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Kevin Mather New Mariners COO

Mather has played a large role in keeping Safeco up to date
Kevin Mather will replace Chuck Armstrong as Mariners Chief Operating Officer (COO) on February 1. Mather is an 18-year veteran of the M's leadership, most recently overseeing finance and ballpark operations (in other words, making sure Safeco Field stays afloat). For now, Mather assumes the COO role without relinquishing other duties, though the COO role is slightly diminished because Bob Aylward will be taking over as chairman of NW Sports Net (formerly ROOT Sports), which was also one of Armstrong's duties once the M's purchased ROOT Sports.

Mather is an odd subject to write about because his promotion is obviously significant Mariners news...but how in the world do you say something educated about a role so abstract and removed from the field of play?

Shannon Drayer has the best quotes I've found so far from Mather, along with helpful details about what his job will and won't be. I am encouraged, though words are not actions.

Two things Mather mentioned in his first press conference caught my attention. First of all, his vision for COO is a "supporter" for baseball operations. He knows he is not a baseball man, but understands that baseball operations take financial support. Mather's background is in finances, and the accounts I've read suggest he is quite good with money. The vision Mather provides is hardly groundbreaking, but might be more hands off than Chuck Armstrong has been characterized. Now, whether Armstrong meddled as much as some say he did, and Mather is more hands-off with baseball decisions, remains to be seen. I believe the organization would be best off if Mather makes sure that the entire baseball operations staff works together on baseball decisions, but also works with complete autonomy from other branches of the franchise. The baseball operations depend on the resources that the organization provides, but that doesn't mean other should have direct influence on how the baseball operations resources are used.

The second, more concrete, thing that Mather suggested is he will lobby for a three-year budget structure. This could revolutionize the way the Mariners operate and is long overdue. Unfortunately, it also might be too late for this way of thinking to impact the 2013 team. The Mariners currently operate year-to-year, meaning they hope to at least break even each season. However, Mather's proposal suggests that the goal should be to break even every three years. This structure would give Zduriencik latitude to lose money on a bigger budget in some years, and make it back in others (if money is not recuperated by something like a playoff run). With this kind of budgeting mentality, the younger, cheaper teams the M's fielded the last few seasons would have resulted in savings that go towards future payrolls, instead off...wherever they've been going. Lincoln and Armstrong's pockets? The moose's antlers? Not the payroll, that's the only thing for sure.

All in all, I am cautiously optimistic about Mather taking over. I felt the Mariners could benefit from a major shake-up in leadership, and Mather isn't that, but he might end up bringing the benefits of both a shake-up and stability. Mather already has longstanding relationships with the Mariners leadership, and that allows him to hit the ground running. However, Mather does not have the baseball background Armstrong has (or if you want to be more pessimistic, the background Armstrong believes he has) and that will likely impact how he performs his duties as COO, particularly with the added presence of Aylward and the cable channel. Mather will need to collaborate in ways Armstrong never had to, for better or for worse.

Mather said he feels bad for Chuck because he is stepping into an opportunity. He is right about that. The whole reason Mariners fans are so frustrated is because the Mariners should be better than they have been. Changes would be welcome and appreciated. Here's hoping that Mather's mix of existing partnerships and different strengths he brings to the COO position add up to some productive changes for the Mariners.