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The Mariners’ problems extend far beyond Kevin Mather

Seattle has a cultural plague that will not magically vanish with a new hire

Cleveland Indians v Seattle Mariners
Sell the team, John
Photo by Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images

Kevin Mather, the disgraced former team president who now has much more time to hang out with suburban social clubs, is no longer employed by the Seattle Mariners. The team released a statement* on Monday, over 24 hours after his conversation with the Bellevue Breakfast Rotary became public, announcing that Mather had “resigned his position effective immediately”.

*It is not lost on me that the Mariners did not include any text in the body of this tweet, meaning it will be very difficult to search for in the future

Mather’s resignation is undoubtedly a net positive. The ex-president had a bafflingly high amount of power for someone so unaware of how to use it or the effects it can have. The man was willing to share inside information about his billion-dollar company that is not only beloved by thousands and thousands of people, but did so without even being asked! In case you have not seen the video linked above, or are still generally unsure of what happened, one of Mather’s many transgressions was insulting top prospect Julio Rodríguez, specifically saying that Rodríguez is loud and that his English is “not tremendous”. That came, in startlingly quick fashion, after a Rotary Club member used their journalism degree to back Mather into a corner.

That’s how this guy and his five simple words, “Tell us about Julio Rodríguez”, became an important figure in a national news story.

@ pulitzer

In exchange for willingly taking shots at roughly a dozen people within the Mariners’ system, Mather swiftly lost his job, respect, and the Mariners’ credibility before breakfast ended. The organization has done a good thing by removing Mather, whether it was forced upon him or agreed to with some lawyers. But with every second that passed between his remarks hitting the internet and his termination, the Mariners only furthered their standing as the worst American sports franchise of the 21st century.

The few positive things the Seattle Mariners have done in recent years have almost always been chased by a new disappointment that shoots them right back down to the bottom. That’s part of what made the period between the story breaking and the team’s official statement so frustratingly bizarre.

Outside of dollars and cents, what had Kevin Mather done well during his tenure in Seattle? He’s not the one who traded for Jarred Kelenic, plucked Logan Gilbert out of Stetson University, or convinced Rodríguez to put pen to paper. He is, however, the one who damaged the team’s relationship with all three of those players just to curry some favor with an adult fraternity.

Few outside the Mariners’ offices would have noticed a difference if he stayed or if he had left; his influence is not the type to get noticed by fans like a general manager or starting pitcher, unless of course you’re paying exorbitant prices for the parking across from T-Mobile Park. You know, the structure he made sure to describe as “my tiny little parking garage”. Why the Mariners seemed to value Mather’s work so much – and why they chose to thank him in the same statement announcing his resignation in disgrace – is emblematic of the ever-growing disconnect between baseball as a corporate entity and baseball as the fun, enjoyable experience it’s supposed to be for the fans that give it life.

Boston Red Sox v Seattle Mariners Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

Now that Mather is gone, though, the work is nowhere near complete. John Stanton, a graduate of the Gotta Hear Both Sides School of Public Relations, noted that Mather had been with the club for 25 years of service. That period included nearly as many Mather-related scandals as playoff berths, again raising the question of why Mather seemed to be so highly regarded. He likely was only let go because video of this scandal exists and the subsequent reaction from fans and media was so harsh. Last time Mather was embroiled in controversy, it was over alleged workplace harassment that included inappropriate touching, jokes, and comments about female employees. The only difference between that scandal (which did not cause Mather to lose his job), and this one (which did), is that the Bellevue Breakfast Rotary Club remembered to press record. Had they not, he’d still be infecting the club from the inside.

After the allegations against him came out in 2018, Mather said, “I am committed to ensuring that every Mariners employee feels comfortable and respected, and can contribute to our success both on the field and in the community. Can we do better? Of course.”

Guess who was in charge of human resources prior to these allegations coming forward? Kevin Mather.

Guess who said they would do better and then proceeded to actually not do better at all? Kevin Mather.

Guess who used the same “we have to do better” rhetoric in their statement about Mather’s behavior as Mather did when addressing his own behavior? The Seattle Mariners.

enjoying myself at the press conference, but then i remembered instances of regret in my life, and pain i have caused others

This is where the problem lies. Saying “we have to do better” and then doing nothing to exhibit that is part of what has made rooting for the Mariners so specifically soul sucking. Whether saying “we have to do better” on the field and falling flat on their face for two decades, or saying “we have to do better” in the front office while promoting an alleged sexual harasser all the way to team president, the Mariners continue to piss on their fans’ legs and tell them it’s raining.

Ousting Mather is ultimately the bare minimum, and the statement thanking him for what he did while not addressing any of the ways they plan to “do better” is, to use a baseball term, eyewash. Does “get better” in this case mean paying lip service to self-improvement and a commitment to good values before hiring another out-of-touch, woefully incompetent rich man? Will the new guy courteously wait a few years before becoming involved in a scandal of their own? If so, it’s clear that physically removing Mather will have done nothing to remove his stench from the club, which was able to go unchecked for 25 years until a harmless morning of flexing for the Bellevue Breakfast Rotary took him down.

If the Mariners are truly committed to doing better, a platitude that John Stanton leans on in times of crisis, he needs to find some of the self-awareness that so often eluded his former subordinate. Doing better means cleaning house and finally putting actions to words. John Stanton must sell the team to someone that actually cares about the Seattle Mariners in ways other than profit, revenue, and fostering an environment of hatred.