By the time you read this, the Mariners would have just finished playing the season opening game in Tokyo, Japan against the Oakland A’s and an important fixture in Seattle Mariners baseball will not be in attendance. According to Art Thiel of the The New Tribune, Mariners Japanese majority owner, Hiroshi Yamuchi will not be attending the game. Howard Lincoln did confirm in the article that Mr. Yamuchi will be watching the game from his television; although this seem highly unlikely since he has never seen a baseball game. This should be alarming to many Mariners fans. However, before this week in Tokyo, many fans probably didn’t know much about the ex-Nintendo CEO.
To truly understand the ownership group of a hometown franchise, one needs to know where this owner has come from (how did he obtain his/her wealth) then attribute that to their leadership style in owning the franchise. During his tenure at Nintendo, Yamuchi was described as having an “imperialistic leadership style.” For example, when getting ready to take the reigns of the company for his ill uncle, Mr. Yamuchi fired all his relatives at the then family run company. For years, Mr Yamuchi risen Nintendo to become a video gaming giant. Up until 1992, Mr. Yamuchi had no interest in baseball.
In the early 90’s, the Mariners were in financial troubles and a Washington State senator named Slade Gorton was looking for a Japanese investor to keep the Mariners in Seattle. Since Nintendo USA was headquartered in Seattle, Senator Gorton approached Mr. Yamuchi.
This should be the first red flag for fans. To own a professional sports club, an individual needs to have a burning desire too; because a lot of the times you don’t make that much money.
At the time, Major League Baseball did not approve the deal, citing that they did not want a foreign interest owning the team. Seattle (more specifically the media) threw a hissy fit and declared MLB to be racist. Major League Baseball, in order to divert from a PR nightmare, decided to approve the deal but under the condition Mr. Yamuchi didn’t own more than 50% of the team.
(In hindsight, it probably be better if MLB did not approve the deal but we will get to that later.)
Yamuchi should definitely deserve credit for initially help keeping the Seattle Mariners in town and he most certainly deserves credit for the influx of Japanese talent that has crossed the Pacific Ocean to play baseball. But that is about it.
After going back and seeing his authoritative reigns at Nintendo, his hands off approach in owning the Mariners is alarming. This could only lead to one conclusion that Mr. Yamuchi views the Mariners as a way to put a large amount of his wealth offshores, into the US asset. And this should be more frightening to Mariners fans. Unless you own the Yankees, Red Sox, or Cubs, the only way for an owner to get a big payout is to win a championship. So Mr. Yamuchi’s actions definitely point to that he has no intention on winning a championship. Going into a season where it is us and the Washington Nationals that have never been to a World Series and Mariner fans should be a little skeptical that they are going to beat out the Washington Nationals in that race. If the Mariners are one or two pieces away, is he going to reach a little deeper into his pockets to get a winning team on the field? Doubtful.