This past weekend, longtime Seattle Mariners executive Kevin Mather found himself in trouble when it was revealed that earlier in the month he made comments during a “Breakfast Rotary Club” were somewhat less than becoming for a Baseball executive. Some of the lowlights were as follows:
- He referenced having to pay a translator 75’000$ a year and complained about how unnecessary it was and implied that foreign born players had better English skills than they lead on.
- He complained about young superstar Julio Rodriguez and slammed him for not being proficient enough in the English language. Yes, it is very counterintuitive considering the previous point. Rodriguez is a Dominican born player.
- Mather admitted to service time manipulation.
I remember in my youth, my parents drilled home the idea to always speak as though a microphone was on. Certainly, when they said that they never imagined that I would be hosting a podcast about sports where we made fun of the sports media construct and made several profane jokes in a 45-75 minute window. Podcasts didn’t exist, sports media was in its infancy and my parents did not allow for profanity in the household. What they meant by that concept was to always speak as though people were listening and never to say anything you didn’t want others to hear.
This is a principal that has guided my life. It not only had an impact on how I present myself in public but it inherently affected how I thought. I’ve always looked for angles in stories that weren’t as well documented or explored because if I’m saying something and people are listening then my words must be worth listening to. I’ve always considered myself to be humorous but understood the power that words wield. This is why when I see people crying all over the internet to protect someone when they’ve spoken out of turn to be bizarre.
In some cases people have such immense talent that replacing them is difficult. An example of this is pro athletes. Tampa Bay Buccaneer receiver Antonio Brown is a great example of this. Like it or not AB has gotten a ton of chances. If you saw his in/out/in route in the Super Bowl (sorry in the Big Game; we want to avoid litigation), then you know that the reason he keeps getting chances is that he’s incredibly talented.
I would argue that while executives are successful, they aren’t usually uniquely talented. In the case of Kevin Mather, he also has had a history of sexual harassment claims against him. He is also the executive whose job it is to speak to the public (as evidenced by his involvement in the Rotary club chat). In that chat he made comments that were inappropriate, and he made comments about the handling of player contracts that, while expected, are generally considered to be a bad faith practice (keeping players in the minors past the point that they’re ready to contribute so that the team can control their destiny through their primes).
The comments section for articles about this are littered with versions of people telling others what they shouldn’t be offended, that people are too sensitive and that Mather shouldn’t have been fired for this. Let’s take for granted that the people making such assertions don’t hate women and haven’t done the 12 seconds of research it takes to reveal that Mather should have been fired long ago for his transgressions against women. What happened here indicates that he simply isn’t good at his job. Given that there are only 30 executive jobs in all of baseball, these jobs are highly coveted by some of the most talented people in the world. It’s also a job that often, as is the case with Mather, allows for the executive to own a piece of the team thus making the job even more interesting.
Now, I’m sure that getting to that level requires talent. I would say that very few would think that it takes as much talent to be the CEO of a baseball team than a team’s Ace, yet there are the same amount of positions, in each category in major league baseball. What we saw from Mather, in my own estimation, which obliges no one to agree, is that he made claims that were idiotic, the complaint of having to pay an employee 75’000$ when the company’s payroll is in the hundreds of millions is short sighted. These interpreters also help foreing born players adapt to living in a part of the world that is very different from their own (if you’re uncertain about how hard that can be I suggest you do some reading on the situation surrounding former major leaguer Hideki Irabu). Furthermore, Mather insulted the team’s top prospect. Then, as the team is entering a period of collective bargaining where everyone in the know is suggesting that there will be a work stoppage because of how far apart the two sides are. You can disagree with me that he verbalized thoughts that were insensitive; you cannot provide an argument that he is good at his job as a public figure.
There are those that may say, well, he will be difficult to replace. The fact of the matter is that no one outside of Seattle knew that Mather was the CEO and that the team was no longer run by a plumber who is constantly saving a princess through a labyrinth of castles. The disparity between players and executives only grows further when situations like this happen for the simple reason that when players do not perform they are cut, optioned to the minors, waived, or traded. Instead Kevin Mather, per the team’s public press releases, was entitled to resign.
This week, as a Hot Sauce Sports interview special we talked to ex Expos and Marlins executive VP David Samson about Mather’s resignation and he agreed that Kevin Mather did not resign. The long standing Seattle Mariners CEO was fired (or released, or optioned to unemployment, or whatever you prefer). The team likely agreed to pay out a small percentage remaining on his contract and probably bought out his shares. The reason they did that is that MAther doesn’t have to have nasty stuff. His changeup doesn’t need to be located low and away and he doesn’t need to blow you away with 97 plus. All he had to do was make money for the team (for which the players have a greater role in the first place), and not to embarrass the organization. Through Mather’s lack of humanity and his absolute incompetence he did not perform.