Seattle Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto and director of player development Andy McKay on Thursday strongly denied allegations from the team’s former high performance director that they disparaged Latino players.
Answering questions about the allegations for the first time since they surfaced in November, Dipoto and McKay reiterated the team’s stance that Lorena Martin is fabricating claims against members of the front office. Dipoto said he’s embarrassed by what has happened. He denied Martin’s claims while taking responsibility for hiring her.
Major League Baseball is investigating the accusations, which included a post on social media that stated Dipoto, McKay and manager Scott Servais had called Latino players “lazy, dumb and stupid.”
“I hired her. At the end of the day we believe that, I guess, justice will prevail. There is an ongoing investigation I’m not going to get into,” Dipoto said. “I’ve been at this for 30 years, I know a lot of people in the game. I’m not a sexist, nor am I a racist. The accusations that have been made are untrue. I believe that will wash out as this unfolds. I can only speak for myself. The responsibility for this development of the program and hiring Dr. Martin to come here, it’s on me. I take full responsibility for it.”
Martin was on the job for only one season in Seattle, hired away from the Los Angeles Lakers with much fanfare by Dipoto. She was let go after the 2018 season and has filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the franchise.
Martin alleges she went to team owners John Stanton and Buck Ferguson and CEO Kevin Mather as far back as March to complain about alleged discriminatory treatment. Her lawsuit also said several Latino players complained to Martin about feeling excluded and that Dipoto took midseason steps last year to undermine the progress and mental state of star pitcher Felix Hernandez.
Martin’s lawsuit countered claims by the team that Martin did not approach anybody with complaints of racial and gender discrimination before she made her initial accusatory posts on social media.
The team’s reasons for seeking Martin’s termination were revealed last month in a filing in King County Superior Court in response to Martin’s lawsuit. The club’s response was an eight-page, weeks-old letter originally filed in an attempt to have her situation settled in private arbitration, but it became public after it was attached to a motion filed by Martin’s attorney.
The Mariners say unnamed employees had warned Dipoto last March that Martin was ignoring medical advice on treatment of injured players and that she was misrepresenting herself “as a medical doctor to other MLB teams’ staff.”
The team also said it had received “overwhelming and accumulating” employee complaints about Martin.
McKay said he had not addressed the allegations publicly until being asked about them Thursday.
“It’s a difficult situation obviously and one that requires thought. It requires reflection. But in terms of the people I work with on a daily basis, the support has been unanimous and 100 percent positive. The accusations are serious but they are completely false. I never said anything like that. I’ve never thought that, I’ve never felt it. It didn’t happen,” McKay said.
McKay added that he hasn’t been approached by any Latino players in the Mariners’ minor-league organization seeking explanations for Martin’s claims and his denials.
“I know who I am. I know what I believe. I know what I did not say. I think the overwhelming number of people around me feel the exact same way,” McKay said. “I would have no issues bringing it up and addressing it with somebody if they think it would help or felt uncomfortable, or if I sensed they were uncomfortable. I would be proactive and bring it up, but it just hasn’t occurred to this point.”
NOTES: Seattle is expected to finalize a one-year contract with reliever Hunter Strickland, possibly as early as Friday. Dipoto did not confirm reports of an agreement between the sides, but did say he was “very close” to adding a reliever to the pitching staff. Strickland was not tendered a contract by San Francisco after the 2018 season. He was 3-5 with a 3.97 ERA and 14 saves in 49 games last season. … Relievers Sam Tuivailala (Achilles tendon surgery) and Anthony Swarzak (shoulder) are the only players expected to be delayed when pitchers and catchers report to spring training on Feb. 11. The Mariners believe Swarzak will still be ready for the start of the regular season. Tuivailala likely won’t be ready until June.