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No, a ball club isn't like any other business
It’s a little weird this headline is even worth saying. It feels particularly odd given the backdrop of October baseball and the moments and emotions it produces. But you will hear that line and iterations of it soon enough—with free agency, with trades, with penciled out rosters and the ensuing projections.
It is a business, after all.
Those are the economics of the situation.
The Mariners are a business like any other.
No, they are not.
Baseball teams are much different than a normal business. And when anyone acts like they aren’t, it’s worse for the game.
You may have already seen this quote ping-ponging around already but there’s no point in having a blog, writing about baseball and occasionally baseball ownership if I’m not going to highlight something like this here.
It comes from Philadelphia Phillies owner John Middleton and an interview back in February. His team spent more than it ever had during the 2022 season, coming up two wins short of a title. So he went out and spent more.
“How much money did the ‘27 Yankees make? Or the ‘29 A’s? Or the ‘75-76 Big Red Machine?” Middleton said. “Does anybody know? Does anybody care? Nobody knows or cares whether any of them made any money or not. And nobody cares about whether I make money or not. If my legacy is that I didn’t lose any money owning a baseball team on an annual operating basis, that’s a pretty sad legacy. It’s about putting trophies in the cases.
“If your ambition is to be good, you don’t make those decisions [to sign Turner]. If your ambition is to be great, you make those decisions. It’s about desire, really. I just want to win.”
If my legacy is that I didn’t lose any money owning a baseball team on an annual operating basis, that’s a pretty sad legacy.
Pause for a second and think about that reality. Because it is reality.
What if you owned a team and one of the first things anyone thought (or remembered) about your operating and owning of a civic treasure like a Major League Baseball team was that you sure ran a profitable business? That it was clear you knew how to make a buck and were doing it quite well?
It’d feel pretty gross, no? Like, you’d be pretty crushed to witness that timeline.
I’m not going to bring up Forbes rankings or whatever else, but as we watch these playoffs, with the Rangers charging closer to scratching their names off the “never won the big one” list and Middleton’s Phillies providing moment after moment, think about how it must feel to be those guys.
Think about what it’d be like to be some Philly knucklehead headed to Citizens Bank Park tonight, sporting some of those stunning powder blue and maroon retro threads with HARPER on the back.
Will they win it all this year? Who knows.
FanGraphs gives them better odds than the other teams left. But even when there are just three teams remaining, only two you need to beat—the odds are less than one in three.
It is improbable to win a title—ever. That’s the point. But you try.
And when you try you get moments like we’ve seen all Postseason in Philly. Like with any deep Postseason run.
Maybe they don’t win it all. Maybe it ends in heartbreak. It probably will. But there will always be those moments that will stand as some of the most memorable, the most joyous in their fans’ entire lives.
It’s pretty simple.
As someone on Twitter noted, the Phillies paid Nick Castellanos $20 million for 1.6 WAR (1.0 fWAR!) this year. With some effort, they could’ve found similar production for the Major League minimum.
That surely is top of mind after his four NLDS home runs.
Because this is a relatively young blog, you’re gonna get some foundational observations—stuff I’ve repeated to friends over and over and over. So, apologies if you’ve heard this.
A baseball team is not like a normal business. It should barely be viewed as a business.
It is a luxury purchase.
If you come into possession—possession!—of one of the most cherished institutions in a region, and you treat it like a string of midwestern Hardees franchises, you gotta get out.
A baseball team is a cigarette boat. No, it is a luxury mega-yacht with a cigarette boat inside of it. It is a mansion-sized cabin on an island you have the deed for, one of your seven-plus estates scattered across the globe. It isn’t a fancy car, but a collection of cars.
That is why you buy and own a baseball team.
Imagine having more money than God and going to your wife like “Shit, honey, god dammit—that group on AirBNB cancelled and now we’ve got an open weekend at our 10,000 square foot abode up on Orcas. No, no, not the Nantuckett spot, that’s good to go at $5,000 a night, thank heavens…”
You have a collection of supercars that you’re listing on Turo constantly, working like hell to cover the payments, giving someone a mid-$50K salary to operate this garage full of things you clearly don’t care about.
No. Absolutely not.
You sometimes build a private 18-hole par three course with replicas of the most famous short holes in golf one of your properties and pay Nick Castellanos one hundred million dollars for average play and timely dongs.
It happens. That’s the whole point.
In this world, we really don’t ask for much from the people who are materially doing exponentially better than everyone else. But we’d love for you to spend on your baseball team.
It is so easy to be beloved as a sports owner. Spend some money, hand out some baseballs.
It sounds like it isn’t that serious, because it often isn’t. But in other ways, it is.
A life is only comprised of so many memories and so many years. Some people just have more.
We don’t get to go back and get more October baseball moments from these years we’re experiencing now because the Mariners did it the right way in 2026.
Like I said in the trade deadline piece, all these years matter. They were and are all an opportunity.
This is dark, but it’s undeniably true—there are Mariners fans who lived long, rich and fulfilling lives flush with special moments and unforgettable memories who only wanted one more thing. And they left us before they saw it.
Mariners fans want October baseball. We want it every year. And we want an organization who wants it as badly—as desperately—as we do.
And what we don’t want is someone who takes that desperation, that passion and uses it as a variable in a finely-tuned formula to make a line on a chart go up just a little steeper.
This isn’t like any other business. It’s bigger than that. It’s much more special than that.
And if you’re looking at it like a business, cash out. It was a good luxury purchase, a hell of an investment. Go ahead and capitalize on those gains and leave the hassle to someone else.
But hey, maybe this isn’t just a business to the people entrusted to steward this organization—they’ve said it before.
It’s past time to show it.