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M’s Japanese owner won’t watch team play live in Japan

Mar 25, 2012, 10:39 AM EDT

mariners owner ap AP

There are a number of team owners across the pro sports landscape who would rather not be in the spotlight. Which is fine, and maybe even healthy.

But this feels like a different kind of thing.

According to Art Thiel of the Everett Herald, Mariners owner Hiroshi Yamauchi, an early innovator at Nintendo and a native of Japan, has never seen his team play live and is not going to make the two-hour trek from his home later this week to see them open the MLB regular season against the A’s in Tokyo.

The reason given? None. There is no reason.

“Quite frankly, a man of his age and stature doesn’t have to explain why he’s not here,” said M’s CEO Howard Lincoln. “He’ll be watching on TV. Given all the years he’s been involved with the Mariners, he’s really looking forward to see the team play. He’s very excited.”

Yamauchi is 84 years old, so health may be a factor. But he has owned the team since 1992 and, as Theil writes, “the Japanese are big on symbolism.” We’re guessing postseason-starved Seattleites are too.

  1. cup0pizza - Mar 25, 2012 at 11:00 AM

    I’d prefer an absentee owner to a guy like Frank McCourt, and can you really blame Yamauchi for not being interested in wasting time watching a garbage team like the M’s? Sounds like an intelligent man to me.

    • Bryz - Mar 25, 2012 at 11:25 AM

      You started that comment oh so nice, but then you blew it up at the end. Nice job.

      • Old Gator - Mar 25, 2012 at 1:41 PM

        Being described as “intelligent” by cup0feces is the mother of all backhanded compliments.

  2. kranepool - Mar 25, 2012 at 11:50 AM

    Oh how I wish Mr. Yamamuchi owned the NY Mets Please Freddy and Jeffy Skill Sets take heed of Mr. Yamamuchi’ lead

  3. Kyle - Mar 25, 2012 at 11:50 AM

    Mariners fan here. Mark me down for a big bowl of Don’t Care.

    • cup0pizza - Mar 25, 2012 at 12:00 PM

      Kindred spirits, you and the M’s players/owner(s)/organization. They don’t care, either. Enjoy sitting in the basement of the AL west along with Oakland for the next decade and beyond.

    • Drew Silva - Mar 25, 2012 at 12:00 PM

      You don’t wish your team’s billionaire owner was a little more active? A little more hungry to make that team an on-field success? A little more enamored with Prince Fielder this past winter?

      • cup0pizza - Mar 25, 2012 at 12:08 PM

        Seems like Detroit was TOO enamored with Fielder. They probably will be regretting that one by the time it’s said and done. Seattle needs a big upgrade over Smoak at 1B and over whoever their DH will be, but the price of Fielder was pretty outrageous. Prince Fielder never seemed the east bit interested in considering Settle no matter the size of the contract, anyway. There’s a lot to be said for an owner that doesn’t meddle at all.

      • Drew Silva - Mar 25, 2012 at 12:15 PM

        I think Prince would have signed the best offer sheet presented to him. As he did. And as Pujols did. ‘Tis the way of the baseball world.

        Both of those contracts are nuts, but the M’s need offense in a bad, bad way and they’re backed by a guy worth $3.8 billion and counting. If he cared about making the team better, he’d be willing to take the risk to inject some pop.

      • cup0pizza - Mar 25, 2012 at 12:22 PM

        You’re definitely right about the extremely deep pockets that he possesses as well as the Mariners needing pop in the worst way….my team (Dodgers) have needed additional big bats in recent history on a level not unlike Seattle. But that said, to me Fielder at that ginormous contract is a disaster waiting to happen. In all my years watching baseball, never have seen such a dearth of scary power hitters. Tough catch-22, I guess.

      • gogigantos - Mar 25, 2012 at 2:04 PM

        the team plays in Seattle still, never ran away
        there are rules about how bazillionaires are supposed to behave with their money and toys?
        Who’s to say how active he is or has been, dude does what he wants. That seems to be the only rule, eh.
        Lack of on-field success is his responsibility? Really?
        Silva, please don’t engage the cupOwhatever in any dialogue,, not winning you points,, and I am the rarest of posters

  4. shanabartels - Mar 25, 2012 at 12:21 PM

    My three surviving grandparents are all 84 years old (turning 85 in April, July, and September). They still go out and do little things, but I can’t imagine any of them dragging themselves to a baseball stadium (especially with all the walking that entails) and sitting through a whole game. Even if they owned the team. Elderly folks frequently aren’t up for activities that we take for granted.

    • Drew Silva - Mar 25, 2012 at 12:58 PM

      He bought the team at age 64. Has never seem ‘em play live.

      • Old Gator - Mar 25, 2012 at 1:44 PM

        I’ve been to the Nintendo HQ in Kyoto. If you ever got a look at the hostesses who escort visitors around the place, Dear Buddha, you’d probably want to stay put and hang out at the office too.

      • gogigantos - Mar 25, 2012 at 1:58 PM

        He may just like playing them on the old school consoles. Ichiro is very Tecmo like, you know, the guy you can’t throw out as he wheels around the bases.
        Maybe he just doesn’t like crowds and likes to stay home,,,, with a hostess or three

  5. mianfr - Mar 25, 2012 at 1:11 PM

    I mean, I can understand if you want to stay out of the spotlight or you’re someone who doesn’t really like baseball but inherited the team and love the money it brings in, but why would you buy a team at all if you’re never even going to watch them play?

    You can still stay out of the spotlight and attend games. They’re not mutually exclusive things. He basically bought a fancy car and never drove it.

  6. cur68 - Mar 25, 2012 at 1:31 PM

    I wonder about this guy sometimes. He’s a gaming pioneer. He must love highly competitive games, otherwise he wouldn’t be where he is. Sometimes I think those of us who are not billionaires (all of us here) fail to grasp the complexities of the lives of those that are. I’m kind of reminded of William Shakespeare’s title character in Henry V, King Henry V of England. In the play, it was the King’s habit to go anonymously among his troops: not only to see how they were doing but also to ease his loneliness. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if Mr. Yamauchi had taken in many games live, but as a member of bleachers, rather than in an owner’s box. I like to kid myself, that if it were me, that’s how I would do it. This is of course, quite disingenuous: I’d swank about worse than George Michael Steinbrenner III, a model on each arm and a Cuban stogie clutched in my emerald encrusted, over manicured, soft as butter, fist.

    • Drew Silva - Mar 25, 2012 at 1:53 PM

      Wow. I really like that thought.

      • cur68 - Mar 25, 2012 at 2:52 PM

        The Henry V allusion or swanking around with models?

      • Drew Silva - Mar 25, 2012 at 3:04 PM

        The Henry V thing particularly. But both, I guess.

    • Old Gator - Mar 25, 2012 at 1:59 PM

      “In the play, it was the King’s habit to go anonymously among his troops: not only to see how they were doing….”

      That was a habit of Ghaddaffi’s too. Ah well.

      But if Yamauchi sounds like anyone to me, especially in this situation, it would be Josef Virek, the chemical tub life support system confined trillionaire who must conduct all of his interactions with the rest of the world via cyberspace, in William Gibson’s Count Zero (Sprawl Trilogy Part II). He’s sort of a futuristic version of Uncle Walt, up there in that cryogenic locker in Tinkerbell’s Castle….

      • cur68 - Mar 25, 2012 at 2:09 PM

        Ahh, HBT, where the conflation of Shakespeare and Gibson are commonplace. I hope H.R. Giger reads this. I’d love to see the Henry V graphic novel he’d produce, especially the St. Crispin’s Day Speech segment…only adapted for Muammar Muhammad Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi’s life. So you get the macho heroism, the modern weapons, the fantabulous artwork and the drama. Learn some Middle Eastern History while you’re at it, too. Make it so, Mr. Giger!

      • mirmz - Mar 25, 2012 at 2:45 PM

        “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers.” And then some poor SOB feeling the wrath of Henry V.

        Please sell this idea to someone who will write it. Way too awesome of a plot to not share with the world.

      • Old Gator - Mar 25, 2012 at 6:01 PM

        I agree. Too bad we don’t have Anthony Burgess anymore.

        Hey Cur – ever read Burgess’ two Elizabethan novels, A Dead Man in Deptford (about Christopher Marlowe) and Nothing Like the Sun (about his buddy and early rival Will Shakespeare)? Also his bio of the Bard, entitled simply Shakespeare? All sublime stuff. He is of course best known for Clockwork Orange but the Elizabethan novels are even better in a lot of ways.

  7. Reflex - Mar 25, 2012 at 9:00 PM

    Disclaimer: I live in Seattle, and enjoy watching the M’s play in that gorgeous ballpark that we repeatedly voted down but the political establishment spent tax money on anyways. But I do not consider myself an M’s fan, I did not grow up here, and its just another team to me. That said, I like to see it when they win because the city is pretty fun when they are on a roll, and 2001 was a truly magical season around here. I put this disclaimer up because I hate when people assume I’m some sort of super fan if I defend the team. Now, to address the statements:

    1) If anyone had ever read a background on this guy, he is afraid of flying and has never stepped foot on an airplane. This made it effectively impossible for him to ever see a game by the Mariners, and no he hasn’t been wandering the stands as a fan, he has never stepped foot in the USA and likely does not even have a passport since he has never even left Japan.

    2) Given that he won’t fly, living a couple hours away would mean a long car or train ride at age 84. Probably not very appealing, even though his team is in country.

    3) All that said, the real question here, and the one locals often ask, is why he would even own a team he will never see. I can’t answer that. But I do know he’s spent on this team when it was in a position to use it, he’s never been a tightwad with payroll, and when the M’s were competitive they also were a big market team in terms of payroll. They’ve also stated repeatedly that they have no intention of making big splashes when the team is not close to competitiveness simply to keep people thinking they are ‘doing something’. This is smart policy.

    4) I do NOT see a reason for them to have signed Fielder. They did that kind of signing before with Sexson, it did not work out well for anyone. The M’s have a guy who two years ago was the best hitting prospect in the minors, he’s only 25, and he’s showing skills growth year over year. Why the hell would you stunt Smoak’s growth just so you could have a big name who isn’t going to take them over the top anytime soon? The M’s know they are lacking offense. They have a ton of good pitching. They are doing the smart thing and dealing from their strength to acquire hitting prospects. In the past two seasons they have twice acquired the top hitting prospects in the game(Smoak/Montero) as well as acquiring Trayvon Robinson who was the top hitting prospect in the Dodgers organization, and they’ve done it at the cost of Erik Bedard, Cliff Lee and Michael Pineda, none of whom were going to contribute to the next winning M’s team. Thats smart.

    Is it fun when the local team has a big signing? Sure. Do I want them to do that at the expense of building a consistant competitor? Hell no! Thats what this team used to be, and it sucked. Every year was a crapshoot, and it was all about catching lightning in a bottle rather than building a regular competitor. I like how the team is being built, and when it all starts to come together I am certain ownership will spend on the last few pieces, just as they did in the past. I just hope that Jack spends money more wisely than Bavasi did.

    • Old Gator - Mar 25, 2012 at 10:11 PM

      My one caveat to the your list of caveats is that a Shinkansen train from Kyoto to Tokyo would take about an hour or so and the super express would take about ten minutes less than that. This guy would be met by a very plush limo at Tokyo Central and whisked to the stadium like a Maharajah in fifteen minutes. But who knows what kind of shape he’s in, and let’s face it, we should allow billionaires their eccentricities.

  8. txnative61 - Mar 26, 2012 at 3:24 AM

    I agree symbolism is somewhat important, perhaps more so to the Japanese. I think it was important, since Nintendo sold huge numbers of game console’s in America, and had headquarters in Seattle, for them to become the first foreign owners of a MLB franchise, and support Seattle in doing so. Also in bringing a premier Japanese player like Ichiro to play for them, but otherwise staying hands off other than trying to hire the best American managers. The concept of “face” is also important in Asia, and the Mariners have not done particularly well, so he may also feel its inappropriate to make a special effort for purely symbolic value, before his team has become successful.

  9. foreverchipper10 - Mar 26, 2012 at 4:09 PM

    Now I wanna play Nintendo.

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