BY Art Thiel 09:25PM 02/21/2021

Thiel: M’s don’t need Mather’s ‘help’ anymore

A Rotary Club speech on Zoom by Kevin Mather went public. The Mariners president came off as arrogant and condescending, making a hard time harder. Who needs this?

Mariners president Kevin Mather’s Bellevue Rotary talk is now the talk of baseball. / Alan Chitlik, Sportspress Northwest

If arrogant swagger is a valuable part of a sports championship team, Kevin Mather is more than ready to do his part.

The Mariners’ seldom-heard-from president told the Bellevue Breakfast Rotary Club Feb. 5 that after the club wins a World Series, it will stage a celebration in downtown Seattle that will make the Seahawks 2014 Super Bowl version “look like a neighborhood Fourth of July parade. We’re gonna do it right. I’m looking forward to delivering with that.

“I think we’re on the verge of something special.”

Remarks like that alone are something special, coming as they do from a leader of a franchise that, as the saying goes, could mess up a two-car funeral. It takes some gumption to publicly imagine a parade before a team that has four post-season appearances in 43 years gets there again — for the first time in 20 years.

His no-one-will-notice cockiness is like Sen. Ted Cruz flying to a warm beach in Mexico on a public airline while his voters freeze to death back home. There should be an inner voice saying, “Hey, pal — let’s think about this.”

Guys like Mather and Cruz don’t have inner voices.

Optimism is good. The Mariners have a few things going for them. But to use the Seahawks as the comparative to be vanquished in Seattle is a little like a six-year-old trying on Daddy’s Army jacket in the attic, only not as cute.

Mather’s backhand of the Seahawks was just the sardonically funny part of his casual remarks on a Zoom conference with a service club that was recorded and finally made its way to Twitter Sunday, then exploded around the sports world.

I don’t know what is more damning — that Mather didn’t know he was being recorded, or that he did.

Sunday night, Mather released a statement of apology via Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times:

Perhaps the most confounding part of his Rotary talk was that Mather said things out loud that never get said by MLB executives, because such disclosures can hurt the club in relations and negotiations with players, as well as relations with other teams, agents, fans and the MLB office.

Mather said it was “probably” 3B Kyle Seager’s last year with the club, and declared him “overpaid”; said he was “tired” of paying the translator’s salary of former pitcher and now special-assignments coach Hisashi Iwakuma (“his English suddenly got better when we told him that”); said ace pitcher Marco Gonzales was “boring;” called catcher Luis Torrens “Torres” and, most dubiously, seemed dismayed at how potential superstar OF Jarred Kelenic (whose name he mispronounced; it’s Kel-nik) has conducted his business with the Mariners.

“I guess I would say he’s unhappy that he hasn’t played at T-Mobile Park, but he thought he should have been in left field at T-Mobile Park three years ago,” Mather said. “I mean, he does not lack confidence.”

Mather disclosed that Kelenic turned down a long-term deal with the Mariners similar to one another young potential star, 1B Evan White, signed a year ago before he had his first MLB at-bat. The deal was questioned by some, including the players union, for setting a bad example of leaving future money on the table in exchange for security.

“He took a lot of heat for signing that deal,” Mather said. “The union really pushed back and said don’t do it.

“But I like Kevin White. He’s a nice young man. He said, ‘I have $23 million guaranteed. That changes a person’s life.'”

Of Kelenic, he said, “He’s a 21-year-old player who is quite confident. We offered him a long-term deal — a six-year deal for substantial money with options to go farther. After pondering it for several days and talking to the union, he has turned us down. And in his words, he’s going to bet on himself.

“He thinks after six years he’s going to be such a star player that the seventh-, eighth-, ninth-year options will be undervalued. He might be right. We offered, and he turned us down.”

Mather confirmed that Kelenic and 14 other top prospects in 2020 were deliberately kept out of MLB action in the 60-game season in order to delay the start of their service times. It’s a common practice in baseball, but rarely acknowledged publicly because it sends the obvious signal that teams aren’t giving their best shot at winning, and alienates agents who want no delays in their clients’ progress to free agency after six seasons.

“If we would have had an injury problem or a COVID outbreak, you might have seen my big tummy out there in left field,” Mather said. “We made the decision to invite 15 prospects, who were all in Tacoma — 18-, 19-, 20-year-old kids who never would have seen T-Mobile Park or Cheney Stadium, if not for COVID.

“As devastating as 2020 was on player development and getting better, we took a risk if we had to call people up from the taxi squad. We were a little short on players, because there was no chance you were going to see these young players at T-Mobile Park — we weren’t going to put them on the 40-man roster to start the service time clock.”

If you had any doubts the Mariners, and similar clubs around MLB, regarded 2020 as a throwaway, that should clear up things.

Mather also did another thing that none of his peers do — nor does his boss, majority owner John Stanton — and that is admit the club is in solid financial shape. It’s certainly good to know if you’re a fan or a journalist, but really bad when the corporate posture is to poor-mouth a team’s finances in order to extort concessions from unions and municipal governments.

“As bad as as our year was financially in 2020, we were better than most,” he said, also disclosing that MLB had a 2020 loss of $2.9 billion. “I attribute that to luck — better to be lucky than good. It was a low (player payroll) year, where we were at the very bottom of our rebuild, step-back cycle. Our payroll was as low as it was going to get, thank goodness. We also have a television deal with ROOT Sports and we punch well above our weight on the television deal.

“We had 60 games, no fans, and we, per game, got a lot more than we probably deserved as compared to similar teams. Financially, we did better than most of the other professional sports teams.”

Nevertheless, the Mariners were tight-fisted in the slow-developing vet free agent market, not making an expensive offer until LHP James Paxton agreed last week to a one-year deal that, with incentives, could be worth $10 million. Mather’s take was not just of appreciation for the acquisition, but of conquest.

“We have taken the position that there are 180 free agents out there on Feb. 5 still unsigned,” Mather said. “Sooner or later, these players are going to turn their hat over, and come hat-in-hand, looking for a contract.”

That sneer seemed apply to Paxton, who made $12.5 million last season the last of a two-year deal with the Yankees. Mather claimed Scott Boras, Paxton’s agent, said Paxton was going to get more than $12 million. When that market didn’t materialize, Paxton settled for his former team’s offer.

Granted, this is a first-world, one-percenter problem. But do the Mariners gain anything by having their club president take a public jab at Paxton and Boras?

I could go on with other insinuations and obliviousness by Mather, but you can read the folly for yourself with the transcript here (credit for discovery goes to Eric Hess @SeattleSunDvl).

Keep in mind that the last time Mather generated personal news was in 2018, when he and the club settled inappropriate workplace complaints by three women employees against Mather and two other executives, Bob Aylward and Chuck Armstrong. Only Mather, who joined the Mariners front office in 1996 as executive vice-president of finance, and in 2014 succeeded Armstrong as president, remains with the team.

The only comment issued by Mather in 2018 was this: “I am committed to ensuring that every Mariners employee feels comfortable and respected, and can contribute to our success both on the field and in the community. Can we do better? Of course.”

It sounds as if Mather isn’t doing better in making employees feel comfortable and respected. It isn’t sexual harassment this time. But it is strike two, and in this game and this world in 2021, that means Mather needs to be out.

Make no mistake: The firing will be not one of conscience, but because he’s become bad busineas for baseball people like Paxton, Kelenic and others.

One more thing: In listing for his Rotary audience players likely to contribute this season, Mather called Yusei Kikuchi “our Japanese pitcher.” Those of us who follow national politics hear an echo from a rally for former president Trump, when he shouted to a Black man in the crowd, “There’s my African-American!”

Is Paxton “our Canadian pitcher”? Is Julio Rodriguez “our Dominican outfielder”?

If the Mariners ever have a championship parade downtown, please let someone else deliver it.


SPONSORED POST

Support SportspressNW

The idea is simple: Want to help? Please, and thank you. Don’t want to help? Please and thank you for continuing to read. Our content is free to all. No paywalls. No tricks. See the ways you can support SportspressNW.

YourThoughts

  • Husky73

    Open mouth, insert foot and chew vigorously. You can’t fix stupid, but you can certainly listen to it. Good gawd, what a mess. I had high hopes that the Mariners would FINALLY build a solid franchise when Stanton took over, and the Lincoln-Armstrong regime drifted aimlessly away into the sunset on Tom Hanks’ raft. In some ways, this newer regime is even worse as another hopeless season dawns. As I sit here on Sunday night, I have but one question— why hasn’t Stanton already fired Mathers…err, Maher…err, Devin…..?

    • Ilovecats95

      Because it’s a selfish, spineless and gutless organization that sweeps issues under the rug. About 29 MLB organizations would have terminated him right away.

      • jafabian

        Including the Astros???

      • art thiel

        I bet there’s more foot-draggers than that.

    • jafabian

      If any good news can come out of today’s insanity is that Kelenic may be available for the right price. If the M’s are in striking distance of a playoff slot in July and Paxton is still on the club both could be part of a package deal to bring in a player who could help elevate the club into that position.

      • Husky73

        Kelenic is the best Mariner prospect since Griffey. He’s not going anywhere.

        • jafabian

          Never say never. Especially with a top prospect who has high trade value and indicates he wants to see what other teams could offer him.

          • art thiel

            He hasn’t asked for a trade. He wants to play MLB ball. Now. I get that.

          • jafabian

            I imagine once Mariners brass heard that he passed on an extension visions of ARod’s departure popped into their heads and don’t want anything resembling that happening again. They probably thought he’d follow Evan White’s lead. Again if they’re in a playoff race why not do another Andy Benes type of deal if it gets the team into the Promised Land?

          • Husky73

            Never.

      • art thiel

        You just lost your board election. Kelenic is the guy to build around for at least six years.

        • jafabian

          Did I say team president? I meant team president/GM. I’m going after Dipoto’s job also. And everyone is expendable. There’s no crying in baseball! ( I just wanted to say that. It’s the MLB version of Avengers Assemble.)

          • art thiel

            I’m here for your therapy. That will be $125, please.

    • 2nd place is 1st loser

      Boy what would anybody give to be a fly on the wall in the board room of the bosses wringing their hands and the gnashing of teeth on what should we do now? The repercussion for Mathers words will most certainly have a negative impact on future signings of quality players or having any credibility left, if any. It’s difficult enough to lure free agents or veterans to play here, unless you over pay them. “Robbie Cano” Everyone had high hopes that Stanton & Co would come in and plant the flag of, there’s a new sheriff in town. It’s more like The Who and their lyrics of, meet the new boss same as the old boss. Or the Talking Heads lyrics, same as it ever was. At least they’re consistent.

      • art thiel

        The persistence of ownership’s inability to grasp enlightened management is indeed damaging. The understood and rarely spoken handicap for Seattle baseball is the travel. Why give free agents another reason?

        • 2nd place is 1st loser

          Regarding the travel issue of the M’s being in the PNW and being a travel nightmare and a potential red flag for some of the players. What about Miami being about as far south and east as one could be in the lower 48 and SanDiego being in the bottom of California. Why would Seattle be an exception? Besides those places having warm sandy beaches and clear skies, never mind, forget I asked.

          • art thiel

            As big-ass as Seattle has become, there’s still an otherness about here that isn’t as appealing to 18-30 yo millionaire athletes who have choices. Griffey wanted Cincy partly because the Reds’ ST is in FLA, where Griffey became a permanent resident.

    • art thiel

      These behavioral embarrassments by management not only anger fans, the staffers who work their asses off, often at low pay, are depressed and unfairly tarnished, They don’t deserve this.

    • Nads

      The answer to your question about Stanton should be self evident. He is a co-conspirator. If you think that Mather just blurted this stuff out to the good ole’ boys of the BBCC for the first time, think again. He and Stanton and the rest of the upper echelon of the Mariners Baseball Club think and act in this vein. Their focus is on the P&L Sheet. The “competitiveness” of the product is decidedly secondary. As my son said to me when he called to expound on this story: “This makes it crystal clear what the M’s management has been up to for the last twenty years.”

      • art thiel

        Your kid is smarter than you. But you are smart enough to know that.

  • Robert Rhodes

    Surely the underlying attitude and values of Kevin Mather as revealed in his remarks can’t have come as a surprise to the CEO and Board of the Mariners. Nor, to their employees. That he has continued with the team for this long is not just an indictment on him. At the very least it reveals a tolerance that reflects on the entire organization. In my view, John Stanton ought to take public responsibility for the culture that tolerated this, and institute the necessary reforms.

    • art thiel

      The buck indeed stops with Stanton. I’ve written before that I thought his virtues — deep passion and more than a layman’s knowledge of the game, plus endless wealth — would make for a good ownership. He’s overdue to prove me right.

    • Ed Norton

      Agree completely. The arrogance Mather showed in his little speech can’t be a one-time slipup. Stanton took over the club with a lot of grandiose statements.But if he does not fire Mather immediately it will show that it is the same old, same old Mariners management.

      • art thiel

        The deed was done Monday, and his Rotary talk was indeed not a slip-up.

  • jafabian

    It’s pretty obvious that the Mariners front office has a questionable culture and you have to ask just how much of it trickles over to other parts of the organization. When Dr, Lorena Martin sued the club for wrongful termination, accusing them of racial and gender discrimination, this incident serves to support her claims. I believe in second chances but Mather has been already given that. As the team president of an MLB club he should know better. Now I REALLY question exactly why Edgar left the coaching staff.

    To the Mariners Board of Diectors I formally announce my candidacy for the soon to be open position of team president. I don’t have any previous MLB front office experience but I do know the definition of courtesy and respect which Mather clearly doesn’t. He exemplifies what is wrong in society right now. When people become blind to the differences of others is when America can truly become great.

    • Flora Hicks

      Get $192 per/h from Google!…(a546) Yes this is best since I just got my first pay-out of $24413 and this was just of a one week… I have also purchased my McLaren Speedtail right after this payment…(a546) it is really cool job I have ever had and you won’t forgive yourself if you do not check it >>>> https://meumessage.com/pT07Tdb ❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤

    • art thiel

      I second your nomination. The job’s other stuff — contracts, staff management, MLB meetings, etc. — you can pick up. What’s the worst the club can can do under your supervision — miss the playoffs?

      • jafabian

        My first promotion will be a Turn Back The Clock Night and I’d bring back Kingdome style cheese NACHOS! I’d have Brian Holman throw the first pitch to Kenny Phelps and for Servais to bring out the lineup card in the Good Ship Mariner. But I wouldn’t force the bullpen to ride in it. Courtesy and respect y’know. And free funny nose glasses for everyone!

        • Husky73

          After the game, there would be a paper airplane contest, and a concert by the Beach Boys.

        • art thiel

          I knew you’d jump on the big-picture executive actions.

        • coug73

          Charlie O is smiling.

    • Tracey Taylor

      Get $192 per/h from Google!…(a824) Yes this is best since I just got my first paycheck of $24413 and this was just of a one week… I have also purchased my McLaren Speedtail right after this payment…(a824) it is really cool job I have ever had and you won’t forgive yourself if you do not check it >>>> http://obgynwa.com/57qlF ❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤

  • Matt

    Monday on 710 ESPN Seattle, we’ve got breakdowns of potential Seahawks free agent fits, WSU basketball had a thrilling OT victory, the M’s get going down in Peoria…did we mention where the Seahawks stand in trade rumors? How about the Kraken!? (We never talk about them but) Hey, let’s check in with the Sounders and Jordan Morris!

    • art thiel

      I’m sure the flagship is all over this — with many nervous coughs into the mics.

    • By the time I turned on 710 around 7:30 a.m., they were into a 15-minute segment on Cam Newton vs. the boy heckler.

    • Matt

      I caught a bit here and there today. To the station’s credit, I did hear some hosts critical of the whole spectacle. KJR had the heat up, too, of course.

  • Alan Harrison

    Well, Sharon Mather, it’s time to put the house up for sale in Issaquah. You can’t even show your faces around town any more without people looking at you with pity. Your husband proved that he was an asshat, which is not even the worst thing he’s done. It’s ironic to me that the thing that’ll get him fired will be the manipulation of service time issue, not all the other racist and misogynistic material. In baseball front offices, it’s worse to poke at the union than to poke at a co-worker, I suppose.

    • art thiel

      From an inside baseball perspective, the worst thing he did was to be honest about the business operation. ROOT Sports revs allowing the M’s to “punch above their weight” is a phrase that will echo forever in their dealings with the public.

    • Kevin Lynch

      Moral of story: candor will get you canned. Especially when it’s this insensitive.

      • art thiel

        Many in the Trump admin will testify to those who dared use candor.

  • 2nd place is 1st loser

    The M’s “supposedly” new team ownership on the surface appears to be nothing more than a reshuffle of the deck of clowns who ran the team when Nintendo was living in the crystal palace. The penny pinching, penny wise pound foolish mentality certainly appears to be alive and well with this franchise.

    Mather is obviously in a position to speak on behalf of the franchise, which begs the question. Why has Stanton & Co allowed this guy to conduct business in such a fashion? Is this behavior pervasive in the organization? I doubt it. But when you allow a person to talk $h!t like that it gives everyone the perception of that’s how they do business.

    “If” Mather is sent packing, what’s the chances that he’ll be replaced with another, I don’t know a single thing about baseball CPA? Should Mariner fans expect anything less from a franchise that can mess up a two car funeral? Art, that’s a classic, but sooooo true.

    • Ed Norton

      Mather must be completely unaware of the need to temper his public remarks, or is so arrogant he does not care. Anything stated in a public setting is going to find its way to the media eventually. To admit to something like manipulating a player’s service time should put him in bad steed with all of baseball management, to say nothing of the players and their union. Added to his 2018 episode with making inappropriate comments to female employees, the only question I have is when will Stanton announce Mather’s termination? If said termination does not happen, then we further proof of what a chicken!@#? organization is the Seattle Mariners.

      • art thiel

        The Mariners have said a statement is forthcoming Monday,

        • Ed Norton

          Mariners website now says that Mather has resigned.

          • 2nd place is 1st loser

            Now if only the others would follow suit.

    • art thiel

      Mather has a reputation for unfiltered talk, which behind a closed boardroom door, might be OK for business planning. But not for denigrating players’ grasp of English, or not accepting a club’s contract offer, and a litany of other witless remarks.

      • 2nd place is 1st loser

        If saying unfiltered talk behind closed doors is okay for business planning, you know like locker room talk on a bus about grabbing a woman’s kitty. So does that give someone a pass on saying things like that behind closed doors? Individuals who say these things most likely believe in what they’re saying and it has most certainly been a reflection on how the franchise has been operated. There’s absolutely no defending this ownership any longer. They knew who Mather was, and that makes them complicit. If they didn’t know, that makes them incompetent.

        • art thiel

          By OK, I meant someone can get away with it, not that it was acceptable. Poor choice of words.

          Your complicit/incompetent tandem is spot on.

  • coug73

    A fish rots from the head first.

  • McDougall206

    As a 50-year old, born and raised Washingtonian and someone who grew up solidly supporting my hometown, professional baseball team, Mather’s level of hubris without merit, cluelessness, and stupidity are complete validation and affirmation as to why I stopped supporting the Mariners more than 5 years ago. This organization is literally the worst in the history of Major League Baseball…look at their winning percentage over 43 years and only 4 playoff appearances. My question is how many more Kevin Mather’s exist within the executive ranks and board of directors of this team??? For now, I’ll continue to devote my personal sports fan energy, time, money, and resources to other organizations in this part of the country who have earned it and continue to cultivate my support.

    • art thiel

      You are representative of a chunk of the fan base that is eager to give the benefit of the doubt, but the club keeps doing things to itself to deny your offer. It’s a brutal situation for many people in the org who seek to remedy the losing and the mockery in small, daily deeds. What a shame.

    • Husky73

      You and two million others. Home game attendance peaked at 3.6 million and was down to 1.6 million.

  • Robert Nein

    Sensing a great business opportunity, I am starting a company to write apologies for clueless athletes, sports execs, politicians, and celebrities who would give up an arm to undo the damage of their offensive comments. The standard apology will include phrases such as “I’m truly sorry if anyone was offended,” and “my statement does not reflect the sensitive, caring, respectful person I really am. I will do better.” We’ll charge an arm plus a leg for more problematic excuses: “I was under severe stress from working too hard at my job,” and those blaming the media, a political party, Satanic Possession, or accidental ingestion of mind-altering drugs. “Apo-lie-gies” might be the company name. One thing is sure, there is an unlimited market for this service, thanks to people who share Mr. Mather’s affliction.

    • Ed Norton

      Great idea. When your company’s stock goes public I want in.

    • Husky73

      You may want to bring on Crash Davis as a consultant. He helped Nuke with some bromides.

  • woofer

    Bring back Howard Lincoln! He may not have known anything about baseball but at least he was respectful toward the Japanese.

    • art thiel

      Howard would have been very annoyed about the ‘Kuma shot.

  • tor5

    Can’t help but think, so someone thought “this is CEO material”? A poorly informed blowhard? In a business where evaluating talent is paramount? At least the perennial M’s train wreck makes a bit more sense to me now.

    • art thiel

      Gotta be able to pronounce the names.

  • Guy K. Browne

    Oooof… that’s pretty much all I have to say.

  • LarryLurex70

    An extended Campanis moment for sure.