Right now I’m picturing a kid that, when he woke up Sunday morning, was stressing about his future. He’d always been at the bottom of his class and has walked into his fair share of sliding glass doors.
He knew his brain only had so much voltage and that job prospects would be scarce. Then he saw Mariners CEO Kevin Mather’s Q&A on YouTube.
Now he thinks he can run an MLB team.
Sunday, Mather starred in a film entitled “How to Lose a Fan base in 45 Minutes.” Or if we’re talking about his reputation among the Mariners’ players, front office and ownership group, it was a remake of “Apocalypse Now.”
Assuming he wasn’t under duress, or the influence, the longtime exec gave a master class on talking without thinking. The M’s two decades of incompetence now has a face — one that will soon be on dart boards across the Emerald City.
Earlier in the month, Mather spoke to the Bellevue Breakfast Rotary Club via a video call. Perhaps thinking Rotarians wouldn’t record him and post the chat online, he spoke with the candor of a barfly at last call.
Some of what he said was assumed to be true but inappropriate for public consumption. And some was just downright baffling.
Among Mather’s utterances …
— The Mariners had a “terrible year financially” but still “did better than most of the other professional sports teams” because of their lucrative TV deal, which allowed them to “punch well above our weight.”
— The team passed on calling up prospects Jarred Kelenic and Logan Gilbert last year due to service-time constraints.
— Kelenic turned down a six-year deal so as to “bet on himself” and maximize his earning potential when he hits free agency.
— Teammates urged first baseman Evan White to decline the Mariners’ $23 million contract offer — a deal that could potentially net him $55 million — but he accepted it in order to set him and his family up for life.
— Longtime M’s third baseman Kyle Seager will enter the Mariners’ Hall of Fame one day but is also “overpaid.”
— Having to pay former Mariners pitcher and current scout Hisashi Iwakuma’s translator $75,000 was a nuisance, and that once Mather told Iwakuma that, “his English got better.”
— 20-year-old prospect Julio Rodriguez, who’s Dominican, doesn’t speak “tremendous” English.
Let’s go through some of this — starting with how much better the M’s did compared to other teams money-wise last year. Not sure if you noticed, but this club hasn’t made the playoffs in 20 years. That’s longer than any other franchise in the country’s four most popular professional sports leagues, and now you have the CEO admitting the organization weathered the COVID financial storm better than most teams, yet they still won’t expand its payroll to better compete in 2021?
Mather said in that video that “nobody cares that rich owners lost money” — and they did lose $2.9 billion. But people don’t want to hear about rich owners who don’t spend, either. After all, if they won’t, why should fans?
As far as Kelenic and Gilbert — most astute observers knew the M’s were manipulating the service time (basically, keeping them in the minors to save money), but why say it publicly? Could this not prompt a grievance from the MLBPA? Also, fans now know that, unless the M’s sign Kelenic as a free agent down the road, he won’t be here past 2027.
What about White? Why reveal his line of thinking along with private conversations he had with teammates? And what about insulting Seager, Rodriguez, Kuma and a litany of other Mariners not mentioned in this space?
By the way, Rodriguez does speak tremendous English. Not that a Dominican who just turned 20 last week should be expected to. But to make such a comment without even being asked about Julio’s second language? It makes Gilligan look like the Professor.
I’m still trying to wrap my head around how a man this successful could have such a pronounced lapse in judgment. I’m still trying to process why he thought such revelations — including petty gripes such as paying a translator a five-figure salary — could not come back to haunt him. Yet in one 45-minute Q&A, Mather managed to betray his trust with ownership, belittle players throughout the organization and tell fans that saving trumps success.
How do you explain that? Maybe like this.
He’s a Mariner.
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