My passion for the Seattle Supersonics and Mariners has not worked out too well. One day I woke up and the Sonics were stolen away and the Mariners have still yet to reach the big game. On the face of it, they appear doomed to be a team with an empty stadium. That is, unless the Mariners organization decide to take a different approach entirely.
The fact is that the Mariners may never be able to be consistently competitive with the teams at the top of the salary list. Our owner, Nintendo of America, is hardly rolling in greenbacks these days. They need the Mariners to be a profitable investment by filling those seats at Safeco Field and securing top dollar for television rights. Unfortunately, the only reason any tickets were sold at Safeco Field was to see Ichiro. He looks lovely in a Yankees uniform, eh?
Seattle’s total payroll is at around 80 million, or 50% less than the Texas Rangers who are the division top dog. It is possible to have a run at a Pennant in that salary category but it takes the big dollar teams to make missteps (Phillies) and your team to suddenly play much better ball than expected (Atlanta). It does not happen often and it will not last long without raising the salaries of those star players. Short of that miracle, the Mariners ownership needs money to invest in better players, money that does not exist because there is no reason to buy a ticket to a team with nothing to offer but losses. It is the perfect recipe to be competitive with the Houston Astros.
There is a somewhat easy fix for Nintendo. Japanese baseball.
All of the ingredients are in place for this to be a success. The Mariners are at rock bottom and need to create something entirely new. Why not speak with the Japanese baseball clubs about an agreement that brings their best players to the Mariners when they are in the off-season in Japan? There is some overlap in the two, but not significant enough that it could keep this from working. If sharing players would not work then bring over some of the experienced ones as full time MLB players. The M’s do not need an entire team of ball players from the Pacific islands, just enough that the press and fans are focused on this unique approach.
Would the Mariners make it to the playoffs with this plan? Not likely, but they are not going there today, either. Tourism from Japan would skyrocket. The Seattle area, which already embraces their Pacific Rim neighbors, will love attending games on the chance that their low payroll team could upset the high salaried big boys. Nintendo of America is the perfect owner for this situation, for obvious reasons, and might start making significant profits on their baseball investment, ultimately allowing them to invest in better players. Who knows. Maybe Ichiro would be tempted to return to Seattle for his final season.
Aside from the potential of having a ball club that is as uncompetitive as the one we have now, there really is not much down side. If the fans do not fill the seats then the team could return their players to their previously terrible state. Which is to say that they really would not need to change a thing. The most important thing is that this would be a heck of a lot of fun.
So, what do you say, Nintendo? Want to take a shot at fielding a team in America from your home country? I would love to buy season ticket to see how it works out.