Former director of high performance Lorena Martin has accused Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto, manager Scott Servais and director of player development Andy McKay of racism. The Mariners have strongly denied the claims. My thoughts on the matter? Well, they're all over the place.
I couldn’t really decide on an angle. So I went with every angle. After former Mariners director of high performance Lorena Martin lambasted the M’s on Instagram, there was certainly plenty to write about.
On Monday, Martin accused Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto, manager Scott Servais and director of player development Andy McKay of racism, saying that they regularly called Latinos “lazy, dumb and stupid, especially the Dominicans.”
The Mariners have strongly denied the claims, calling them fabricated and “ludicrous,” but that hasn’t done much to douse the flames.
My thoughts on the matter? Well, they’re all over the place.
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But here are the main ones:
- I have no idea what happened, who’s lying, or who’s telling the truth. Anyone with a platform who’s drawn a rigid conclusion on this without due process is being irresponsible.
- When I first heard the accusations of racism, I reacted with heavy skepticism. This was the wrong reaction. I think “ist” labels are thrown out too casually these days, and it’s frustrating. But cases should always be viewed on their individual merit.
- Sports figures consistently dupe us. The inspirational Lance Armstrong? Fraud and bully. The squeaky-clean Tiger Woods? Serial adulterer. The venerated Joe Paterno? Well, you know how that went. I’ll admit that Martin’s accusations don’t align with what I know about Dipoto and Servais (I don’t know much about McKay), but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything.
- This sounded like a disaster from the beginning, and that’s on Dipoto regardless of what Martin was like to work with. Either he didn’t do his due diligence when hiring her away from the Lakers (The Athletic cited sources saying the Lakers were not unhappy to see her go), or he put someone with no baseball experience in a position where she was destined to fail.
- My initial reaction to Martin’s bridge-bombing Instagram post was, “Why did she do that?” My current reaction to Martin’s bridge-bombing Instagram post is, “Why did she do that?” Unless she can prove all those allegations, such a public display all but ended her career in sports. But it wasn’t just the fact that she put it out there. It was the tone that took me aback. Had she said something like, “The Mariners have a toxic culture that most people don’t know about — one that demeans women and Latinos — and I want to share my experience,” I would have found it more credible. But in addition to leveling accusations of racism against Dipoto, Servais and McKay, she harped on the fact that Dipoto has never reached the playoffs (even though he did with the Angels) and that his teams never will. That seemed personal and unnecessary in regard to her larger point.
- Other people feel differently than me. Martin spoke with TJ Cotterill of the Tacoma News-Tribune a couple hours after she posted on IG, telling him that Dipoto once called her a “cocky Latina,” that Servais wouldn’t let her in a team meeting because she was a woman and that McKay called Latino players “just plain stupid.” Said a friend who read the story and used to work around baseball: “If she’s making this up, she should write dialogue with Aaron Sorkin, because to me, that’s exactly how baseball people talk (in terms of condescending tones). Especially in group settings.”
- There is one aspect to Martin’s story that I’m having an incredibly hard time believing. In the TNT article, she said Servais told her that you don’t see Latino catchers or managers because “they aren’t bright enough. They are dumb.”
Servais doesn’t strike me as the kind of guy who would say that anyway, but the thing is — there are Latino catchers everywhere. Of the 30 catchers with the most MLB at-bats last year, 15 were from Latin American countries. Salvador Perez was the World Series MVP three years ago. Ivan Rodriguez was a first-ballot Hall of Famer, and Yadier Molina may join him in Cooperstown one day. Also, by my count, there are at least five Latino catchers in the Mariners’ farm system, and that doesn’t include players on the foreign rookie roster.
- Servais, from what I can gather, has a great relationship with many Latino players. He shaved a Z into his hair after Edwin Diaz notched his 50th save. He’s tight with Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz, hired Dominican-born Manny Acta (who defended the Mariners’ culture vigorously Wednesday) as his bench coach, and goes to the Dominican Republic every year.
- I don’t deal with Dipoto nearly as often as Servais. I have no clue whether it’s in Dipoto’s personality to call someone a “cocky Latina.” And as my colleague, Larry Stone, wrote, there are whispers that folks within the organization are none too thrilled with his managerial style. But as far as Latino players go — Dipoto sure seems to want them on his baseball team. He traded for Jean Segura then gave him a $75 million extension. He promoted Diaz and turned him into one of the game’s premier closers. He acquired Alex Colome, resisted multiple opportunities to trade Cruz, and took flak for keeping Felix Hernandez in the rotation longer than a lot of people felt he deserved. Put it this way: The Spanish translator earns his money in the Mariners’ clubhouse.
- A person of one race can call someone of another race lazy or stupid and not be racist. Hernandez was blessed with otherworldly talent but has been criticized for his uninspiring work ethic. One might describe that as lazy. Cano ingested an illegal diuretic that cost him 80 games and $12 million this season. One might describe that as stupid. But keep in mind this is an organization that instantly suspended and later parted ways with Steve Clevenger — perhaps the stupidest Mariner ever — after he tweeted that Black Lives Matter protesters should be “behind bars like animals” in 2016. Kyle Seager has been critiqued for his play. Wade Miley was shipped out. Taylor Motter was put on waivers. None of those guys are Latino. There just hasn’t been any evidence suggesting racial favoritism or discrimination.
- None of this means that Martin’s claims should be dismissed. There was zero indication that Tiger Woods was living a double life before we heard about his 100 mistresses. This also doesn’t mean that she wasn’t mistreated, disrespected or intimidated during her time with the Mariners. Guys at this level have egos. Guys at this level have tempers. The truth is often somewhere in the middle. That’s the beauty of due process.
- For what it’s worth, the Mariners do have another woman in their front office. Earlier in the month, Leslie Manning was promoted to Director of Professional Development and Assistant Director, Player Development. Also, the Mariners’ Amanda Hopkins is the only female scout in baseball.
- Eight years ago, Mariners CEO and President Kevin Mather, former Executive Vice President Bob Aylward and former President Chuck Armstrong were all accused of inappropriate workplace conduct by women. I’m already seeing people tie those incidents in with Martin’s accusations as a reflection of the M’s culture. I’m not sure that’s fair. Granted, Mather is still CEO, but Armstrong and Aylward are gone. Also, John Stanton replaced Howard Lincoln as chairman before Martin was brought aboard. I’ll concede that between news of the workplace misconduct allegations, the current racism accusations and the longest playoff drought in American sports, the Mariners are, as Richard Sherman might say, a “poop fest” right now. But I don’t think those three things are related.
- This sucks. In one scenario, Dipoto, Servais and McKay are bigots who bullied an earnest woman, jeopardized her career and permanently stained the organization. In the other, Martin manufactured allegations that could permanently stain Dipoto, Servais and McKay.
Regardless of what facts emerge (or don’t emerge), racism is a tough label to shake these days. There will likely be people who never view these men the same way.
Here’s what I’d ask: Wait and see. Don’t make assumptions. And when evidence does come out, view it as it is, not what you want it to be.