In a 45-minute chat, Kevin Mather undermined the Seattle Mariners far beyond being the organization with the longest playoff drought in baseball.
He took insensitive shots at a former Japan All-Star and a Dominican Republic prospect for their English skills. He admitted the team may have manipulated the service time of some of its top prospects.
All this from a senior executive who was once accused of harassing an employee and kept his job despite a settlement.
Mather’s latest transgression ended up costing him his position as president and CEO of the Mariners. Mather resigned on Monday after a video surfaced over the weekend of him expressing his views on the club’s organizational strategy and making insensitive remarks about players during a recent online event.
Mariners president John Stanton announced the decision and said Mather had resigned before a decision was made whether he would be fired.
But the choice seemed predetermined as the firestorm over Mather’s comments raged since they were first posted to Twitter on Sunday – which is how Stanton first learned of their existence. It has not been determined whether Mather will receive a severance package or what will happen to his small stake in the franchise.
“There were a number of comments made by Kevin that, as I said, did not reflect the Mariners, did not reflect what I believe, what our owner believes and were inappropriate,” Stanton said. “Those comments included some of the things that were referenced regarding our players, and in particular the importance of diversity and inclusion in our organization.”
Mather, with the team since 1996 and promoted to CEO and team president in 2017, apologized late Sunday after his Feb. 5 comments made at the Bellevue, Wash., Breakfast Rotary Club were posted online. They were revealing and unfiltered. They’ve also been a stain on a franchise that hasn’t seen the playoffs since 2001, has seen fan interest wane dramatically during a two-decade swoon, and is in the midst of rebuilding.
Mather’s most incendiary comments were references to top prospect Julio Rodriguez and former star pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma and their fluency in English. Mather said Rodriguez, a 20-year-old from the Dominican Republic, doesn’t have “great” English.
Mather also complained about the cost associated with having an interpreter for Iwakuma, a former All-Star who pitched a tie game for the Mariners and is currently the club’s special assistant.
“A wonderful human being – his English was terrible. He wanted to get back into the game, he came to us, we frankly want him as our Asian scout/interpreter, which is what happens with the Japanese league. He’s coming to spring training,” Mather said. “And I’m going to say, I’m sick of paying his interpreter. When he was a player, we paid Iwakuma “X”, but we also had to pay $75,000 a year to have an interpreter with him. His English suddenly improved. His English improved when we told him that.
Stanton said he spoke multiple times Sunday and Monday with commissioner Rob Manfred and MLB issued a statement condemning Mather’s comments.
“We condemn Kevin Mather’s offensive and disrespectful comments towards several players. We are proud of the international players who have made baseball better through their outstanding examples of courage and determination, and our global game is much better because of their contributions. His erroneous remarks do not represent the values of our game and have no place in our sport,” MLB said.
Mather also drew the ire of the players’ union after expressing his opinion that the club would not have top prospects Jarred Kelenic or Logan Gilbert on the major league roster to start the season in order to manipulate their time on duty.
Stanton insisted that roster decisions were not predetermined and that general manager Jerry Dipoto and manager Scott Servais will make the final decision.
“The club’s video presentation is a very disturbing but critically important window into how the players are genuinely perceived by management. Not just because of what has been said, but also because it represents a look filtered through club thinking,” the union statement read.
“It’s offensive, and it’s no surprise that fans and others around the game are also offended. The players remain committed to tackling these issues at the bargaining table and beyond,” he said. .
The video was another transgression during Mather’s tenure. A year after his promotion, Mather was releasing statements after allegations of harassment were made by two former employees — Mather’s former executive assistants and then-executive vice president Bob Aylward.
Mather and Aylward were each accused by one of the employees.
The allegations were revealed in a 2018 report by the Seattle Times. The team said it had “made amends” with these employees. The claims date back to the late 2000s.
At the time, the club released statements saying an outside expert had carried out an investigation and “we have imposed appropriate discipline, management and sensitivity training, and other corrective measures”.
Mather said it was a humbling experience for him to “confront some unpleasant realities” about her. He took responsibility for his actions and apologized for behavior he called intimidating, mean and inappropriate for the job.
Mather first joined the Mariners as vice president of finance and administration after beginning his baseball career with the Minnesota Twins in 1989.
“I think Kevin leaving is a statement to the commitment we have,” Stanton said. “He acknowledged that he had made a mistake and that the only way to fix that mistake was to resign.”