Seattle Mariners team president Kevin Mather is in all sorts of deserved hot water today after video emerged of a Zoom call with a local Rotary Club in which Mather openly admitted to manipulating players’ service time to keep their salaries down, criticized two foreign-born players for their bad English, and repeatedly called young catcher Luis Torrens “Luis Torres.” I’m sure lots of other people are already preparing to write about Mather — and how the Mariners already had to pay off two employees who’d filed sexual harassment complaints against Mather — I’d like to zero in on something else Mather blurted out when he was saying the quiet parts loud:
We had the choice, they called us and asked if we wanted to stay in Everett. Everett was a short season [club], they started in the middle of June and ended in September. The short season teams are now gone. They asked us if we wanted to stay in Everett, we quite frankly like the owner in Everett. We thought he was a good person, we like the location of Everett, we don’t particularly like the facility called Everett. We talked to the owner, we could’ve gone to Spokane, we could’ve gone to Vancouver, B.C., but the problem with Vancouver is that you run into visa problems, particularly when you bring kids from Venezuela and the Dominican and try to get them across the border for a three-game season.
This is, of course, a reference to MLB’s recent decimation of the minor leagues, something that was clearly in part meant as a way to increase owners’ leverage to shake down cities for new or upgraded stadiums. The Everett AquaSox got a reprieve, moving up from the short-season Northwest League to the freshly titled High-A West. The Spokane Indians (not a Cleveland affiliate, so it remains to be seen if they will get renamed eventually) and Vancouver Canadians survived to join High-A West as well, so it sounds like MLB determined which minor-league teams would survive, then gave the list to its team owners and asked them to pick dance partners. And good news for the AquaSox, because their owner was a “good person” and Vancouver is in another country where they don’t even speak English right, they were allowed to affiliate with the Mariners!
The new minor-league affiliates are all now on ten-year licenses, so presumably the AquaSox are safe through 2030, but that hasn’t stopped lots of other teams from levying threats to upgrade facilities or else, and Mather trash-talking Everett’s “facility” certainly isn’t a good sign. Everett’s stadium dates back to 1947 but got a $5 million renovation and expansion in 1998 courtesy of local taxpayers; it sure sounds like Mariners execs are planning to seek more public cash for an upgrade as the AquaSox’ 2030 license expiration grows nearer — though they’ll probably want to wait until after they have some less embarrassing people to do the asking.