The Mariners have a public relations problem because team president and CEO Kevin Mather lacks a filter.
Mather created the crisis by spilling millions of gallons of tea during a video speech to the Bellevue (Wash.) Breakfast Rotary Club on Feb. 5. Video of the 46-minute session went up Sunday on YouTube and then was deleted before resurfacing in other online storage spaces.
So people still can hear what Mather said, including these nuggets:
— Mather disparaged outfield prospect Julio Rodriguez and newly hired special assignment coach Hisashi Iwakuma’s English skills. He called Rodriguez’s “not tremendous” and Iwakuma’s when he was pitching for the club “terrible.” (But Mather did say Iwakuma is a “wonderful human being” and Rodriguez “has got a personality bigger than all of you combined.”)
Mather added that Iwakuma’s English “suddenly got better” when the Japanese former pitcher was told prior to spring training this year that Mather was “tired” of paying for an interpreter for him.
Rodriguez, a native of the Dominican Republic, responded on Twitter with an “And I took that personally” meme.
— Mather hinted strongly that the club will manipulate the service time of pitching prospect Logan Gilbert and outfield prospect Jarred Kelenic this season. “You won’t see him on April 1 (Opening Day), but by mid-April you will see” Gilbert at T-Mobile Park in Seattle, Mather said. He said Kelenic will be the Mariners’ left fielder “in April.”
Mather also tried to make Kelenic look bad for 1) Turning down a long-term contract offer and telling the club he’ll “bet on himself,” and 2) Being unhappy that Rodriguez is ahead of him in prospect rankings.
— Mather said that longtime third baseman Kyle Seager is in his final year with the Mariners. Seager can become a free agent after the 2021 season.
Seager’s wife had questions:
So should we put our house in Seattle on the market now, orrrrrr?
— Julie Seager (@JulieSeager15) February 21, 2021
Mather apologized Sunday night for his remarks but did not resign. He said that he was speaking only for himself and that his words “do not reflect the views and strategy of the Mariners baseball leadership who are responsible for decisions about the development and status of the players at all levels of the organization.”
“I’ve been on the phone most of the day today apologizing to the many people I have insulted, hurt, or disappointed in speaking at a recent online event,” he said in a statement, per MLB.com. “I am committed to make amends for the things I said that were personally hurtful and I will do whatever it takes to repair the damage I have caused to the Seattle Mariners organization.”
Could those have been some of his last words as a club executive? The Seattle Times reported Sunday night that the team will release a statement Monday on Mather’s comments.