It’s really difficult to assess the amount of damage that Kevin Mather’s tenure as Mariners President and CEO did to the franchise, the fanbase, the players, Major League Baseball, and beyond. And I’m sure sometime in the not to distant future someone with a much clearer head will take on the task of properly outlining the spiderweb of dog shit that has oozed out of the last 25 years. That’s not what I’m here to do right now. I’m more just here to outline how exhausting the last ~30 hours have been as a Mariners fan.
If, somehow, you still aren’t aware at this point, at 10:04 am on Sunday morning, Eric Hess (@SeattleSunDvl on twitter) tweeted a video of Kevin Mather going on a 45 minute long diatribe during a Rotary Club breakfast where he was the guest speaker, in which he directly insulted a laundry list of people’s and entities for a myriad of different reasons. I don’t think I can list them all but I’ll touch on as many as I can. Ahem; Jarred Kelenic for being overly confident in himself and refusing an extension, Julio Rodriguez for not speaking good English (an objectively false statement, the man hosts a YouTube show on the Mariners own channel IN ENGLISH), Cal Raleigh’s work ethic, Luis Torrens’ name multiple times by referring to him exclusively as “Torres’ for the duration of the engagement, Kyle Seager for being “probably overpaid” and implied that the team will not pick up his option next year, the MLBPA for not coming to an agreement with the league to delay the start of Spring Training, former Mariners starter now team liaison Hisashi Iwakuma for requiring a translator that costs $75k a year (something one fan on Twitter pointed out is a cost that is recouped by about 10,000 stadium beer purchases), and Latin and Japanese players in general for needing translators, Taijuan Walker and James Paxton for holding out for more money in free agency (the video was recorded February 5th) saying they would come “hat in hand” when spring training got nearer, the team’s single A affiliate Everett’s stadium for being a “dump”, and the team’s ace Marco Gonzales for having poor leadership. He also pretty blatantly said that players like Kelenic and Logan Gilbert will be held off the big league roster until late April to delay the start of their service time. It’s also important to note that he actually used the phrase ‘service time’. In addition to that he also suggested the Mariners were not as heavily financially impacted by the pandemic as other clubs, then later reminded those in attendance that league lost nearly $3 billion in 2020. Oh, and he also revealed that he charges stadium employees to use his private parking garage. OH, AND this is also the same man that settled out of court for over $500,000 in sexual harassment charges from former team employees in 2018, the same year the team was rocked by scandal when Dr. Lorena Martin levied accusations of racist and sexist behavior and language used by team leadership.
So yea, this guy sucks.
The video in question was removed by the publisher, but not before the writers over at Lookout Landing, SB Nation’s Mariners blog, grabbed it and re-uploaded it, as well as writing out a full transcript of the speech. A link to that will be available at the bottom of this article. Mariners beat writer Ryan Divish got ahold of it, prominent names in the Mariners twitter sphere such as Joe Veyara started documenting a thread of the events, and then the rest of us piled on. The hashtag #FireKevinMather reached #16 on Twitter trending by about 1:30 pm, Julio Rodriguez tweeted his very curt responses. Julie Seager, Kyle’s wife, tweeted asking if they should put their Seattle home on the market. Emergency podcasts were recorded, and by about 10 pm PST, Larry Stone and Ken Rosenthal had published columns condemning the actions of Mather, and Stone suggesting the Mariners are at the easiest crossroads of their existence. More columns followed Monday morning. The MLB Players Association released a particularly upsetting statement that had a very “business as usual” tone to it. And all the while, total radio silence was heard from the Mariners PR department.
That is, until Mather released the most boilerplate apology I’ve ever had the disgust of reading.
That’s about when the real fear grew. Most often, an apology is released before a team statement in instances where the one issuing the apology will be allowed to keep their job, and that was something the fanbase was absolutely not going to allow if they had any say in it. Not this time. The language used in this apology that was just more fuel to the fire. Obviously, the notion of a President and CEO suggesting that their comments “do not reflect the views and strategy of the Mariners baseball leadership” is total bull shit. So naturally #FireKevinMather hit trending again. And oh my god the memes. So many wonderful memes. I won’t include them here but if you want to see some just go to the hashtag. Thankfully during this time, only one boot licker deigned to raise his pathetic head and suggest forgiveness for these transgressions but he was quickly squashed like the pathetic bug that he is.
At this point you might be wondering, “wow if this Mather guy is so bad, why is this the first time he’s getting national attention?” That’s a good question. The answer is that the Mariners are really practiced at making these types of headlines go away. When the sexual harassment suits were settled it garnered little national attention, and if you go look at all the write up’s that were done at the time, none of the 3 executives names were used in any of the headlines. Those names by the way are Kevin Mather, who at the time was the Executive Vice President of Finance and Ballpark Operations (yes this man was promoted after he settled sexual harassment suits, but wait until you find out he got promoted TWICE), then team President Chuck Armstrong, and then Executive Vice President Bob Aylward. And if you remember the Lorena Martin story, congratulations you clearly read a lot of baseball publications, because that was a deeply troubling topic that did not get even close to the amount of attention it deserved, and instead exists as something that comes up infrequently whenever people need to be reminded that the Mariners track record is way dirtier than you think it is.
There have been editorials published in the past that have been designed to show the club’s leadership for what it is, disorganized, dangerous, harmful, misguided, racist, sexist, the list goes on. But more often that not the message misses the mark, and I don’t mean the fans misunderstood them. No no, I mean the leadership it’s targeted at doesn’t understand. Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times has shared his account before of the time he wrote about former team CEO Howard Lincoln not being able to grasp the struggles of the common fan, and after reading it, Lincoln invited Divish to his office where he began to bloviate about how he’s a “blue collar guy at heart” while wearing a ludicrously expensive Gucci sweater.
I bring up that story because in the middle of writing this, Mariners Owner and Chairman John Stanton took questions from the media. From the start, there were 2 problems. The first were technical difficulties, which is at least funny. The second was that the publication responsible for creating the transcript and making sure the video remained publicly available, Lookout Landing, was not invited to be a part of the presser, despite Stanton referencing their transcript in his opening remarks. Then the actual questions started. After returning from techincal difficulties Stanton was asked point blank by Ryan Divish “if Mather hadn’t resigned, would you have fired him?” Stanton responded by sounding relieved that he didn’t have to due to Mather tendering his resignation stating, “I came in this morning and Kevin had resigned… I think that’s the best course for our team.” Stanton was asked if Kevin Mather would retain his small ownership stake in the team. Stanton brushed that off by saying “we haven’t addressed that yet.” Then, Stanton was asked how he intends to rebuild the trust that has been lost among fans, players, and staff. This is a very reasonable question, especially considering this presser was being broadcasted on 950 KJR in the Seattle area. Stanton responded indignantly by saying, “I disagree with your premise.”
Now, that is a particularly jarring response for a number of reasons. I actually threw my hands up in the air and flopped back into my chair so hard I almost fell backwards. Congratulations John Stanton, you made me scare my cat. The fans are hurt. There is absolutely no way to ignore that. There have been fans on Twitter lamenting that the comments that were made by Mather, especially about Julio Rodriguez’s and Hisashi Iwakuma’s English speaking abilities, have completely broken their ability to view the team favorably. One person on Twitter remembered her time as a child, when on Sunday’s she would watch Mariners games with her father, because Sunday was his only day off. That’s just one story I saw that I remember off the top of my head! Go to lookoutlanding.com and read their comment section. Read what the fans are saying. It’s right there for everyone to see. The damage is real, and in some cases it may be irreparable. But to Stanton, it’s just something that can be undone with a tone dripping with derision and the flick of a wrist.
It should be noted at this point that not a single time during the entire 20+ minute press conference did John Stanton decry Mather’s remarks in the video. The continuous language used was that yesterday and today are “unfortunate” and that he was “surprised to see the comments on film.” The ‘on film’ part of that last one brought me back to actual rage. Combining that sentiment with the answers of the previous questions has just about completed the tri-force of poor corporate public relations.
A handful of badly bungled responses go by, including Larry Stone asking John Stanton about the status of the Lorena Martin case, which forced Stanton to very dryly remind everyone that the suit was wrapped up some years ago. Asked about singular sections of the fanbase, Stanton first responds to a question about how he will rebuild faith with the Japanese fanbase by reminding everyone that Yusei Kikuchi is still a starter on the team, and that 2021 is the 23rd year in a row that the Mariners have had a Japanese born player on the team. So, essentially Stanton is pushing the onus of rebuilding trust with a large portion of the Mariners fanbase onto a single player. That’s bad. Let’s see how he recovers. A couple minutes later, he’s asked how he plans to rebuild faith with the Latin American fanbase. Stanton immediately doubles down on his previous response, once again mentioning Kikuchi as a representative for the Japanese fan base, then begins to list a number of other countries that have had representatives in Mariners uniforms, and eventually reminding everyone there that Felix Hernandez is Venezuelan, but in doing so also reminding everyone listening of how poorly the team’s relationship with Felix was by its terminus. So maybe not the best example. But it’s clear after those two responses that as of right now Stanton’s best idea for mending the hurts done to the fans is pointing to the players and saying ‘SEE?!’ while still pointedly avoiding outright condemnation of the openly racist comments that were made that brought Stanton in front of the microphone in the first place.
After that, Stanton didn’t make clear in any way how he intends to address the disgruntled players, saying only “I’ll be in Arizona on Wednesday” and then wrapped it all up with the sloppiest bow. Ryan Divish asks the last question of the day, and in it points out how difficult it is for people to believe that Mather’s comments aren’t reflective of the team’s views, when only 2 hours previously Mather was still employed by the team as the President and CEO. Stanton then repeats that Mather’s comments are not reflective of the team’s views (real original) then insists that people think of the Mariners organization as more than 1 or 2 leaders.
Now there is a lot of stuff that I’ve only barely touched on or basically glossed over so far. But at this point three things should be brutally clear.
- There was very real, and likely lasting damage done by the comments that Mather made. That is damage done to fans who have loyally stuck by the team through 20 years of poor management, only to have it repaid with racism and derision on the part of someone who until only a couple hours ago was someone with sweeping power to make decisions for the organization. There is damage to players. While Julio publicly indicated he will use this as motivation, it doesn’t mean he’ll forget it. And the other top prospects. Mather essentially blasted 4 of the Mariners top 5 prospects, and 5 of the top 10.
- Acting President and CEO and Chairman John Stanton has not condemned these comments. And it’s not because he forgot. He’s been a part of public corporations for decades, he pointed it out himself in the press conference. He knows Mather’s actions are condemnable, he should have condemned them, and he should have apologized on behalf of the entire organization. He only didn’t do the former, so the latter feels hollow.
- John Stanton has no idea how to move forward.
At this point I’m at a loss. I honestly thought by writing this all out I’d feel better. I don’t. I feel gross, and betrayed. I don’t want to be writing about this right now. The fact that Kevin Mather felt so comfortable speaking so openly about this in a public forum is appalling. Discussing team business that flippantly would’ve been grounds for dismissal for any of Mather’s subordinates, and he would’ve been the one to fire them. And it’s at a stark contrast to the way GM Jerry Dipoto and head coach Scott Servais talk about the team. Jerry can talk about the Mariners for hours without actually really saying much of anything. It’s truly incredible. He’s like Saul Goodman sometimes. And Scott is really good at saying only what he needs to to satisfy as an answer. But nearly all of Mather’s remarks were unprompted. No one asked him “how is Julio’s English?” That was just the first thing Mather could think of when he thought about Julio. Even if someone had directly asked about Julio’s English, and Mather had responded “it’s terrible” the way he did, that is still a scum bag response.
Last night, during the endless doom-scrolling and tweeting and retweeting I had a moment where I just thought ‘none of us should be doing this right now, this is so stupid.’ And it is. It’s important that we’re talking about it and that nearly everyone has come together to agree that Mather is an idiot, because everyone everywhere can find at least one thing in his speech to be offended by. And it’s good that Mather is no longer with the team. But it isn’t good that it happened this way. He should’ve been gone 10 years ago when it was clear that Mather was responsible for creating an environment that was hostile to women. No one, anywhere benefits from Mather leaving the team like this. The fans don’t, as I said some of them may never be Mariners fans again. The franchise doesn’t. Who knows what kind of damage this does to their ability to draw free agents, both domestically and internationally, in the future. How are their ticket sales and merchandise sales going to affected? Jerry Dipoto and Scott Servais and all the players don’t. They’re the ones that’re going to have to field the majority of reporter’s questions in the wake of all this. Mariners reporters don’t. We’d rather be talking about Spring Training presented by Camping World. Major League Baseball doesn’t. Mather is about to be the poster child for the PA to point at when CBA negotiations inevitably go sideways next offseason. No one, anywhere benefits from any of this.
Today, I’d rather be an Angels fan.
To watch the video of Mather’s blathering, or read the transcript written up by the equally exhausted people at Lookout Landing, click the link. https://www.lookoutlanding.com/2021/2/21/22294212/mariners-president-kevin-mather-full-transcript-bellevue-breakfast-rotary-club