Fool Me Once, Shame on You. Fool Me — Can’t Get Fooled Again

John Stanton and Kevin Mather discuss how they think you’re a real bozo. (Dean Rutz/ The Seattle Times)

The Seattle Mariners want you to believe that they want to win. You’ve seen the highlights, haven’t you? 1995? 2001? Those seasons really happened. You can’t deny that. That’s how you can trust them, when they tell you they want to win. The Seattle Mariners want you to believe that they hate to lose. You should believe them because they’ve told you. Now you know that the team hasn’t made the postseason in 20 years, the longest drought in American professional sports, but they have gotten close a few times. Real close. Besides, they told you. They hate to lose.

The Seattle Mariners don’t mind spending money on premier talent in order to build a roster that can compete for a championship. Didn’t you see all that money they threw at Robinson Cano? $100M for Kyle Seager? You could argue that a couple more good free agent signings would have taken the 2014-2018 team to the next level, (the postseason that they so desperately want to get to) but wasn’t all that money they had tied up in the roster enough? They’ve spent money before. Don’t worry, they’ll do it again when the time is right. Might the time be right when a talented young group is on the verge of reaching the Major League roster, the free agent market is in a historic downswing, and a few aggressive moves would take the team from afterthought to legitimate contender? No, you idiot. But don’t worry. When the time is right, they’ll spend.

The Seattle Mariners want you to believe that they have a great workplace culture that values its employees and its customers. Why should you believe this, when Kevin Mather remained employed after credible sexual harassment allegations, when the front office sent Dr. Lorena Martin packing as stories of racial discrimination and a toxic work environment came to light, when relationships soured with the most beloved Mariner of the past two decades, and when Kevin Mather said a bunch of terrible things out loud to the Bellevue Breakfast Rotary Club? Because they told you, dummy. Now whether you choose to believe these things the Mariners want you to believe, that’s up to you. But they do so desperately want you to believe them.

The Mariners deserve credit for what they’ve done as a franchise, and they’ve done it at a level that few other Major League teams can match. They have managed to repeatedly lay a rake down on the ground directly in front of their own feet, give it a good stomp, and then get back up to do it all over again. Truly, an amazing feat from an organization with a long list of them.

After the 2018 season, the Mariners front office informed the fans that it was time for a “step back.” Not a rebuild. Just a quick, cute lil’ step back, a teensy weensy period of non-competitiveness in order to set the team up for sustained success moving forward. Dipoto and Co. successfully dumped a ton of payroll, acquired a decent collection of prospects, and boldly declared that the team would begin to compete for playoff spots again in the year 2021. Here we are, in 2021. The Mariners have one of the consensus best farms in MLB. The future is bright. This is the year it begins. They’ll start spending now. There are so many possibilities in the 2021 free agent market; so many ways for a team that loves to win to make that happen. Not so fast, said John Stanton. If the 2021 Mariners manage to trend in the right direction enough to please him, then Stanton will let the cash flow going into 2022. Don’t worry, M’s fans. You can believe him.

Kevin Mather has been with the Mariners since 1996. In 2009-2010, he was the subject of workplace harassment complaints due to both verbal and physical behavior. The team managed to sweep it under the rug for a time, with settlements. Mather later got promoted to team president and CEO. There’s not a culture problem here, though. In fact, majority owner John Stanton, who has been with the team since 2000, doesn’t even understand why this would bother you at all. It was so long ago.

As for the allegations against team executives, Stanton said he didn’t see why possible issues almost a decade ago would reflect on the current organization. And he said the team takes seriously any allegation that arises.

Geoff Baker, Seattle Times

Kevin Mather said he learned from his mistakes, and John Stanton says the team has moved on to better things. It’s ok. You can believe them.

Dr. Lorena Martin joined the organization in 2017, and about a year later, was terminated. This came shortly after she raised accusations of racial discrimination against Jerry Dipoto, Scott Servais, and director of player development Andy McKay. The team, of course, adamantly denies these allegations. It is possible they’re false. It is also possible they are true. It is possible that Jerry Dipoto is a shining light in a dark place, as it relates to that workplace culture. It is also possible he’s just as much a part of that culture as the rest of them. Dipoto has been with the Mariners for significantly less time than Stanton and Mather, and it wouldn’t be fair to hold him responsible for all of their shortcomings. But what is fair, is to ask the question of how Jerry fits into all of this, having worked for the Mariners since 2015, and the accusations from Dr. Martin mean we can’t just brush that question aside. But the team told you those accusations were false — and you can believe them.

On February 5th, Kevin Mather made the decision to publicly pants himself and bring national attention to his organization in the most embarrassing way possible. I’m sure he thought that the video of his verbal diarrhea in front of the Bellevue Breakfast Rotary Club would never make it to you and me, but that’s just it — he thinks you’re too stupid. They all do. Too stupid to catch them in the lies and nonsense. Too stupid to grasp the world at their level. Mather made a few things clear on Sunday: He doesn’t like poor people, he doesn’t like losing money on pointless things like employee parking, he’s not particularly fond of non-English speakers, and once again, he thinks you’re stupid. If he didn’t, he wouldn’t brazenly discuss manipulating players’ service time and attempting to trap them in lowball contracts on a platform that everyone can (and did) see. He issued an apology. He said his words “do not reflect the views and strategy of the Mariners baseball leadership.” How can that be possible, when he is the Mariners baseball leadership? When we’ve all witnessed everything outlined above? It’s ok. You can believe him.

There may be some type of consequence for Kevin Mather, sure. But ultimately, the franchise thinks they can get you to forget about this. Not just Mather, but all of it. They’re betting that once you start seeing sun-kissed images of the players you love in their familiar teal down at the training facility in Peoria, and hearing the catcher’s mitt snap and bat crack you’re so starved for, that all of this will begin to fade from your memory like a fuzzy dream. And the scary part is, they’re probably right.

Yes, you can believe the Mariners. But will you? They’ve fooled us all before, so don’t beat yourself up about that. Just don’t let them fool you again.

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