The Mariners Don’t Need a Scapegoat. They Need a Reckoning

The villain has been vanquished. There is no work left to do now, only celebration. The one and only enemy is gone. Rest now, child. And enjoy Mariners baseball tomorrow.

That is the future the Seattle Mariners want. The fans and players have rallied together, and now the team desperately wants to rally around the fans and players. It’s about as useful as the online presence of a hamburger chain telling you that “together, we can end racism.” The team believes the best path forward for them is to ensure all your fire, all your negative energy, remains laser-focused on former team president Kevin Mather. And they want to do that by standing with you arm-in-arm, looking at the corpse of that vanquished foe, Our Common Enemy. Don’t let them do that when they as an organization haven’t earned it. To paraphrase a line from the film THE DARK KNIGHT, Mather is just a clown. We want the people who let the clown out of the box.

Many brilliant words have been said about Kevin Mather and the fallout at this point by many great writers. Pretty much all of these writers made it clear that Mather is not the final boss — he’s a loose-lipped henchman. The team would love nothing more than to put him firmly in the rearview, and Mariners fans’ anger along with him. Majority owner John Stanton told us, through official team channels, that the team is committed to doing better. They need to be held to that standard Stanton has set. If the team is allowed to attach all of this ill will to Mather, tie it to a balloon and watch it float away, then nothing will change. What Stanton doesn’t realize, or perhaps does realize but would never admit, is that change involves him being out of the picture.

To be clear, there are many good people working for the Seattle Mariners. But the team needs a reckoning from the top down. Don’t patronize us with talk of changing culture, when there’s no way you could really do that with the same people in place who are responsible for decades of failure. If the Mariners make an internal hire to replace Mather, and Stanton remains in his position, the message from the team is clear — it was just one guy. We pulled out the weed. You’re safe now. Even if that internal hire works out, and of course I would hope it does, that is the message it sends.

I started writing this after I saw a tweet from the official Mariners account on Tuesday night. Pitcher Marco Gonzales had put a quip in his Twitter bio referencing a negative comment Mather made about him, and it was pretty amusing. Props to Marco. The official team account then inserted themselves into the conversation with a show of support for Marco.

I’m not sure what they should’ve done differently, and I don’t even really fault the social media employee. They are in an absurdly difficult spot right now. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that something about it just felt…off.

Imagine this, for a moment, if you will: You and some friends see someone outside the group say or do something stupid. Ranging from mildly to majorly offensive. Something they should be embarrassed by. You and your friends proceed to poke fun at this person, perhaps publicly, for their avoidable error. The offending party then walks up to your group, puts their arms around you, and belly laughs. See? I am in on the joke, too, they tell you with their actions. “No. You don’t get to be in on the joke,” you tell them. “You ARE the joke.” You understand what they’re doing, in the moment. It’s a survival instinct. They need to regain some goodwill. But you have to let them know, this isn’t the way to do it. They need to do it the hard way. The long way.

Mariners, you don’t get to be in on the joke.

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