Well, That Took Long Enough

You say you'd like to know why it is that right-thinking baseball fans trust major league owners about as far as Walter Alston could hit major league pitching? (Alston grew up to be a four-time World Series-winning manager — but he struck out in his lone major league plate appearance.) Four words: Seattle Mariners, Kevin Mather.

Mather resigned Monday after disparaging remarks he made about some of his players early this month came to viral light last weekend. More than some think the Mariners shouldn't have let things get that far, that late.

They were tone deaf enough not to have fired Mather in 2018, after accusations of sexual misconduct turned into financial settlements with women accusing him and two other team executives. In an era in which the sport struggles to change an old-boy culture that doesn't exactly see women respectfully, that was inexcusable.

It was also liable to afford Mather license to do what he did before the Bellevue Breakfast Rotary Club during a Zoom conference meeting on February 5. That's Bellevue the city in Washington state, not Bellevue the legendary New York psychiatric hospital.

According to Mather's blather, the Mariners think nothing of player service time manipulations. Former Mariners pitcher/freshly minted Mariners special assignment coach Hisashi Iwakuma improved his English "dramatically" when told his interpreter would cost the team $75,000 a year. Outfield prospect Julio Rodriguez is larger than life but he "is loud, his English is not tremendous."

Mather's English is only too tremendous, alas.

The Mather blather turned up on YouTube last Friday but was taken down two days later — after the SB Nation blog Lookout Landing posted a complete transcript.

Trying to zap the timing of Iwakuma's "dramatically" improved English or Rodriguez's English at all is rather audacious — and disgusting — coming from a man that transcript shows often enough could be tried by jury for assaulting the King's English. (Not to mention the Queens, the Manhattan's, the Bronx, and the Staten Island's.)

"Perhaps Mather is at the extreme with his discriminatory remarks ... and what he perceived as the difficulty [Iwakuma and Rodriguez] have faced in learning English as a second language," wrote The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal. "Or maybe some other executives think this way, but he was the only one in his position dumb enough to say such things in a public forum."

Mather admitted to the Rotarians that the Mariners offered another top outfield prospect, Jason Kelenic, a six-year deal with three team options that Kepnic rejected while planning to demote Kelenic back to what's left of the minors in April. Mather described Kelenic as "betting on himself," as though the Mariners president thought the outfielder was plain out of his noodle.

"[Mather's] cringeworthy musings, one more misguided than the next," Rosenthal writes, "are Exhibits A through Z in why many players and fans hold owners in contempt. If this is how ownership types really think, why should any of them be trusted?"

"After pondering it for several days and talking to the union, he's turned us down and in his words, he's going to bet on himself," Mather said of Kelenic according to the full transcript. "He thinks after six years, he'll be such a star player that the 7th, 8th, 9th year options will be under value. He might be right, he might be right, we offered and he turned us down."

We're not exactly taking about a group of people who were simon-pure in the past. Too often, baseball owners and their designated operators have pointed the way to wisdom by exercising behaviors and offering opinions completely contemptuous of it.

But even among a group historically infamous for disparaging players at designated strategic moments (think for openers of Branch Rickey's infamous and boneheaded bid to run down Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner during a contract haggle by comparing him to Babe Ruth, with several false arguments), Mather stands now with his own singular infamy.

His "requisite" apology (Rosenthal's word) seemed just that, little enough more. Thom Brennaman's spontaneous on-air apology after an unexpected hot-mike moment in which he blurted about "one of the -g capitals of the world" before returning to the Reds play-by-play was more substantial and less scripted.

"By the time the session was over, Mather had given the union 45 minutes of bulletin-board material, at a time when tensions between the players and owners are the highest they have been since the players were on strike in 1994-95," Rosenthal writes.

His comments about Iwakuma and Rodriguez alone should be enough to prompt his dismissal. But then, the outcome of the team's investigation after Mather was the subject of two complaints from female employees in 2009-10 should have been enough to remove him. And the good ship Mariner rolled merrily along.

It would be a rank understatement to say here that the Show suffers a long-continuing pandemic of foot-in-mouth disease. To those who think Mather's departure would be arbitrary and not long overdue (did he resign before he could be fired at last?), you might care to remember an ancient musing from the historian and Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Peter Viereck: "Any bid to scrape the barnacles off an excellent ship is never taken to be an attack on the ship itself. Except by the barnacles."

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