There are many things about this I think merit some words, and here they are in no particular order or rank:
1) It’s important to note that, while baseball and society itself are slowly, painfully, exhaustively lurching towards a place where women do not have to lift twice as much as men and be told it’s half as much to be seen as equal, women do not go work in baseball for the money or benefits. NO ONE goes into baseball for these things, particularly the women who by the nature of their very gender are guaranteed to make less than their male counterparts.
There are many, many jobs a woman could do outside of work in a baseball office, and make as much or more, and have a standard of living as good, or higher. They all come to it for the same reason as men: They really like baseball, and they want to be around it. Because they really like baseball, they endure an awful lot of bullshit from guys at work, online, at the ballpark, and do it all for, again, far less than their skills are generally worth in the marketplace.
2) Think, for one goddamn minute, about this lady forced to work on Bob Aylward’s computer. That first, Aylward used his computer at work to relentlessly watch porn, and then felt no compunction or hesitancy to ask/request/order a female employee to fix his frozen computer, at least in part because, again, of the porn that Aylward watched at work. That the EMPLOYEE was the person overcome with shock and embarrassment at the way this played out reveals the comic imbalance of workplace dynamics, not only with the Mariners at that time, but in huge swaths of the American workplace.
It also says that Bob Aylward is a bumbling asshole.
3) It’s about power, and it’s always been about power, and it will always be about power. Power’s very nature requires a subjugated, a lesser, a dominated. It demands castes and roles, greaters and lessers, mores and betters. It confuses obedience for peace, quiet for calm, and compliance with contentedness. It forces a structure in which a man can demand a lady who has brought him alcohol not only kiss him, but feel special, honored even, by the “request.”
Bob Aylward, Chuck Armstrong, and Kevin Mather (the latter of whom is currently, right now, the Mariners Chief Executive Officer), like so many before them, were able to settle their way out of any serious repercussions for their idiocy, through company-wide policy updates and sensitivity training. The team took the punishment for their actions, and diluted it into the company water supply, so that everyone can share it together. Call it “always striving to improve,” which is exactly what they did.
They are able to do this because they are men, and they are rich. Much of the horrors that surround our current times, when traced back to their root cause, stop at the Bugatti-crashing, mortgage stock company-shorting, horndog-obsessed dudes that comprise the vast portion of our society’s check writing and decision making class. Make no mistake, these are the men that run your beloved baseball team. They are largely inseparable from the smug asshole that owns whatever team(s) you hate the most. This is the truth, and anyone who says otherwise is a dangerous combination of stupid and/or on the company dollar.
4) “Winning cures all,” they say. The Mariners, through a combination of good play and good fortune are 61-41. The fans have noticed. In twelve home games this month attendance has fallen below thirty-thousand only once, and never below twenty-five. The buzz around the team and franchise is unlike anything seen in at least a decade, and in all honesty probably much longer.
This story, both because Geoff Baker’s name is vaguely repellent to the fanbase, and due to its timing, is going to be swept largely under the rug. If the Mariners were, say, 49-53, or if this story broke about the leadership of, say, the Rangers, many of the voices telling you this is all water under the bridge wouldn’t be able to speak because they’d have their mouths so full of fresh meat.
The team’s public responses to this story have been, largely, dismissive and unconcerned. They know the team’s record, and they know its accompanying reality. No one cares when you win baseball games.
Winning obscures all, and does nothing more.
5) When and how three Mariner executives sexually harassed women is very important, and also largely irrelevant. I hate this story, and reading the Times’ account of the events that took place is extremely difficult to take in. This difficulty is the important part. The pain of exacting detail should, perhaps must be experienced to render something even approaching proper response. For many, many, many people, they won’t necessarily need that, because the story these women have to tell is all too familiar to their own.
The particulars do not matter in the sense that, when we step back we can see what this is: Three empowered, wealthy men preyed on vulnerable women, and while these women reached monetary compensation and the Mariners did respond, through seminars and workshops, these three men largely escaped any personal punishment. Aylward continues to serve on the board of ROOT, Armstrong was allowed to maintain his position for years until retirement, and Mather has been promoted, occupying what is probably the most powerful position in the organization. At the time of this article’s publication, there appears no serious movement towards changing Mather’s role with the team.
6) I don’t know what the proper justice is for this. I don’t know, yet, how turning on a news conference and seeing Kevin Mather speak in front of a compass rose is going to effect my Mariner fandom. The mere thought of worrying about how this news changes how I feel about a baseball team seems appallingly small and trite in context. It has always been those things though, and the decision to push them aside and indulge in the silly theater and drama of the game always a conscious one.
I have loved the Mariners, and baseball, all my life. I don’t know the breaking point. Maybe it’s this, maybe it’s a long ways past this. I just can’t stop thinking about the first day these women came to Safeco Field, the thrill of starting a new position in a highly competitive field, and how that was ruined by the libido of men who have never thought about these women, probably before or since. That struggle is mine. Each fan will have their own. All of them are trivial in comparison to what these three women had to endure.
7) The Mariners as an organization have been largely defined by failure. To their credit, the vast majority of that failure has been kept on the field, which at the end of the day is the most trivial part of this whole operation. This story is a failure not of the scoreboard, but of their people, and their process. That’s the important part, and that makes this story an important failure.
These women deserved better. It’s on us to demand better, and to be skeptical of what people in power say, even those on our beloved baseball team. Do better, Mariners.