John Stanton took the first steps toward moving past the controversy that surrounded the Mariners, answering questions in the wake of Kevin Mather’s resignation as the club’s president and CEO on Monday.
Mather resigned after remarks he made on a Zoom call with a local rotary club earlier this month surfaced this past weekend.
“We must do and we must be better,” said Stanton, the Mariners’ chairman and managing partner. “We have a lot of work to do to make amends and that work is already underway.”
Major League Baseball also issued a statement about Mather's comments:
“We condemn Kevin Mather’s offensive and disrespectful comments about several players. We are proud of the international players who have made baseball better through their outstanding examples of courage and determination, and our global game is far better because of their contributions. His misguided remarks do not represent the values of our game and have no place in our sport.”
In the 46-minute clip, which was released via the Bellevue Breakfast Rotary Club’s YouTube page and has since been deleted, Mather openly discussed numerous sensitive topics relating to the organization’s direction and made pointed remarks about various players.
Monday, just hours after issuing an apology for his comments, Mather tendered his resignation.
“I came in this morning and Kevin resigned,” Stanton said. “I believe that that's the right answer for the organization.”
Stanton said he will serve as the club’s acting president and CEO until a successor can be chosen, though he added that he doesn’t foresee “meaningful changes” within the structure of the front office. The search will begin immediately, though Stanton said he won’t put a timetable on making a hire.
“Everyone at the Seattle Mariners remains committed to our mission to play championship baseball, to delight our fans, and to serve our community. We will do everything we can to demonstrate that commitment going forward.”
Mather has a small ownership stake in the franchise, but Stanton said Monday they had not yet addressed how that issue would be handled.
In his comments, Mather spoke highly of No. 2 prospect Julio Rodríguez as a player and a person, but noted that his grasp of English is “not tremendous.” Rodríguez, who is from the Dominican Republic, responded on Twitter on Sunday indicating that he took offense.
Mather also discussed how the language barrier affected former All-Star pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma -- who has since rejoined the club as a special-assignment coach -- and he expressed frustration in having to pay Iwakuma’s translator during the right-hander’s six seasons in Seattle.
Stanton made it abundantly clear that such views are not consistent with the organization’s values, calling the comments “inappropriate.”
“Those comments included some of the things that have been referenced with respect to our players, and in particular the importance of diversity and inclusion in our organization,” Stanton said. “We will do everything we can to continue to deliver on that commitment.”
Stanton plans to fly to Arizona this week to speak with various members of the organization, both in the front office and in the clubhouse, Rodríguez among them.
“Julio is an incredibly talented young man and we very much look forward to having him in our organization for many years,” Stanton said. “I was disappointed in Kevin's comments with respect to Julio, in part because I know how hard Julio has worked on his language skills; I follow him on social media and I enjoy his messages that he delivers.”
Mather also caused a stir with his comments about No. 1 prospect Jarred Kelenic, revealing that the Mariners had recently offered him a long-term contract only to be turned down.
“We offered him a long-term deal, six-year deal for substantial money with options to go farther,” said Mather. “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. He thinks after six years, he’ll be such a star player that the seventh-, eighth-, ninth-year options will be under value. He might be right … we offered and he turned us down.”
The soon-to-be left fielder with face-of-the-franchise potential expressed many times over the past two years that he is Major League-ready, and his agents have bristled at the Mariners’ public notion that Kelenic needs more Minor League development.
Asked specifically about Kelenic’s situation, Stanton said multiple times that those decisions have always been made -- and will continue to be made -- by general manager Jerry Dipoto, the baseball operations department and manager Scott Servais.
“We view Jarred to be an extraordinarily talented young man, and we are very much looking forward to having him in a Seattle Mariners uniform,” Stanton said. “Jerry and Scott will make that decision as to when.”
Although Mather’s comments seemingly caused a degree of damage with some players, Stanton doesn’t believe that the trust between those players and the organization has been “completely eroded,” noting the relationships and mutual respect that Dipoto and Servais have with the group.
“In the clubhouse, those are the two people -- Scott in particular -- that the players look at,” Stanton said. “I think that that's who many of the fans look to, as well. Kevin's comments did not reflect the values of this organization. … In terms of building trust going forward, you build trust over time. You build that relationship by communicating honestly, consistently, and doing it in a way that is able to meet those both with the players and the fans.”
Stanton answered questions for more than 30 minutes, doing his part to put the Mather situation behind him and begin the process of rebuilding any trust that has been damaged with players, sponsors and fans.
“The process of building a strong organization doesn't occur in one move or one night, nor, in my opinion, can it be destroyed by one set of comments,” Stanton said.
“This was a disappointing day. Yesterday was a disappointing day. Tomorrow is going to be a better day and we're going to focus on that.”