially spoke well of the 30-year-old who has missed the last year and a half due to injury. After suggesting Haniger will be an All-Star this season, Mather said, “He has a bit of a chip on his shoulder when we talk about our prospects and these youngsters. He has mentioned more than once: What about me?” According to a source close to Haniger, he has not discussed his position regarding the upcoming prospects.
I wonder if Kyle Seager is comfortable and respected. Since debuting in 2011, Seager has racked up 32.2 wins over replacement. That’s more than Evan Longoria, Anthony Rizzo, Nelson Cruz, Justin Upton, Justin Turner, Michael Brantley, and many others who played in the previous 10 seasons. Prior to the 2015 season, Seager signed a seven-year, $ 100 million contract extension. Over the past six years, according to FanGraphs, it has produced a value of $ 147.7 million. But Mather means they overpay him.
I wonder, above all, if Hisashi Iwakuma feels comfortable and respected. In January, the Mariners brought back Iwakuma, who pitched very well for the team for six seasons after coming from Japan, as a special assignment coach. After explaining the hiring, Mather’s first words to Rotarians were: “Wonderful human being. His English was terrible.” Mather was comfortable enough to voice a complaint: “I’m tired of paying your interpreter.” He smiled and laughed as he said it.
Iwakuma is 39 years old. He made nearly $ 50 million with the Mariners. You don’t need this job. You don’t need this organization. You don’t need someone who sees your desire to be understood as a weakness. And damn sure you don’t need to be tried by someone who was promoted even after being the subject of sexual harassment complaints for allegedly rubbing an employee’s back without permission and making inappropriate jokes about women in the office to another employee.
This is how bad culture takes hold. More than a decade ago, two women reported Mather to human resources, a department she oversaw at the time. They left with settlements, according to the Seattle Times, totaling more than $ 500,000. He remained employed. Mather then worked his way up, to president and eventually CEO. It took a newspaper to expose his past misdeeds.
This time he did it himself. And if he was bragging to sound like someone who matters, he spoke with confidence that an electronic strike zone will be implemented in two years, or if he is actually an important person, it doesn’t matter anymore. He’s the CEO of an organization, and the type of person who tells stories where people from foreign countries where they may not have had the opportunity to learn English are the joke.
Actually, Mather did that on the Rotary call too. Speaking about the improvements Seattle had made to its Dominican academy and educational programs for players, he said the team would give Latin American teens $ 30 a day.
“Surprise surprise!” Mather said. “They would get in trouble because they couldn’t speak the language, or change or buy dinner.”
Surprise surprise. A) Yes. Regardless of what so many teens need to do in baseball: go to a foreign country, one with as many potential dangers as the United States, and pack five or six airbeds on the floor in a small apartment because the sport doesn’t do it. Don’t pay your minor leaguers enough to get a spot with their own bedroom, and try to learn how to navigate all of that as you spend the rest of the day figuring out how to get to 98 painted on the corner.
It is the easiest thing in the world to sit in a tower of privilege and despise others, denigrate, act with impunity because history showed that it could be done without consequences. That is the lesson here. That is the bottom line. However, I couldn’t help but think of something else, after listening to Kevin Mather chatter for 45 minutes.
He is the last person who should be talking about how others are bad at speaking English.