On Monday around 3:30 PM PST, former Mariners Director of High Performance, Dr. Lorena Martin, went public with allegations that she had experienced racism from general manager Jerry Dipoto, manager Scott Servais, and director of player development Andy McKay. From that moment, news emerged rapidly.
The Mariners, seemingly caught off-guard, issued a strongly-worded, grammatically incorrect denial of all allegations, including explicitly stating that “no member of [their] management or coaching staff made racist remarks regarding any of our players or staff.” They also explicitly stated that they had not terminated any trainer during the off-season. Dr. Martin responded and stated that, yes, two specific Dominican trainers had been “let go”. Beyond hand-wringing over the possible semantics of a trainer being “let go” versus being “terminated”, there wasn’t much other information from which to speculate. If the allegations were proven to be true, it didn’t seem like things could get much worse.
Later that night, things did get much worse.
Dr. Martin gave an interview with the Tacoma News-Tribune’s TJ Cotterill, during which she alleged specific instances of the racial discrimination. These instances included Dipoto calling her a “cocky Latina”, McKay calling the team’s Dominican players “lazy” and “stupid”, and Servais saying that Latino players weren’t “bright enough” to manage or play catcher in the Major Leagues. Dr. Martin also alleged that Dipoto was physically aggressive near her in order “to intimidate [her]” on at least one occasion. Even more troubling was that Dr. Martin alleged that Scott Servais had refused her access to meetings with players during Spring Training, and had told her that it was because “you’re a woman”.
The interview was published at 5:15 PM PST, and around 11 PM PST, the Mariners released a counter-statement. They denied all of Dr. Martin’s allegations, and notably referred to her as “Ms. Martin”, a stark juxtaposition from the care that they’d previously used in referencing her PhD.
It was quiet on Tuesday. Many fans may have woken up that day with a foreboding sense of What’s going to come out today? Yet there were no tweets, and there was no news. The Mariners went back to their regularly scheduled tweeting, and it became easy to wonder whether they would try to sort all of this out behind closed doors.
Finally, mid-day yesterday, we got some more information. Seattle Times beat writer Larry Stone published an interview with Mariners bench coach Manny Acta, who is notably Dominican. Acta defended Servais’ character, stating that “Scott goes out of his way to make people feel good and treat everyone the same”. Acta noted that he’s known Servais since they roomed together in the minor leagues in 1989, and that “out of seven billion people in the world, he chose [Acta] to coach for him. That alone tells you he’s not capable of saying those things.”
Acta chose to steer away from commenting directly on Dr. Martin, instead speaking only on his experiences with Servais, Dipoto, and McKay. Regarding Servais’ alleged comment about Latino players not being “bright enough” to catch or manage, Acta said he’d “never heard those comment[s] coming out of him” and “would not work for an organization that thinks that way”. Acta apparently pointed out that two other members of Servais’ coaching staff are Dominican, and noted that Servais has made “over 40 trips to the Dominican in his career” to “meet with guys personally”.
Acta also commented that he hasn’t seen the alleged behavior from Dipoto or McKay either, stating “I’ve dealt with all those guys ... As far as me being in contact with those guys on an everyday basis, that’s not what I’ve seen”.
These comments are, of course, a point in favor of Servais, Dipoto, and McKay. The points that Acta made about Servais’ coaching staff consisting of three Dominicans and Servais frequently travelling to the Dominican are sound. Having known Servais for nearly 30 years, Acta is likely to be more qualified than most to give a character assessment of Servais. One might speculate that it would serve Acta professionally to say nothing at all. Should Servais be fired, Acta could be a prime candidate to replace him. Of course, one might also speculate in the opposite direction: perhaps Acta stands to benefit from the organization for which he works being more stable, or perhaps he is defending a long-time friend. It is probably best not to speculate at all.
All of that being said, these comments do not by themselves absolve the Mariners of the wrongdoing alleged by Dr. Martin. There has now been testimony, albeit informal, from Dr. Martin, Acta, and the Mariners’ PR team. It is also important to note that Acta’s interview makes no mention of Dr. Martin’s allegations of sexism from Servais. It isn’t that Acta chose not to comment on them, rather, Larry Stone neglected to ask about those allegations specifically.
Acta’s comments clearly support the Mariners organization, but our knowledge is still incomplete. By many accounts, we may never get the closure that so many of us desire - be it explicit confirmation or denial - and that’s part of what makes this all so difficult to reconcile.