SEATTLE -- Mariners president and CEO Kevin Mather issued an apology on Sunday night after he was criticized for remarks he made during a Zoom call with a local rotary club on Feb. 5 that surfaced earlier in the day.
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.
Mather’s statement reads as follows:
“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 judgement.
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.
I’ve been on the phone most of the day today apologizing to the many people I have insulted, hurt, or disappointed in speaking at a recent online event.
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.”
In his comments to the rotary club, Mather said that the club recently offered No. 1 prospect Jarred Kelenic a long-term contract, which Kelenic declined. 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.
“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, he might be right, we offered and he turned us down.”
The offer to Kelenic is somewhat similar to the six-year, $24 million contract that first baseman Evan White signed before he reached the Majors. Mather detailed how White was criticized by other players for accepting the deal, and that White could’ve eventually earned more through free agency.
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,” and 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.
On the team’s financial outlook, Mather said that the Mariners weren’t hit as hard as other teams by the economic downfall caused by the pandemic because of the club’s low payroll last season, and its television deal with ROOT Sports, which he said paid the team far better than other similarly sized markets. The Mariners have had controlling interest in ROOT since 2013.
Mather joined the Mariners in 1996 as its executive vice president of finance and ballpark operations, a post he held until 2014, when he was promoted to team president and succeeded Chuck Armstrong. In ’17, Mather took over as president and CEO.
Mather also came under criticism in 2018 when he and two other Mariners executives were accused of sexual harassment by multiple female employees. The other executives and the female employees involved in the suit no longer remain with the club.