Rest in peace, Hiroshi Yamauchi

Hiroshi Yamauchi, the former president of Nintendo and former owner of the Seattle Mariners passed away this morning at 85 years old.

In 1994 Yamauchi bought the Mariners away from the clutches of relocation. Anecdotes about the team sending equipment to Tampa Bay remain haunting images for Seattle fans, who eventually became desensitized to the idea of a team moving after a tulmutuous decade in the 90s. He faced scrutiny from the league, and the sale was fairly controversial at the time. To this day Yamauchi never attended a Mariners game, much to the chagrin of some Mariners fans, and much to the validation of the commisioners office that was worried about an absentee ownership group outside of North America. Yamauchi opened something of a door for non-North-American owners of professional sports teams in the United States, as well as for japanese baseball players interested in playing in America.

Still the biggest get in team history — though I’ve been fairly critical of him during his career in Seattle — Ichiro paved the way for Japanese position players in 2001. Ichiro was a legend in Japan, and quickly saw his lore and stature grow in Seattle. The team spent a disproportionate amount of money on Japanese players in the years that followed, with mostly succesful results.

But after 2001 the Mariners went into a substantial decline as a franchise. To a large extent the fanbase has turned on the ownership group, with Yamauchi still the face of the ownership group in many fans’ eyes despite him no longer owning a controlling interest in the team. Poor personnel decisions were preceded by poor choices of field managers, budget constraints, and exemplified perfectly by the four years that Bill Bavasi was allowed to shred every bit of talent on the Mariners roster chasing improbable results with terrible process.

Quite recently my great grandmother died. She was 95 years old. In conversations with my grandmother — her daughter — I was please to know that my grandmother was at peace with my great grandmother’s death. In my opinion, having mixed feelings about a person’s death is the best-case scenario. My great grandmother died and it was far from a tragedy. She lived a life well beyond the life expectancy in this country, and led a rich, fulfilling life.

Though Yamauchi lived a long life, and a presumably fulfilling one at that, I most definitely don’t know enough about him to make a commentary on the level of tragedy felt in his passing. I will say however, that Seattle Mariners fans are damn lucky to be pissed off that the Mariners stink right now, because they are still called the Mariners, and they still play their home games in Seattle.

And for that, Hiroshi Yamauchi, we are eternally, and offer your family our most heartfelt condolences.