Mariners high performance coach Lorena Martin was fired last month. She is accusing general manager Jerry Dipoto and manager Scott Servais of racism. The Mariners called the accusations 'outrageous' and 'false.'
It was just over a year ago — Oct. 30, 2017, to be exact — that Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto gleefully announced the hiring of Dr. Lorena Martin as the director of high performance, a position created to help revolutionize the organization’s commitment to training, conditioning and injury prevention.
“We have spent nearly a year working on creating this position and structure as well as identifying the best person for this role,” Dipoto said then.
Now Martin and the team have parted ways, and it’s gotten ugly.
Martin recently confirmed that she had been terminated by the Mariners but said she wasn’t ready to discuss it. But in an Instagram post Monday she leveled serious accusations of prejudice toward Latin American players by Dipoto, manager Scott Servais and director of player development Andy McKay.
In the Instagram post, Martin wrote, “The Mariners organization has major issues. The things I’ve witnessed and heard first hand have left me shocked. How can their GM Jerry Dipoto, manager Scott Servais and director of player development Andy McKay speak about their players like this. … Calling LATINOS LAZY, DUMB, and STUPID, especially the DOMINICANS.”
She added, “And then they wondered why they didn’t make it to the playoffs. Leadership is to blame, under Jerry Dipoto’s leadership no team has made it to the playoffs and they will continue to miss the playoffs with him in his position. Poor leadership. It’s come to the point where I have to speak out because they are firing innocent trainers for trying to do the right thing and because of their color/race.”
Martin did not respond Monday to multiple interview requests from The Seattle Times. But she expanded on her accusations against the Mariners in an interview with the Tacoma News-Tribune on Monday night.
Martin told the News-Tribune that she had a meeting in January with Dipoto and McKay to talk about McKay taking over mental skills development. Martin asserted that, per her contract, mental skills training fell under her purview, and said Dipoto called her a “cocky Latina.” In that same meeting, Martin said McKay commented that Dominican players are “just plain stupid.”
Martin also highlighted an incident at the Mariners’ spring training complex in Peoria, Arizona, when Dipoto punched a whiteboard and demonstrated “really aggressive behavior” when she asserted again that she was responsible for mental skills training.
Martin also told the News-Tribune that Servais told her you don’t see Latin American managers or catchers in baseball because “they aren’t bright enough. They are dumb.” Martin said she reported the incidents to the Mariners’ human resources department.
Martin said she was also discriminated against based on her gender, claiming that during spring training, Servais refused to allow her to attend a meeting with players in the clubhouse, and when she asked why, he said, “Honestly, it’s because you’re a woman.”
The Mariners denied Martin’s allegations in a statement to The Seattle Times on Monday night, saying: “These are claims are not true. They are absolutely false and ludicrous. She is fabricating stories, including her reports to human resources and the people named in this story. In at least one instance, there was a witness in the room that can confirm that the stories did not happen as she related they did.”
Earlier on Monday, the Mariners released a more general statement about Martin’s initial Instagram post and her termination:
“Lorena Martin was relieved of her duties with the Mariners on Oct. 10, 2018.
“While it is our policy to not comment on personnel issues, we do feel it is important to respond to the outrageous, false claims made by her today on social media. And to note that Martin did not make any of these false allegations until after she was relieved of her duties.
“The Mariners categorically deny that any member of our management or coaching staff made racist remarks regarding any of our players or staff. Additionally, we have not terminated (or threatened to terminate) any trainers during the off-season.”
Martin posted in a Twitter response to MLB.com that two trainers in the Dominican Republic, Leonardo Santiago and Jose Valdez, were fired. An industry source confirmed that both men did not have their contracts renewed for next season, “which is basically like being fired.”
Multiple MLB sources indicated that the Mariners are trying to avoid paying the remaining two years on Martin’s three-year contract and that she has hired an attorney.
But there is a belief that Martin’s contract, like with most higher-salary contracts in MLB, had a binding arbitration clause, which means that neither party can sue the other in this situation. Instead, they must meet with an independent arbitrator, who would determine a settlement.
Martin responded on Twitter by saying: “They wanted to negotiate to keep me quiet.”
Martin’s presence with the major-league team wasn’t as visible as first expected. Dipoto gave her oversight over all aspects of the training and conditioning programs for the entire organization. It was was a massive undertaking.
Also, some players were slow to embrace a new style of thinking about their health, conditioning, nutrition and recovery. Before Martin’s dismissal, there were rumblings that she would have her role reduced with the big-league team and that she would instead work out of the team’s complex in Arizona, focusing more on the minor-league staff in 2019.
When the Mariners first hired Martin, Dipoto also lauded her: “Lorena’s background, skill set and previous experience make her a perfect match for what we envisioned. Major League Baseball has lagged behind many professional sports leagues, including the NBA, Premier Soccer and others, in using big data to assist in both injury prevention and peak performance. We are excited to better connect all of the services we currently provide to our players throughout the organization and add the information that Dr. Martin can reveal to better assist the team in staying healthy and, ultimately, winning more games.”
During an interview with The Seattle Times in June, Mariners owner and managing partner John Stanton included Martin among a group of women who “play an important role in this organization.”
Added Stanton: “I’m sure you’ve read the press releases on Dr. Martin. She came to us from the Lakers. She runs our high-performance program. She is, as far as I know, unique within baseball. She is the only woman. Not all teams have a high-performance program, but she is the only woman running such a program.”
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