The fallout from Kevin Mather’s incendiary comments continued Monday morning mostly in the world of social media, sports talk radio and news outlets before the afternoon announcement about his immediate resignation.
At the Mariners complex, which was closed to the media for the final day of this spring per MLB guidelines, players could be seen from distant fences, doing their routine work on the back practice fields. Meanwhile, position players floated in at various times to officially report to camp and take their required physicals.
The daily video conference for manager Scott Servais was pushed back from the normal 8 a.m. start time until after the day’s workout, ostensibly to avoid questions about what Mather said about several of the players in camp, including Mariners stalwart pitcher Marco Gonzales, longtime third baseman Kyle Seager, starting first baseman Evan White, top prospects Jarred Kelenic, Julio Rodriguez and Cal Raleigh.
The daily meeting with Servais didn’t occur. By the time the club announced that Mather had resigned and that chairman John Stanton would assume his duties around 2 p.m. in Arizona, Servais and the players had long since vacated the complex with their workouts finished around noon. He is expected to meet with the media Tuesday morning with the team having its first full-squad workout.
It’s likely that requests to speak to Gonzales, Seager, Kelenic and Rodriguez will occur in the coming days with all of them being asked what was said about them by Mather.
It’s a controversy that has completely shifted the news cycle away from the usually upbeat stories written in early spring training. Besides The Seattle Times, there were columns in The Athletic and ESPN calling for Mather to be fired. And it’s likely to remain that way for the coming days.
The Major League Baseball Players Association released a statement before the Mariners. Why? Because Mather’s comments about Kelenic and top pitching prospect Logan Gilbert and their eventual MLB debuts while referencing service time accrual raised obvious red flags. Also his comments about their free agent philosophy and trying force players into accepting far less than market value were palpable.
The MLBPA statement read:
“The Club’s video presentation is a highly disturbing yet critically important window into how Players are genuinely viewed by management. Not just because of what was said, but also because it represents an unfiltered look into Club thinking.
“It is offensive, and it is not surprising that fans and others around the game are offended as well. Players remain committed to confronting these issues at the bargaining table and elsewhere.”
Service time manipulation and collusion amongst owners into lowering free agent contract value and length are sensitive topics among players, particularly with the current collective-bargaining agreement expiring after the 2021 season.
In Mesa, Cubs All-Star first baseman Anthony Rizzo was asked if he’d read or heard about Mather’s comments.
“It’s pretty annoying and frustrating,” Rizzo said. “I’m glad it’s out there in the public now and people can see how it is.”
Stanton had multiple conversations with commissioner Rob Manfred over the last 24 hours, keeping him apprised of the situation and soliciting advice.
Major League Baseball released the following statement about the situation:
“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.”
After Rodriguez posted a few things on Twitter Sunday after it came out, there was minimal player reaction on social media to Mather’s comments the next day.
Third-base prospect Austin Shenton did post a tweet referencing Mather’s comment that Rodriguez’s English “is not tremendous.”
It read: “@J_RODshow helped my Mom pass her Spanish assignment when she was doing chemotherapy and every time we talk, he asks how she is doing. Also, when he asks, it’s in perfectly spoken English. I’m grateful to have someone like him representing our organization.”
Former Mariners pitcher Sam Tuivailala referenced Mather’s comments about Kyle Seager being overpaid, tweeting: “Kyle Seager is a professional on and off the field. He Takes the younger players under his wing and shows them the rope. Hell, he even helped out the pitchers! You want him in your clubhouse.”