Mariners president Kevin Mather resigns after 'inappropriate' comments at speaking engagement

Seattle Mariners president Kevin Mather resigned amid backlash against video of a speaking engagement that surfaced over the weekend. The Mariners announced the news on Monday.

"Kevin Mather has resigned his position effective immediately," a statement from Mariners chairman and managing partner John Stanton reads. "I want to thank Kevin for his 25 years of service to our franchise. I will serve as acting president and CEO until a successor can be chosen."

Mather spoke candidly for 45 minutes during an address of the Bellevue Breakfast Rotary Club on Feb. 5 where he chastised the English-speaking skills of foreign-born players and admitted to manipulating prospects' service time, among other transgressions.

The comments were recorded on a video conference. The video went public and gained traction on social media over the weekend, drawing widespread condemnation.

Seattle Mariners team president Kevin Mather speaks at a news conference Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2015, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Seattle Mariners team president Kevin Mather has resigned. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

John Stanton: 'We must be, and do, better'

The backlash prompted an apology from Mather Sunday night for his "terrible lapse in judgment," but the damage was done. He is finished with the Mariners after 25 years.

"Like all of you, I was extremely disappointed when I learned of Kevin Mather's recent comments," Stanton wrote in the statement. "His comments were inappropriate and do not represent our organization's feelings about our players, staff and fans.

"There is no excuse for what was said, and I won't try to make one. I offer my sincere apology on behalf of the club and my partners to our players and our fans. We must be, and do, better."

Mather belittled players' English

Mather spoke critically of multiple players in regard to their English, including former All-Star pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma, who spent his entire six-year MLB playing career with the Mariners and was hired in January as a Mariners special assignments coach.

"For instance, we just re-hired Iwakuma, he was a pitcher with us for a number of years," Mather said. "Wonderful human being, his English was terrible. He wanted to get back into the game, he came to us, we quite frankly want him as our Asian scout, interpreter, what’s going on with the Japanese league.

"He’s coming to spring training. And I’m going to say, I’m tired of paying his interpreter. When he was a player, we’d pay Iwakuma X, but we’d also have to pay $75,000 a year to have an interpreter with him. His English suddenly got better, his English got better when we told him that."

Seattle Mariners pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma smiles as he greets teammates in the dugout before the team's baseball game against the Oakland Athletics, Friday, July 7, 2017, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Hisashi Iwakuma is a well-respected member of the Mariners organization. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Iwakuma was well-liked and respected during his time as a player for his work ethic and approach to the game. General manager Jerry Dipoto and Mariners players spoke highly of him as a person and player when the team brought him on as a coach in January.

Mather also volunteered criticism of top prospect Julio Rodríguez's English on the video conference.

"Julio Rodríguez has got a personality bigger than all of you combined," Mather said. "He is loud, his English is not tremendous."

MLBPA condemns Mather's statements

MLBPA released a statement Monday afternoon condemning Mather's remarks as pressure mounted on the Mariners to cut ties with the veteran executive.

"The club's video presentation is a highly disturbing yet critically important window into how players are genuinely viewed by management," the statement reads. "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."

Did Mather announce Seager's pending release?

Mather's comments weren't limited to criticizing players' English skills. He also appeared to reveal that longtime third baseman Kyle Seager's time was up in Seattle. Mather also noted that Seager is "probably overpaid."

"Kyle Seager, this is probably his last season as a Mariner," Mather said. "He will, and I’ve already told him, he’ll be a Mariners Hall of Famer when he’s done playing. Last year, he seemed to find the fountain of youth, had a fantastic year, and we expect the same in 2021."

Seager has played his entire 10-season career with the Mariners. The club has an option on his contract in 2022. The revelation appeared to be news to Kyle's wife, Julie.

Mather admits to service time manipulation

Mather, again apparently not realizing the likelihood of his comments going public, spoke openly about manipulating the service time of prospects during the COVID-19 crisis. He said the the team wouldn't fill Mariners roster spots with top prospects in the event of an outbreak that sidelined players.

"Because there was no chance you were going to see these young players at T-Mobile Park," Mather said. "We weren’t going to put them on the 40-man roster. We weren’t going to start the service time clock."

Mather's comments aren't the first problematic instance of his tenure with the Mariners. In 2018, the Seattle Times reported that three women who worked for the team accused Mather and other Mariners executives of inappropriate workplace conduct from 2009-10.

Those allegations surfaced when Mather worked as Seattle's executive vice president of finance and ballpark operations. He was promoted to president and CEO in 2014.

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