The Seattle Mariners are owned by a corporation. Seattle is not the only franchise that is owned by an entity, but few sports teams are owned by companies these days. Many sports owners bought teams because they had a passion for the sport or for the city where that team plays. Certainly there is a business aspect to sports, and plenty of owners will put profits above winning.
That said, owning a sports team can sometimes go beyond the dollars and cents of standard business practices. Some owners will do whatever it takes to win, even if it means spending beyond the boundaries of a practical budget.
Admittedly, the Mariners had some successful teams after Hiroshi Yamauchi purchased a controlling interest in 1992. However, the team has been officially owned by Nintendo since 2004, and the good years are starting to feel like a distant memory. When a team struggles for many years, as they have in recent seasons, there can start to be questions about the big picture and the long-term plan.
Specifically, is Nintendo committed to winning? Or, is the company willing to spend just enough to make the team look competitive, in order to secure cable contracts and keep the fans interested?
A recent story suggests that general manager Jack Zduriencik may be doing some tough negotiating with ownership in order to spend more money on marquee players. Granted, this could just be the normal rumors and rhetoric that float around this time of year. In addition, it is likely that many GMs have tussles with ownership over budget constraints.
As a fan, you can’t help but wonder about Nintendo’s motivations. Companies say a lot of nice things about creating jobs, developing community and adopting “green” practices. Some of that is true, while other messages are intended to shape an image. Lest we forget, this is still a corporation. When push comes to shove, companies want to make money. Period.
Jack Z was authorized to re-sign Felix Hernandez to a lucrative deal and the Mariners did overpay for Robinson Cano. Unfortunately, that will not be enough to build a winner. The Mariners may need several more (expensive) pieces if they are going to build a roster that can win the American League West.
Remember that businesses want to understand the return on their investment before they commit more money. Can Zduriencik guarantee that Nelson Cruz, Masahiro Tanaka and David Price will translate to an increase in team revenue? Not exactly, since free agents do not always lead to wins or gate receipts. The Mariners are spending a lot of money on Cano, but his presence is no guarantee that the fans will return.
Ultimately, it would be nice to have a face leading this franchise. Obviously a singular owner does not guarantee success, but sometimes it is good to have a person who is passionate about the team.
Is Nintendo passionate about the Mariners? That, unforunately, is difficult to discern.