Sadly, last week the Mariners' owner Hiroshi Yamauchi passed away, having never watched a Mariners game in person. He was rumored to have said he would make the trip from Japan if the Mariners made the World Series, but they never came close.
In the early 1990s, Mr. Yamauchi found himself in the middle of an international dispute when he offered to buy a majority stake in the Seattle Mariners. The team, established in 1977, had been threatening to leave Seattle if it could not find a new owner willing to keep it there. Nintendo had its United States headquarters in Seattle.
The team's owners approved the deal but the commissioner of Major League Baseball, Fay Vincent, and a four-man M.L.B. owners' committee initially opposed it. They relented and approved the sale in 1992 after Mariners fans and the Seattle news media rallied in favor of it. In 2001, the Mariners signed the star Japanese outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, now with the Yankees, helping to open the door for many more Japanese players to join major league teams in the United States.
In a show of his characteristic detachment, however, Mr. Yamauchi confessed at the time that he was not much interested in baseball, either. He said he had never gone to a baseball game and is thought to have never gone since.
If you ever enjoyed Super Mario Bros., you owe Mr. Yamauchi a thank you.
Moving on -- unlike Mr. Yamauchi, you and I are decidedly not detached from the game of baseball, and right now we are focused on Jim Mora time. Before that, though, we still have the last three games of the AL West victory tour to "suffer" through.
Looking at the Mariners' neverending mediocrity, I wonder what would have happened if Jack Z had the courage to trade Felix Hernandez after his age 24 (Cy Young) season. He would have received, well...a King's ransom...and perhaps retooled his team to instantly contend. Maybe things would have played out differently for Mr. Yamauchi. But alas, Jack Z is no Billy Beane, and so the A's are headed to the playoffs for a second consecutive year (7th time in the past 14 seasons!), while the Mariners are golfing for the 12th consecutive October and Mr. Yamauchi rests comfortably in Japan.
Tonight we are treated to a premier pitching matchup, Bartolo Colon vs. King Felix. At the very least, watching two premier pitchers go at it should simulate the playoff vibe, not to mention give the A's hitters a nice tuneup for the tough pitching they will face in the postseason. Aside from the boring "magic number to clinch the 2nd seed" storyline, it would be nice for the A's to win another game and surpass last year's win total. Other sub-stories to watch are guys who are on the bubble for the playoff roster. Bob Melvin has been uncharacteristically secretive about who will make the cut, and it's quite possible that a couple of the bullpen guys and platoon position players might be auditioning for spot #25.
Although this game doesn't matter a whole lot, we still have two great pitchers on the hill and it should be a fun one. Yay baseball!
Here are your lineups, Let's go A's!
|7:10pm Athletics (B. Colon - R) @ Mariners (F. Hernandez - R)