Seattle Mariners CEO and team President Kevin Mather has apologized for comments made during a recent online event where he expressed opinions about organizational strategy, personnel moves and club finances.
Mather’s comments came in a speech to the Bellevue, Washington, Breakfast Rotary Club on Feb. 5 and were posted online over the weekend.
“I want to apologize to every member of the Seattle Mariners organization, especially our players and to our fans. There is no excuse for my behavior, and I take full responsibility for my terrible lapse in judgment,” Mather said in a statement Sunday. “My comments were my own. They 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.”
Mather continued, saying he’d been on the phone most of the day Sunday apologizing after the video was posted to YouTube and quickly drew attention on social media.
The Mariners are expected to release a statement Monday.
“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,” Mather said.
The Major League Baseball Players Associated released a statement Monday calling the video “highly disturbing.”
“The Club’s video presentation is a highly disturbing yet critically important window into how Players are genuinely viewed by management. Not just because of what was said, but also because it represents an unfiltered look into Club thinking,” the statement read. “It is offensive, and it is not surprising that fans and others around the game are offended as well. Players remain committed to confronting these issues at the bargaining table and elsewhere.”
The video posted by the Rotary group was 46 minutes long and touched on areas of the Mariners' organizational situation going into the 2021 season — many of which Seattle’s front office would rather not be made public.
Mather addressed the team’s payroll and watching the financial bottom line. He said he believed top prospects Jarred Kelenic and Logan Gilbert likely will not start the season with the team as a way to manipulate their major league service time and keep them under club control longer.
Mather said the club attempted to sign Kelenic to a long-term contract and was rebuffed in its efforts.
“Jarred Kelenic, we’ve been talking about him for a year and a half now, he will be in left field in April,” Mather 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 also commented on another top prospect, Julio Rodriguez.
“Julio Rodriguez has got a personality bigger than all of you combined,” Mather said. “He is loud. His English is not tremendous. Everybody says he’ll be here in 2021. He won’t be here till 2022 or 2023. A fantastic kid.”
Mather said longtime third baseman Kyle Seager would be a future Mariners Hall of Famer but also was “overpaid.” Seager is in the final year of his contract with the Mariners and will be Seattle's highest-paid player at $18 million. His contract includes a club option for 2022.
And Mather made disparaging comments about former pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma, who recently rejoined the team as a special assignment coach.
“Wonderful human being — his English was terrible. He wanted to get back into the game, he came to us, we quite frankly want him as our Asian scout/interpreter, what’s going on with the Japanese league. He’s coming to spring training,” Mather said. “And I’m going to say, I’m tired of paying his interpreter. When he was a player, we’d pay Iwakuma ‘X,’ but we’d also have to pay $75,000 a year to have an interpreter with him. His English suddenly got better. His English got better when we told him that.”
Mather has been with the Mariners since 1996. He was promoted to CEO and team president in 2017.
Mather was also accused of harassment by two former female employees. The allegations were revealed in a 2018 report by The Seattle Times. The team said it had “made amends” with those employees who lodged the harassment claims against Mather.
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