During a 45-minute conversation with a local Rotary club in early February, Seattle Mariners CEO Kevin Mather despised a Japanese player for not learning English, belittled a Dominican Republic star for his language skills, and ridiculed another top prospect admit to having manipulated his tenure. Calling his team’s best pitcher “very boring,” he embellished the pitcher’s actions in a clubhouse incident, told another lie from a respected veteran, and complained that the franchise’s top player was “overpaid” for the past decade.
Each of these mistakes is incalculably stupid. Together they reveal pathological levels of arrogance, hubris, and myopia. This was one of 30 people tasked with running a Major League Baseball franchise before Mather stepped down from his position Monday afternoon.
It wasn’t just that Mather was saying what he was doing. It is so that he thinks it in the first place. And that he believed that a group of Rotarians were the right audience to tell his distorted version of the truth. And that in an apology he viewed the episode as a “misjudgment”, as if bigotry is a one-off thing to try out on a phone call with strangers or tell false stories about the people who are the heart of the business that it is supposed to be be good management.
The suspicion sown by his comments reverberated deeply among the ranks of gamers on Sunday, sources told ESPN. The spectrum of feelings ranged from “angry” to “sad” to “what the” [expletive] he thought? “
Apparently, Mather emptied his reservoir of candor during the Q&A as his statement switched between insincere – trying to adopt his comments on decisions about baseball operations when they clearly reflected organization-wide priorities – and hollow.
Mather’s statement that he “has an obligation to make amends” and “will do everything possible to repair the damage I have done to the Seattle Mariners organization” sounded fairly familiar. Maybe it’s because 2018 after that a report from the Seattle Times Uncovering two complaints from female employees against Mather, he said, “I strive to ensure that every Mariners employee is comfortable and respected.”
I wonder if Julio Rodriguez is comfortable and respected. He is 20 years old and one of the best prospects in baseball, a batting right fielder from the Dominican Republic. When asked about him, Mather said, “He’s noisy, his English isn’t great.” Two years ago the Mariners thought enough of Rodriguez’s English post a video of him therein on their YouTube channel. His English sounds pretty good and I can’t imagine it has gotten worse since then.
I wonder if Jarred Kelenic is comfortable and respected. He is 21 years old and the Mariners’ other valued outfield prospect. The organization thinks so much of Kelenic, Mather told Rotarians, that they offered him a six-year contract with three club options. Because Kelenic refused, he said he will start in the minor leagues in 2021, although the Mariners plan to raise him in mid-April. At this point, they have made sure he will remain under team 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 is comfortable and respected. He’s the Mariners’ ace, a 29-year-old Mather thinks is “very boring” because … he doesn’t throw very hard? However, Mather was delighted to tell a story about Gonzales “Pushing” [former teammate Mike Leake] in the locker “after Leake defied team rules. The problem, a source familiar with the situation, told ESPN the story is not true. While Gonzales confronted Leake, he never laid his hands on him.
I wonder if Mitch Haniger is comfortable and respected. As with most of Mather’s comments, they included compliments too, and initially he talked well about the 30 year old who has missed the past 1½ years due to injury. After suggesting that Haniger would be an All-Star this season, Mather said, “He’s got a little chip on his shoulder when we talk about our prospects and these little kids. He’s mentioned more than once: What is.” with me?” According to a source close to Haniger, he has not discussed his position regarding the future prospects.
I wonder if Kyle Seager is comfortable and respected. Since his debut in 2011, Seager has accumulated 32.2 wins over replacements. That’s more than Evan Longoria, Anthony Rizzo, Nelson Cruz, Justin Upton, Justin Turner, Michael Brantley and many others who have played over the past 10 seasons. Prior to the 2015 season, Seager signed a seven-year contract extension for $ 100 million. It’s valued at $ 147.7 million in the past six years, according to FanGraphs. But Mather wants to say that he’s overpaid.
Most of all, I wonder if Hisashi Iwakuma is comfortable and respected. In January the Mariners brought back Iwakuma as a special coach, who has been very good for the team in six seasons after arriving from Japan. After explaining the attitude, Mather’s first words to the Rotarians were, “Wonderful person. His English was terrible.” Mather felt comfortable enough to make a complaint: “I’m tired of paying his interpreter.” He smiled and laughed when he said it.
Iwakuma is 39. He made nearly $ 50 million with the Mariners. He doesn’t need this job. He doesn’t need this organization. He doesn’t need someone to consider his desire to be seen as a weakness. And he damn sure doesn’t need to be judged by someone who has been promoted, even after being complained of sexual harassment for allegedly rubbing the back of a female employee without permission and making inappropriate jokes about women in the office with another employee.
This is how bad culture takes root. More than a decade ago, two women reported Mather to Human Resources – a department he oversaw at the time. According to the Seattle Times, they went with settlements totaling more than $ 500,000. He stayed busy. Mather then rose further – to president and finally to CEO. It took a newspaper to expose its past misdeeds.
This time he did it himself. And whether he puffed up to sound like someone who matters – he spoke with confidence that an electronic strike zone will be implemented within two years – or whether it is actually a person with consistency no longer matters. He was the CEO of an organization – and the guy who tells stories where people from overseas, where they may not have had the opportunity to learn English, are the punch line.
Mather actually did the same on the Rotary phone call. Speaking of the improvements Seattle was making to its Dominican academy and player education programs, he reported that the team would give teenagers from Latin America $ 30 a day.
“Surprise surprise!” Said Mather. “They’d get into trouble because they wouldn’t know how to speak the language, make changes, or even buy dinner.”
Surprise surprise. Just like that. Never think about what so many teenagers have to do in baseball: Go to a foreign country, one with as many potential dangers as the United States, and put in a tiny apartment, five or six inflatable mattresses on the floor, because the sport does Don’t pay the little gamers enough to get a seat in your own bedroom and try to learn how to deal with all of this while you spend the rest of the day figuring out how to get 98 on the corner scored hits.
It is the easiest thing in the world to sit in a tower of privilege and look down on others, vilify, act with impunity because history has shown that you can do it without consequence. That’s the lesson here. This is take away. I thought of another thing after hearing Kevin Mather babble for 45 minutes.
He’s the last person to talk about how bad English is spoken by others.