Opinion: The pain of a Mariners fan

Mitchell Roland, Columnist

While it’s a tradition for the Seattle Mariners to disappoint their fanbase, they managed to do so in record time this year and before their season even started.

Over the weekend, a 46-minute video of the Mariners President Kevin Mather speaking to the Bellevue Rotary Club was uploaded to YouTube. While he later apologized for his remarks, by early Monday afternoon, Mather resigned from his position while players across the league, the players association, the league office and national media members took turns criticizing the team.

During his speech, Mather managed to anger past Mariners, current team members and the future of the organization. He made racist remarks about players. He bragged about charging outrageous prices for parking at the stadium. He shared intimate details about contract negotiations with players critical to the team’s future success.

Mather complained about paying $75,000 for a translator for Mariners pitcher and fan-favorite Hisashi Iwakuma.

“We just rehired Iwakuma, he was a pitcher with us for a number of years. Wonderful human being, his English was terrible,” Mather said.

He said Julio Rodriguez, who is 20 years old and was born in the Dominican Republic, is “loud” and that his “English is not tremendous.” Rodriguez has gone to great lengths to learn English, including insisting on doing interviews in his second language and hosting a web series last season.

He called the Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager, who has been one of the only bright spots on several bleak teams, overpaid. He shared details about contract negotiations with top prospect Jarred Kelenic and reigning gold glove winner Evan White, two players the Mariners are counting on to help lead them to the playoffs.

He admitted to service time manipulation for several key players. In baseball, if you keep a player in the minor leagues for the first couple of weeks of a season, you can control his rights for seven years instead of six. It’s a league-wide problem that which while common knowledge, no one is stupid enough to admit in public. Mather did, which could potentially open the Mariners up to a grievance from the MLB players association.

While there are so many more disappointing and upsetting remarks in his speech, the troubling thing is the comments are a part of the concerning pattern for the organization.

The Mariners paid multiple women financial settlements for allegations against Mather and other team employees of harassment in the workplace in 2009 and 2010.

Former High Performance Director Dr. Lorena Martin accused the team of racism and sexual discrimination after she was fired from the team. In a lawsuit, she alleged General Manager Jerry Dipoto, Manager Scott Servais and Director of Player Development say that Latinos are “lazy, dumb and stupid.” All three denied the claim, and Martin’s lawsuit was later settled.

There’s a saying in sports that winning solves everything. Unfortunately for the Mariners, they aren’t very good at that.

The Mariners have missed the playoffs for the past 20 years, which is the longest active playoff drought in North American sports. The last time they made the playoffs, I was four years old.

Since they aren’t expected to field a competitive team this year or possibly next, next year there could be 21-year-old fans who were not alive the last time the Mariners made the playoffs. They are the only MLB team to never play in a world series. They have only made the playoffs three times in their history.

I have a running joke with a friend where we text before the season that it’s going to be the year the Mariners make the playoffs. The Mariners are quite literally a punchline.

Anecdotally, the team always has unique ways of alienating fans. With no fans allowed in the ballpark, last summer two different security guards shooed me away from outside of T-Mobile park, where the Mariners were practicing. Contrast this with the Philadelphia Phillies, whose owner signed autographs and took photos with fans watching a Sunday night baseball game from the gates beyond centerfield of their ballpark.

The Mariners have even squashed my other passions in life. Growing up, the Seattle Sonics were my favorite team. So, when a billionaire wanted to privately finance an arena just south of the Mariners ballpark and bring an NBA team to Seattle, I was ecstatic. The Mariners opposed the plan.

“If you own a house and somebody wants to build a big, ugly house right at the end of your driveway, that frankly blocks your driveway, you’ve got a right to express your opinion,” Mariners CEO John Stanton said at the time.

In the TV show Malcolm in the Middle, Dewey said at one point “I expect nothing, and I’m still let down.” In all honesty, there is no better way of describing what is like to be a fan of the Seattle Mariners.