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

Allan Henry-USA TODAY Sports
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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.

Swanson, Olson go deep vs Scherzer, Braves take NL East lead

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Todd Kirkland/Getty Images
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ATLANTA — Dansby Swanson and Matt Olson homered off Max Scherzer, lifting the Atlanta Braves to a crucial 4-2 victory Saturday night over the New York Mets and a one-game lead in the NL East.

The defending World Series champions beat aces Jacob deGrom and Scherzer on consecutive nights to take their biggest lead of the season in the division. New York, which held a 10 1/2-game cushion on June 1, faces its biggest deficit of the year with four games remaining.

Atlanta will try for a three-game sweep Sunday night, with the winner earning the season-series tiebreaker between the teams. Even though both teams are headed to the postseason, that’s important because the NL East champion gets a first-round bye in the playoffs.

Swanson’s 24th homer, a go-ahead, two-run shot in the fifth inning, touched off a frenzy among the sold-out crowd at Truist Park, the ball sailing a few rows up into the seats in left-center to make it 3-2. Olson hit his 32nd homer in the sixth, a solo shot into Chop House seats in right to put Atlanta up 4-2.

Austin Riley led off the fourth with a double and scored on Olson’s single to make it 1-all.

Kyle Wright (21-5) gave up two runs and seven hits with one walk and three strikeouts in five innings as he won his eighth straight decision. The Braves have won 16 of his last 17 starts.

New York went up 2-1 in the fifth when Pete Alonso, Francisco Lindor and Jeff McNeil hit consecutive two-out singles.

The Mets led 1-0 in the first when Brandon Nimmo singled, advanced on a walk and a single and scored on Eduardo Escobar‘s groundout. Wright, who threw 30 pitches in the first, stranded two runners in scoring position to prevent further damage.

Scherzer (11-5) allowed a first-inning single to Riley and a third-inning infield single to Ronald Acuna Jr., who advanced to third on a fielding error by Lindor at shortstop but was stranded when Michael Harris II lined out to center. Scherzer patted his glove and pumped his fist as he walked off the mound.

Scherzer was charged with nine hits and four runs with no walks and four strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings as the Mets were knocked out of first place for only the third day all season.

The Braves have won five of the last six against New York to tie the season series 9-all, outscoring the Mets 37-16 over that stretch.

Atlanta’s bullpen, which posted a 1.70 ERA in September, got a perfect inning from Dylan Lee in the sixth. Jesse Chavez faced four batters in the seventh, Raisel Iglesias faced the minimum in the eighth and closer Kenley Jansen pitched a perfect ninth for his NL-leading 39th save in 46 chances.

Since the Braves were a season low-tying four games under .500 at 23-27 after play on May 31, they have gone 76-32, tying the Los Angeles Dodgers for the best record in the majors over that span. They were a season-worst 10 1/2 games behind the first-place Mets on June 1.

Wright, the only 20-game winner in baseball this season, hasn’t officially become the first Braves pitcher to lead the league in wins outright since Russ Ortiz had 21 in 2003, but the Dodgers’ Julio Urias has 17 and can’t reach 20 before the regular season ends.

Wright will become the first Braves pitcher since Hall of Famer Tom Glavine in 2000 to lead the majors in wins. Houston ace Justin Verlander also has 17.

Wright began the game 1-4 with a 6.75 ERA in six career starts and one relief appearance against the Mets.

The Braves, who got homers from Riley, Olson and Swanson off deGrom on Friday, lead the NL with 240 homers.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Mets: All-Star RF Starling Marte (right middle finger fracture) has yet to begin swinging or throwing. Manager Buck Showalter said Marte is experiencing less pain but not enough to take the next step in his recovery. Marte has been sidelined since Sept. 7.

Braves: RHP Spencer Strider still has not thrown as he gets treatment on a sore left oblique. Manager Brian Snitker said there is no timetable for the rookie’s return. Strider has been sidelined since Sept. 21.

NICE GLOVE

Harris ran back and jumped to catch Nimmo’s fly against the wall in center field for the first out of the third.

UP NEXT

Mets RHP Chris Bassitt (15-8, 3.27 ERA) will face RHP Charlie Morton (9-6, 4.29) as the teams conclude a three-game series.