Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
All is quiet at Safeco Field, but a tough reality remains. The Seattle Mariners are going nowhere fast. While the Boston Red Sox celebrate their third World Series title in 10 years, the Mariners are continuing to look for a manager, a pitcher or two and a bevy of offensive help.
For the Mariners, the future is not particularly bright. Sure, there are some intriguing young pitchers like Taijuan Walker and James Paxton on the horizon. However, it is difficult for fans to get particularly excited about what the franchise might accomplish in 2014.
Perhaps it is time to focus on a bigger problem. Perhaps it is time for the Seattle Mariners to get a new owner.
Some may suggest that it is a little early to talk about an ownership change so soon after the death of Hiroshi Yamauchi. The Seattle area certainly owes a debt of gratitude to the late Mr. Yamauchi, as his decision to acquire a controlling interest in the team essentially saved baseball in Seattle.
Unfortunately, the team seems to literally be crawling towards the future. By the time the team figures out whether some of the “young” talent is any good, they are going to be on the list of players that need to be replaced. In the meantime, the Mariners keep putting together uninspired, subpar seasons.
Seattle needs an owner that is going to be active, passionate and willing to take some chances. To be an owner of a sports team, you have to be a bit reckless. This is particularly true in Major League Baseball where the economics are wide open and the contracts are guaranteed.
Mr. Yamauchi did help keep the team in the Pacific Northwest, but he never saw the team play. The Mariners have Howard Lincoln in the position of CEO, but it always feels like Mr. Lincoln has a boss. Maybe that is because he does. Right now, it feels like Nintendo is running the Mariners like a business division.
In other words, they want to make a profit more than they want to win.
This is where it gets sticky with team ownership. There is no law that says a team has to be competitive. Obviously no owner is not going to come out and openly state that they are putting just enough talent on the field to make the team appear competitive. However, that hasn’t stopped fans over the years from suspecting that such an agenda might have been quietly discussed behind the closed doors of the team offices.
Unfortunately, some of this does come down to money. The Mariners had the 24th-ranked payroll in baseball this season at $73 million and change. Not as bad as the league-lowest Houston Astros ($21 million), but certainly not at the top of the list with the big boys.
Immediately there will be those that argue money can’t buy championships, and that is a reasonable statement. What money does buy is opportunities to compete for a championship. The St. Louis Cardinals may have had the 14th-ranked payroll, but they still spent almost $30 million more than Seattle. The other three finalists were first (Los Angeles Dodgers, $220 million), fourth (Detroit Tigers, $148 million) and fifth (Boston Red Sox, $141 million) on the league payroll list.
These teams did not necessarily buy a championship, but they bought a whole stack of raffle tickets. The Cardinals bought a few and got their number drawn.
A new owner does not guarantee success. There have been famous owners over the years that have become known for rash decisions and meddling in the day-to-day operations of the team. Names like George Steinbrenner, Daniel Snyder, Al Davis and Jerry Jones come to mind. Meddling owners can still win, but sometimes they are the reason it takes so long.
Seattle needs an owner that is passionate about the Mariners in the same way Chris Hansen is passionate about bringing the Seattle SuperSonics back to the Emerald City. For now, a new manager may help, and perhaps a free agent like Jacoby Ellsbury will breath new life into this roster.
Still, the Mariners need something else. It starts at the top.