By Shannon Drayer
In his first meeting with a small group of Seattle media as president of the Mariners, Kevin Mather at times was very candid. He admitted that the choice to try to rebuild while staying competitive in 2003 and 2004 was a mistake. While expressing confidence in a number of current young Mariners players, he said that it probably took them a year or two longer than they thought it would for them to progress. He also said that he was "not a baseball guy."
"Jack Zduriencik is in charge of the baseball department," he said. "I'm going to ask a lot of questions, I'm going to make sure he has considered all up down, left right and ask his people because he has good people, but on the other side I am going to say, how can we help you? And I am going to tell him winning helps us. All boats rise if you help us. I am just here to support."
Mather said that it was his responsibility as president to provide resources and coordinate the business side and the baseball side. Zduriencik made it clear in the pre spring training press conference that he would like to still add to the club. He told Mather that he needed the flexibility to have options at this point of the game. Mather told him he has that right now and he could have more in the years to come.
Traditionally the Mariners have gone year to year with the payroll budget. Mather is lobbying for what he called a three-year rolling, working plan. Such a plan would enable a general manager to reach for additional funds when needed or to save for the future in a year where the free agent market isn't strong.
There is not a lot left to be had on the free agent market but there are players that could help and there could be more available through trade. Mather sees the club as close to being where they want to be and like others in the organization pointed to the young talent as the key to success.
"I feel bad for Chuck but I am kind of stepping into an opportunity," he said. "We think we are very close. Ackley, Zunino, Smoak, Saunders, Walker, Paxton, if these guys are above Major League average players, and it has taken a year longer than we thought, maybe two years, but if they are above average Major League players like we think they are, we are going to have a long run of very, very good baseball teams."
Mather feels it is time to win. He hears it everywhere he goes and admits that it is hard to hear the questions and comments at every turn. As hard as it is for him, he knows it is for the fans as well and said that they have been treating them a lot better than they deserve.
"Its partly the promotions, the marketing , Safeco Field. But they have been a pretty loyal bunch and it is time we start put a winning product on the field. We're close," he said.
There is a good chance the fans will have an opportunity to interact with Mather. It is something he welcomes.
"I'm going to be out. I am going to wander. I want to respond to what they say," he said. "If we win, the rest of it gets a lot easier but we have to focus on the fans."
Mather hits the ground running as president of the Mariners. He has worked closely with Chuck Armstrong, Howard Lincoln and the executive vice presidents for years. He has relationships outside of the organization as well having participated in the MLB owners meetings since 1993. There will be some restructuring at some point to re-assign some if not all of his duties as executive vice president of finance and ballpark operations but for now he will keep those responsibilities.
One final note from Safeco Field, Lincoln further defined Bob Aylward's new role as chairman of the board of directors of ROOT Sports NW. The board is made up of six members, four of which are from the Mariners.
"He will be in charge of that regional sports network which is absolutely critical to the future success of the Mariners," Lincoln said. "This was a very significant investment by our club and it gives us great opportunities in the future. We certainly want to make ROOT Sports Northwest the regional sports network in this area."