Downstairs in the Mariners clubhouse, below the feet of the thousands who sojourn to Safeco Field every day during the season, is what seems to be a small supply closet. It’s by the walkway down to the batting cages, with a particle wood door and shiny brass handle. It is utterly unremarkable, and for less than a year it was the office of the Mariners’ Director of High Performance (note: Dr. Martin likely had an office upstairs, too, with other high-ranking officials). The room, in glimpses during clubhouse visits over a few months, was devoid of, well, anything - no personal affects, no decor, little beyond a generic desk and chair. Perhaps she kept all her things in another office space, or perhaps Dr. Martin has simply mastered the art of minimalist living, but the image of that empty, impersonal closet has echoed in my mind for months.
On Monday, we learned Dr. Martin had been terminated from her role a month prior, and that she was now accusing the organization of racism and sexism. Notably, in an interview with TJ Cotterill of the Tacoma News Tribune, Dr. Martin alleged racist and sexist comments from Jerry Dipoto (GM), Scott Servais (Manager), and Andy McKay (Director of Player Development).
All the things she referenced were unacceptable. They’re also, unfortunately, fairly typical examples of casual racism and sexism in the work place, and I have no doubt that we wouldn’t be hearing about this if Dr. Martin had not been terminated. Dr. Martin was immensely proud of her role and title - you can see that in her comments, on her LinkedIn, etc. - and it’s amazing how much one is capable of internalizing in the pursuit of their goals.
Unfortunately, there are many things we still don’t know: did she truly report to HR (she says she did, the Mariners disagree, she tells Ken Rosenthal she has emails that prove breach of contract, though said emails have not been revealed), why is this all just coming out now, and what prompted her termination in the first place. Notably, her work was not designed to demonstrate results immediately, and it seems odd that the Mariners have terminated her contract so prematurely. If, in their eyes, her work efforts failed, the organization still must carry some blame, because from the start Dr. Martin was not set up for success.
When she was initially hired, the press release noted that Dr. Martin “w[ould] be responsible for coordinating all aspects of the Mariners physical and mental training approach of players and staff, including oversight of the entire organization’s medical, strength and conditioning, nutrition and mental skills departments.” This is, to put it lightly, an enormous workload for one person, but inexplicably we never heard of other hirings in relation to the new Director of High Performance. Surely they didn’t expect one woman to make this happen alone? Where was her staff, her assistants, the people she trusted to help act out a collective vision?
The number of women in baseball operations is growing, but still small, and, unfortunately, many baseball players, coaches, and staff are unaccustomed to answering to a woman in the clubhouse. That’s where, ideally, male staff and coaches would come in to encourage support, and demonstrate organizational solidarity. Instead, Dr. Martin’s allegations paint a picture of immense outsidership (it’s worth noting that Dipoto, Servais, and McKay have collectively known, played, and worked together for years). We saw some of this lack of trust play out in Cotterill’s piece on Félix Hernández’s work with Dr. Martin - the former ace was skeptical of her suggestions, and when he finally approached her for help told her she had one day to earn his trust. In that same piece, Hernández commented, “She’s real smart. And she’s kind of … she’s a little bit harder. But we’re both Latin, so we know each other.” This is consistent with other reports that Dr. Martin’s interpersonal skills left something to be desired, but also highlights that Dr. Martin was coming from a vastly different place than her typically white, often older, male colleagues. It is, in truth, not an uncommon refrain when reading about other female executives, CEOs, and women in power.
More than anything, though, these allegations and subsequent exchanges highlight two things: that the very core of the Mariners organization is utterly, irrevocably flawed, and that baseball as a whole continues to be deeply problematic for women, non-men, and people of color.
I don’t hope her allegations are true, nor do I hope they are false. I don’t hope for anything because at this point there’s little hope to be had. For centuries baseball’s stories have been written by men, for men, and though we like to think we’ve made grand progress, reports of these incidents highlight how much work there is left to do.
The Mariners front office and ownership have done nothing to encourage us to trust them, nor has it done anything to make us believe that they will respond with any real strength or conviction to these allegations.