Mariners CEO rants about prospects, interpreters in controversial video
Seattle Mariners president and CEO Kevin Mather has upset a lot of people after a video of him speaking to the Bellevue Breakfast Rotary Club surfaced this weekend.
Among the numerous topics discussed Feb. 5 in the since-deleted video, which began circulating on Twitter on Sunday, Mather commented on contract negotiations with star prospect Jarred Kelenic.
"We've been talking about him for a year and a half now, he will be in left field in April," Mather said, according to Ryan Divish of The Seattle Times. "We offered him a long-term deal - a six-year deal for substantial money with options to go farther. After pondering it for several days and talking to the union, he has turned us down. And in his words, he's going to bet on himself.
"He thinks after six years he's going to be such a star player that the seventh-, eighth-, ninth-year options will be undervalued. He might be right."
Kelenic, a 21-year-old who's widely considered the Mariners' top prospect, has yet to make his major-league debut since Seattle acquired him from the New York Mets in the Edwin Diaz trade.
"He won't commit beyond his free-agent years," Mather continued. "I wouldn't say he's unhappy. He appreciates the offer, he just refused to sign it. He thinks he's going to be that good. ... Hopefully, (he remains) with us, but we'll see where we end up."
Mather also admitted that none of the club's top prospects were going to make the 40-man roster during the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign. He added that Kelenic was upset that he didn't earn a promotion last year.
Mather then turned his attention toward Julio Rodriguez, the club's other top outfield prospect. The CEO criticized Rodriguez's English, said he won't make it to the majors this season, and revealed Kelenic's displeasure with being placed behind the Dominican in Baseball America's prospect rankings.
"(Rodriguez) is loud. His English is not tremendous," Mather said. "Everybody says he'll be here in 2021. He won't be here till 2022 or 2023. A fantastic kid. ... And between him and Kelenic, we think we've got an outfield that will be as good as any in baseball for the next six or seven years. He's the real deal.
"He's ranked higher than Kelenic. You know I said Kelenic doesn't lack for confidence. He is not happy that he's the fifth-highest prospect in Baseball America and Rodriguez is the fourth-highest prospect. But little things like that bother Kelenic."
Rodriguez directed a thinly veiled tweet at his employer after the comments surfaced:
Mather also called Kyle Seager "overpaid" in the video. Seager will make $18 million in 2021 and has a $15-million team option for 2022.
Julie Seager, Kyle's wife, publicly mused about whether the family should look for a new home:
However, Mather noted that Seager, who's spent his entire 10-year career in Seattle, should be inducted into the Mariners Hall of Fame.
Finally, Mather took issue with paying Hisashi Iwakuma's interpreter when asked about dealing with Asian pitchers. Iwakuma, a Japanese hurler who spent six seasons with the Mariners, now serves as the team's special assignment coach.
"I'm going to say it, I'm tired of paying his interpreter," Mather said of Iwakuma. "When he was a player ... 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."
On Monday, the Major League Baseball Players' Association issued a statement condemning Mather's comments.
"The club's video presentation is a highly disturbing yet critically important window into how players are genuinely viewed by management," the statement read. "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 tabe and elsewhere."
Mather issued a statement Sunday evening apologizing for his behavior. He said he's "committed to (making) 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 2018, three women accused Mather and two other top team executives of inappropriate workplace conduct, resulting in financial settlements for the complainants.
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