Seattle Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto and manager Scott Servais are controlling damage with players who were mentioned or referenced directly by former team president and CEO Kevin Mather in an online video that led to his resignation.
The message of the last two days to those affected has been: They have every right to be upset.
“We are very open with our players and we urge them to be equal. And if they want to be angry, they must be, frankly. They must be insulted,” Dipoto said Tuesday. “But at the same time, they are collectively driven towards what we are trying to do here as a team.”
Video posted over the weekend showed Mather expressing his views on the club’s organizational strategy and making controversial comments about the players at the Rotary Club of Bellevue, Washington, on February 5. He took insensitive shots against a former All-Star from Japan and a top prospect from the Dominican Republic for his English skills. He also admitted that the team could be manipulating the service time for some of its young players.
Mather apologized Sunday and then abruptly resigned the next day, but not before casting a shadow over the organization when he began full-squad workouts in Arizona.
Dipoto and Servais are angry.
“I’m embarrassed that this is the way they see us, because for those of you who have been close to me, Scott or this team, that’s not how we’re connected,” Dipoto said. “It’s embarrassing to be categorized or to deal with the stigma that we are now trapped in, and we have to get rid of it. It is ours to bear and now we have to be responsible for that, and then find a way to overcome it.”
Mather’s most inflammatory comments were about the English skills of former All-Star pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma and top prospect Julio Rodriguez and got the strongest responses from Dipoto and Servais.
Servais referenced his winter experiences in baseball in the Dominican Republic and Venezuela and the Mariners’ inaugural season trip to Japan two years ago.
“It’s a revelation. You really, really appreciate what foreign players have to go through. Not just communicating, but then trying to figure out how to play the game at the highest level,” Servais said. “So nobody appreciates it more than I do and it’s a subject I’m very sensitive to.
Mather undermined strategy on the baseball side, admitting that the team was possibly manipulating service time for top prospects Jarred Kelenic and Logan Gilbert. Mather also released information about contract negotiations with Kelenic and pitcher James Paxton and called veteran Kyle Seager “overpaid.”
Mather drew the ire of the MLB Players Association by saying that neither Kelenic nor Gilbert would be with the Major League Baseball club on Opening Day as a way to maintain control of the club any longer.
But Servais and Dipoto said no decisions have been made on the list and that plans for Kelenic and Gilbert have been presented and communicated to both.
“All of our players know what their path is, what their development plan is like and we are very direct in how we share it,” Dipoto said.
Servais said he met with several players mentioned directly by Mather.
“I would say that the temperature was very high with several guys that certainly had their names mentioned for several different reasons,” Servais said. “It wasn’t a surprise at all. But I feel really good about this group and I’m proud of the way they have handled things so far. We could talk about this all day and our players will continue to handle things well.”