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Big League Stew

Nintendo keeping 55 percent share in Seattle Mariners following death of owner Hiroshi Yamauchi

David Brown
Big League Stew

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CEO Howard Lincoln, president Chuck Armstrong and and chairman emeritus John Ellis look like owners, don't they? …

In case you were thinking about getting your spouse a piece of the Seattle Mariners for Christmas, the team's CEO recently shared some bad news with the Puget Sound Business Journal: The M's are not for sale.

Howard Lincoln (on the left in the photo) said he has spoken with the Nintendo home office in Japan, which told him it's business as usual regarding the Mariners, with no plans to sell its controlling interest. That's too bad because, by the sound of how engaged Mariners ownership has been with the team, it seems like the sailors could use a new captain.

When he died this past week, Nintendo founder Hiroshi Yamauchi left behind a 55 percent stake in the Mariners which was thought to be, possibly, up for grabs. That's not the case but, as reporter Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times notes, the actual baseball guys running the M's don't know if their future will continue at Safeco Field:

Lincoln has barely been visible this season, especially over the past month when it was revealed — and confirmed behind the scenes by Mariners officials — that GM Jack Zduriencik had a one-year contract extension tacked on to his current deal late last year.

The Mariners have yet to announce whether Zduriencik will return next year. Same goes for manager Eric Wedge, whose contract runs out after this season.

Instead, the two have been allowed to twist in the wind of public specualtion nationwide for much of the past month while the team’s upper management — Lincoln and president Chuck Armstrong — have all-but-eliminated their public visibility. The team’s minority owners — many of whom regularly attend games — have continued their tradition of letting Lincoln do all of their talking for them when it comes to how the team is handled and operated.

Lincoln told the Puget Sound Business Journal that the team’s owners remain committed to the ballclub’s future.

Boardroom stability is essential for any big company, so that's fine. But outsiders are left to infer that baseball operations aren't much of a priority. Heck, Jack Z. and Wedge are left to infer that. Yamauchi distinguished himself as an owner by never attending an M's game in person. It was his prerogative to be an absentee landlord, but now that he's gone and the M's presumably are ensconced at Safeco for years to come, somebody ought to step forward, be visible, and lead. This ain't some 50-cent game of Donkey Kong, here.

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