Seattle Mariners CEO and team president Kevin Mather apologized late Sunday night for comments made during a recent online event where he expressed opinions about personnel moves, club finances and the poor English-speaking capabilities of two members of the organization. Mather’s comments came in a speech to the Bellevue, Washington, Breakfast Rotary Club on Feb. 5 and were posted online over the weekend.
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 commented on the English of two team members, including 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.”
Rodriguez, a Dominican outfielder ranked No. 2 by CBS Sports in Seattle’s farm system, responded on Twitter shortly after the video made the social media rounds.
Mather also 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 said there was “no excuse” for his comments.
“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’s statement said. “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.
In his Feb. 5 comments, Mather also 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 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.
Mather has been with the Mariners since 1996. He was promoted to CEO and team president in 2017.
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