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Seattle Mariners doing damage control with their players after Kevin Mather’s comments

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Seattle Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto and manager Scott Servais are doing damage control with players who were directly mentioned or referenced by former team president and CEO Kevin Mather in an online video that led to his resignation.

The message over the past two days to those affected has been: You have every right to be upset.

“We are very open with our players and urge them to be the same. And if they want to be angry, they should be, frankly. They should be insulted,” Dipoto said Tuesday. “But at the same time, they are collectively driven toward what we’re trying to do here as a team.”

The video posted over the weekend showed Mather expressing his views of the club’s organizational strategy and making controversial remarks about players to the Bellevue, Washington, Rotary Club on Feb. 5. He took insensitive shots at a former All-Star from Japan and a top prospect from the Dominican Republic for their English skills. He also admitted the team might be manipulating service time for some of its young players.

Mather apologized Sunday and then abruptly resigned the next day, but not before casting a pall over the organization as it began full squad workouts in Arizona.

Dipoto and Servais are both angry.

“I’m embarrassed that this is the way we’re viewed because for those of you who’ve been around me or Scott or this team, this is not how we’re wired,” Dipoto said. “It’s embarrassing to be categorized or deal with the stigma that we are now pinned with, and we have to shed it. It’s ours to bear and we now have to be accountable to that, and then find a way to grow beyond it.”

Mather’s most inflammatory comments were about the English skills of former All-Star pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma and top prospect Julio Rodriguez and drew the strongest responses from Dipoto and Servais.

Servais referenced his winter baseball experiences in the Dominican Republic and Venezuela and the Mariners’ season-opening trip to Japan two years ago.

“It’s an eye-opener. You really, really appreciate what foreign players have to go through. Not just communicating, but then trying to figure out how to play the game at the highest level,” Servais said. “So nobody has more appreciation for it than I do and it’s a subject I’m very sensitive to.”

Mather undermined strategy on the baseball side, admitting that the team was possibly manipulating service time for top prospects Jarred Kelenic and Logan Gilbert. Mather also divulged information about contract negotiations with Kelenic and pitcher James Paxton and called veteran Kyle Seager “overpaid.”

Mather drew the ire of the MLB Players Association by saying neither Kelenic nor Gilbert would be with the major league club on Opening Day as a way to keep club control for longer.

But Servais and Dipoto said that decisions on the roster have not been made and that the plans for Kelenic and Gilbert have been laid out and communicated to both.

“All of our players are aware of what their path is, what their development plan looks like, and we’re very direct in how we share it,” Dipoto said.

Servais said he met with several players directly mentioned by Mather.

“I’d say that the temperature was very hot with a number of guys that certainly their names were mentioned for a number of different reasons,” Servais said. “It wasn’t surprising at all. But I feel very good about this group and I am proud of the way they’ve handled things so far. We could talk about this all day long and our players will continue to handle things the right way.”

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A $245 million payroll?! Why the Los Angeles Dodgers are outspending every other MLB team by a mile

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THE LOS ANGELES DODGERS spent $100 million to renovate Dodger Stadium ahead of the 2020 season, an ambitious undertaking that modified most of the infrastructure in an effort to modernize baseball’s third-oldest ballpark.

“Irony of ironies,” Dodgers president and CEO Stan Kasten said. “After all these years of being the most beautiful stadium ever built to watch the game of baseball, we now also added 21st-century amenities. We have two acres of entertainment, and new food, and new history displays, and kids’ areas, and merchandise. Now we have elevators, and escalators, and connecting bridges — we now have all of that! We have a front door! You’ve seen pictures of it — it’s amazing!”

And it has all been just sitting there, untouched, for a year.

Kasten told CNBC in late October that a fan-less 2020 season led to revenue losses “north of $100 million” for the Dodgers, adding that it would take the franchise “years to catch up.” Three weeks later, the team followed a leaguewide trend in issuing organizationwide layoffs. Three months after that, they splurged on Trevor Bauer, brought back Justin Turner and raised a payroll that now is approaching a whopping $245 million, according to Cot’s Contracts, 26% higher than that of the second-place New York Yankees and the only one on pace to exceed baseball’s luxury-tax threshold.

The Dodgers’ payroll is high, but manageable, given their flexibility to creep back under that threshold in a year or two. Their roster is loaded with stars, but their abundance of young talent makes it seem as if the Dodgers’ run of excellence — consisting of eight consecutive division titles, a 2020 World Series championship and a 2021 PECOTA projection of 104 wins, the highest known number that system has ever produced — might never end. They have built a baseball utopia, evolving into the type of juggernaut their sport rarely produces. While most of their competition reels from the revenue losses of the coronavirus pandemic, which kept fans away from ballparks for an entire season, the Dodgers are doubling down.

How?

As one rival executive noted: “I think it’s important to go back to the beginning.”

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Who is 2021 MLB draft’s No. 1 pitching prospect? Scouting Vanderbilt’s Jack Leiter and Kumar Rocker

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In last week’s early 2021 MLB draft rankings, Vanderbilt right-handers Jack Leiter and Kumar Rocker were second and third, respectively, on the list — and the top two pitching prospects on our board.

I had a chance to see the two pitch back-to-back in both ends of a doubleheader on Sunday in Nashville against Georgia State, so here’s a deep dive on both prospects and what could cause their stock to rise (or fall) heading into the 2021 MLB draft starting July 11 in Atlanta.

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Cincinnati Reds OF Shogo Akiyama returns to camp after wife seriously injured

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GOODYEAR, Ariz. — – Cincinnati Reds outfielder Shogo Akiyama returned to spring training after a week away to be with his wife, who was seriously injured when a tree fell on her in a park in Ohio.

Akaya Akiyama was hospitalized after being injured by the tree last week while she was walking in Sharon Woods in Cincinnati. Her husband said Thursday that her condition is improving.

“I was in the hospital with her, I was spending time with [the] kids,” the 32-year-old Akiyama said through a translator at the team’s spring training complex in Goodyear, Arizona. “I think it was the inevitable time that I needed with this week away.”

Manager David Bell said Akiyama won’t be in the lineup for a spring training game until Sunday.

The Reds signed the Japanese player to a three-year, $21 million contract before the 2020 season. He played in 54 games last year, hitting .245.

“That’s bigger than baseball,” Reds pitcher Lucas Sims said. “Being able to see him today, it made us all happy and glad to know that she’s doing all right. Hopefully, everything gets back to normal.”

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