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Mariners CEO Kevin Mather, lambasted after comments about strategy and players, resigns

Among the players Mariners president Kevin Mather, second from right, attacked in his controversial comments was career Seattle player Kyle Seager, second left, with whom he stood in August after Seager hit his 200th career home run.
Among the players Mariners president Kevin Mather, second from right, attacked in his controversial comments was career Seattle player Kyle Seager, second left, with whom he stood in August after Seager hit his 200th career home run.Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

Seattle Mariners CEO Kevin Mather resigned Monday, effective immediately, after video surfaced over the weekend of him expressing his views of the club’s organizational strategy and derogatory opinions about some players.

Mariners Chairman John Stanton said Mather’s comments were inappropriate and do not represent the views of the franchise. He will take on the roles of CEO and team president on an interim basis.

“There is no excuse for what was said, and I won’t try to make one,” Stanton said in a statement. “I offer my sincere apology on behalf of the club and my partners to our players and fans. We must be, and do, better.”

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Mather issued an apology late Sunday for his comments, which were made Feb. 5 to the Bellevue, Wash., Breakfast Rotary Club and were posted online over the weekend.

The video posted by the Rotary group was 46 minutes long and touched on areas of the Mariners’ organizational situation going into the 2021 season — many of which Seattle’s front office would rather not be made public.

“We have a lot of work to do to make amends, and that work is already underway,” Stanton said.

Mather’s departure seemed inevitable as the firestorm grew over his statements, including comments on the manipulation of service time for top prospects Jarred Kelenic and Logan Gilbert, and insensitive comments about international players’ understanding of English.

Mather said Kelenic and Gilbert would not start the season with the Mariners so the club could have longer control before the promising young stars reached free agency. He said another top prospect, Julio Rodriguez, didn’t have “tremendous” English and he complained about the cost associated with having an interpreter for Japanese pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma.

The Major League Baseball Players Association released a statement Monday expressing concern with the video, calling it “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.”

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Cubs star Anthony Rizzo, whose teammate Kris Bryant filed and lost a grievance alleging the club intentionally manipulated his service time in the way Mather spoke about, said he’s “happy it’s out there in the public now and people are seeing that this is the way it is.”

The video was another transgression during Mather’s tenure with the club, which began in 1996. Mather was promoted to CEO and team president in 2017, but a year later was trying to explain settlements made due to allegations of harassment by multiple female employees — among them the former executive assistants to Mather and then-Executive Vice President Bob Aylward — uncovered by The Seattle Times.

Gerrit Cole safe pick for Yankees on Opening Day

Yankees ace Gerrit Cole is, “safe to say,” the likely starter starter for manager Aaron Boone in the season opener against the Toronto Blue Jays on April 1.

Cole went 7-3 with a 2.84 ERA over 12 starts in last year’s abbreviated season, his first in pinstripes after signing a $324 million, nine-year contract as a free agent.

“I thought stuff was pretty good,” Boone said after Cole threw 26 pitches during a five-batter outing. “Command is not where it’s, obviously, going to be for Gerrit Cole. But just another good step for him. He used all of his pitches and I think did exactly what he needed to do today to take that next step in his progression to get ready for the season.”

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Gerrit Cole delivers a pitch during a spring training workout Monday in Tampa.
Gerrit Cole delivers a pitch during a spring training workout Monday in Tampa.Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

Right-hander Luis Severino, coming back from Tommy John surgery last February, expects to advance to throwing other pitches in addition to fastballs next week. He remains on target to return in June or July.

New York’s likely rotation to begin the year also includes new Yankees Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon, who are also returning from injuries. With several off days early in the season, Boone figures he will be a little creative with the rotation during the opening two weeks.

“Just being mindful of guys like Jameson and Kluber coming off a season where they didn’t pitch,” Boone said. “Just wanting to build guys up and feeling like we have a number of guys that are ready to be contributors. It will allow us to be strategic with how we line them up.”

Instagram post fuels speculation about Albert Pujols retiring after 2021

Deidre Pujols, wife of Albert Pujols, wrote a social-media salute to her husband on “the first day of the last season of one of the most remarkable careers in sports,” fueling speculation that the Cardinals and Angels legend will retire at the end of the 2021 season, his 21st in the majors.

“Nothing has changed from what we talked about last week,” the 41-year-old told ESPN Deportes. “I will make a decision about the future, depending on what happens this season.”

Pujols is entering the final season of the 10-year, $254 million contract he signed as a free agent in 2011, a shocking departure after Pujols — drafted by St. Louis in 1999 — had won two World Series and three NL MVP awards with the Cardinals from 2001-11. His tenure in Orange County has been underwhelming, Pujols hitting .257/.312/.448 and making just one All-Star appearance in nine years.

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“I have had the privilege to walk out 23 years of this baseball journey and it is with such a full heart that I speak a blessing over him as he finishes this good race,” Deidre Pujols wrote in part, including the hashtag #lastseason and declaring “already prepared for you is another journey full of goodness waiting on the other side.”

Deidre Pujols later edited the post, clarifying she was merely “trying to send my husband with blessings into [the] 2021 season.”

Mike Trout, still without a playoff win, seeks a fresh start with Angels

How long will the Los Angeles Angels’ three-time AL MVP Mike Trout have to wait for his first playoff victory?

“It’s definitely weighed on me,” Trout said Monday before the Angels’ first full workout of spring training in Tempe, Ariz. “I hear it every year. The only way to change that is to get to the playoffs, no matter how that is.”

Trout has been waiting for his answer to that query for nearly a full decade since his major league debut in July 2011. The big-budget Angels are tied with Detroit for the third-longest playoff drought in the majors at six seasons, trailing only Seattle and Philadelphia. Not even the expanded 2020 postseason helped Los Angeles, which finished 26-34 for its fifth straight losing campaign — the franchise’s worst stretch since the 1970s.

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Yet the eight-time All-Star, who turns 30 this summer and is signed through the 2030 season, remains outwardly optimistic about the Angels’ chances, even after owner Arte Moreno triggered yet another offseason overhaul by firing general manager Billy Eppler, Trout’s good friend.

“I’m trying to get to the playoffs,” Trout said. “We all are. If that’s not the mindset, you shouldn’t be here. We’ve got one goal. That’s to get to the playoffs and win a World Series here. It’s still the same goal. Obviously a lot of new faces this year. We kind of cleaned house a little bit.

“I’m looking for a fresh start, and you know, I’m getting older for sure, but I’m still young. I still feel great. It’s a lot different now this year. I’m a dad. I don’t know if that’s something different, but maybe it’ll change the luck.”

Fernando Tatís pushed for “statue contract” with Padres

In discussing options for a long-term deal between the San Diego Padres and electrifying young shortstop Fernando Tatís Jr., the options were year-to-year, a multi-year deal that bought out a year or two of Tatís’ free agency, or a contract in which Tatis was with the Padres for likely the rest of his career.

“In typical Tati fashion, his only real comment was, ‘Why not my whole career?’” general manager A.J. Preller said in announcing the two sides had finalized Tatis’ $340 million, 14-year contract, the longest in baseball history.

Fernando Tatis Jr. has agreed to a 14-year deal that will keep him with the Padres until he's 35 years old.
Fernando Tatis Jr. has agreed to a 14-year deal that will keep him with the Padres until he's 35 years old.Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

“He wanted to be one of those very unique players that plays his career in one spot,” Preller said. "He loves the franchise, he loves the city, he loves his teammates and he talked a lot about really wanting to get on the path of that statue contract."

As in, if the kid is as good as Hall of Famers Tony Gwynn and Trevor Hoffman were, there will be a statue of “El Niño” alongside those Padres greats in a grassy area just beyond Petco Park.

Tatís, 22, had been eligible for salary arbitration after this season and for free agency after the 2024 season. He has hit .301 with 39 home runs, 98 RBIs and 27 stolen bases in 143 games.

Trevor Rosenthal, Oakland finalize deal

Right-hander Trevor Rosenthal finalized an $11 million, one-year contract with the Oakland Athletics, providing manager Bob Melvin with a new reliable ninth-inning option after former closer Liam Hendriks’ departure in free agency. The 30-year-old Rosenthal went 1-0 with a 1.90 ERA with 11 saves over 23⅔ innings for the Kansas City Royals and San Diego Padres last season . . . Arizona agreed to a $2.25 million, one-year contract with reliever Tyler Clippard. The 36-year-old right-hander is a two-time All-Star and had a 2.77 ERA in 26 appearances with Minnesota last season . . . Washington confirmed an agreement with veteran reliever Jeremy Jeffress on a minor league contract. Jeffress, 33, had a 1.54 ERA in 22 appearances with the Cubs last summer and will earn $1.25 million plus potential incentives if he pitches in the majors for Washington, according to the Washington Post . . . Rizzo said he is hopeful about signing a long-term deal with the Cubs before his contract expires at the end of the season. “This city and everything I love about the city, I kind of wear on my sleeve,” he said. “And I still love it. I still love our team. I still love what we have going on here.” President of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said last week he would discuss long-term contracts with Rizzo, Bryant, and Javier Báez during spring training . . . NL MVP Freddie Freeman won’t report with the Atlanta Braves’ position players on Tuesday following the birth of his twin sons, which Freeman and his wife, Chelsea, announced Sunday. Due to coronavirus protocols, Freeman will have to spend “a couple days” away from his teammates after reporting, according to manager Brian Snitker. Also Monday, Atlanta claimed outfielder Phillip Ervin, 24, off waivers from the Chicago Cubs . . . Cleveland and Cincinnati could have as many as 10,000 fans at home games this season after Ohio. Gov. Mike DeWine said it’s likely professional sports teams could accommodate up to 30 percent capacity at their venues this spring.