Seattle CEO’s words stoke fire, frustration for players, PA

Sports

FILE – In this Aug. 3, 2018, file photo, Seattle Mariners president Kevin Mather stands on the field before the team’s baseball game against the Toronto Blue Jays in Seattle. Mather apologized late Sunday night, Feb. 21, 2021, for comments made during a recent online event where he expressed opinions about organizational strategy, personnel moves and club finances. Mather’s comments came in a speech to the Bellevue, Wash., Breakfast Rotary Club on Feb. 5 and were posted online over the weekend. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

As far as Anthony Rizzo is concerned, Kevin Mather simply said the quiet part out loud.

Mather, the CEO and president of the Seattle Mariners, resigned Monday after video surfaced of a speech he gave to a Rotary Club this month in which he made insensitive comments about several current and former players.

He also spoke bluntly on a point of contention between teams and players when he said Seattle would likely keep top prospects Jarred Kelenic and Logan Gilbert in the minors at the start of the season to delay their right to file for free agency.

The players’ association has long complained about the practice. Cubs star Kris Bryant filed and lost a grievance against Chicago alleging the club intentionally manipulated his service time when it kept him in Triple-A for two weeks prior to his major league debut in 2015. Had Bryant been promoted one day earlier, he would have been eligible for free agency a year sooner.

Bryant and the union lost their grievance because it couldn’t prove the Cubs acted in bad faith.

“Being in this game, you know what (Mather) said is true to about 99.9%. It happens. It’s just not out there and it’s just not said,” said Rizzo, Bryant’s teammate with the Cubs. “There’s stories written on it. There’s teams that manipulate service time. There’s teams that do it all the time. … I’m happy it’s out there in the public now and people are seeing that this is the way it is.”

Detroit Tigers outfielder Robbie Grossman was direct in his reaction Monday.

“That’s a tough situation,” he said. “Hopefully the union will look into it.”

The players’ association said in a statement Monday that the video was “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,” the union said. “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.”

Mather said his comments were his own and did not reflect the strategy of the baseball leadership that makes decisions about player development for the Mariners.

The collective bargaining agreement between Major League Baseball and the union expires Dec. 1, raising the possibility of a work stoppage next spring. The average MLB salary dropped for an unprecedented third straight year in 2020, even before the shortened season caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

“I think that this year is gonna be another battle. I know there’ll be talks with the union and the league,” Rizzo said. “The game’s going in a good direction. It’d be a shame to derail it, but that’s a long time away and we’ve got a lot of negotiations to do from a union standpoint and from the league’s standpoint. I’m fully confident that we’ll get this thing right. But you just have to take it one day at a time.”

Mather’s speech to the Rotary Club went beyond his thoughts on the service time of Seattle’s prospects. He also made comments on players’ ability to speak English.

“I’m tired of paying his interpreter,” he said of former pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma, who recently rejoined the team as a special assignment coach.

New York Yankees right-hander Luis Severino, who is from the Dominican Republic, said it’s great if players can learn to speak more than one language, but it’s difficult.

“It’s not easy coming to a new country,” Severino said.

NEW ADDITIONS

Freddie Freeman isn’t reporting with the Atlanta Braves’ position players Tuesday after the birth of his twin sons.

Freeman and his wife Chelsea on Sunday used their Twitter accounts to announce the additions of twin sons. Their first son, Charlie, was born in 2016.

“I’ll be honest with you, he doesn’t need to be here,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “I’m kind of glad he’s doing what he’s doing right now.”

Snitker said Freeman will have to spend “a couple days” away from teammates after reporting, because of coronavirus protocols.

TROUT’S BURDEN

Los Angeles Angels star Mike Trout spoke candidly about the fact that after three MVP awards, he still hasn’t won a postseason game.

“It’s definitely weighed on me,” Trout said Monday before the Angels’ first full workout of spring training. “I hear it every year. The only way to change that is to get to the playoffs, no matter how that is.”

Trout turns 30 this summer. The Angels haven’t made the postseason since 2014, when they had the best record in the American League but were swept by Kansas City.

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More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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AP Baseball Writer Ronald Blum and AP Sports Writers Greg Beacham, Tim Booth, Charles Odum and Andrew Seligman contributed to this report.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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