Seemingly every time a baseball team is on the brink of being sold we start hearing a lot about Mark Cuban. The 52-year-old billionaire is the owner of the perennially successful Dallas Mavericks, a team which he transformed from a league doormat to a top Western Conference talent. While he’s widely known for his antics at Mavericks games (he attends them all home and away) his personality has overshadowed his accomplishments as an owner.
Cuban was a breath of fresh air for Dallas, changing the way the entire front office thought about basketball operations. He hired statistical analysts, one of the first basketball owners to do so. He changed the way the players were accommodated, hired nutritionists to develop individualized meals for the athletes, upgraded their travel accommodations and even was the first owner to personally ask for and answer e-mail in the early 2000s. He’s a complete paragon as an owner. He doesn’t attend games in a luxury box dressed in a suit with his pals. He sits behind the bench in a Mav’s Jersey screaming at officials. He’s as much a fan as he is an owner. He’s even responsible for the 3 sided shot clock- after readers e-mailed him complaining that the shot clock on top of the basket wasn’t visible from all angles, he went ahead and installed a 3 sided clock which can now be found in every arena in the NBA.
So is it really surprising that Bud Selig keeps a guy like this out of ownership in favor of this idiot who literally bought the team with borrowed money and a big parking lot? Well if you know Bud, it’s not. Here’s a money quote from Rob Neyer:
“Major League Baseball prefers – and maybe requires, unofficially – prospective owners with plenty of money but very little public credibility. That way, they’re more likely to be grateful for being allowed into the club, and willing to (mostly) take their marching orders from the Commissioner’s Office. Go along to get along.
Mark Cuban never really had a chance, for the simple reason that his money is largely irrelevant. Baseball teams are worth what they’re worth. You might figure they simply go to the highest bidder, but that’s not really how it works. Essentially, MLB decides how much the team is worth, three or four ownership groups put together financial packages for that amount, and MLB chooses one of them. In that scenario, Mark Cuban’s going to finish last every time, because MLB doesn’t need his money and MLB doesn’t want an owner who’s already famous and won’t keep his mouth shut. “
And that’s really the problem with baseball isn’t it? From instant replay to the way it fails to market its smaller franchises and younger stars, Major League baseball has languished in a way. Of course the league is making money and people still go to games but how much better could it be doing? Will baseball continue to get completely eclipsed by the NFL forever? There hasn’t been any outcry about the two small market teams in the super bowl on Sunday, has there? I can’t imagine what the whining would be like for a Pirates Twins World Series. Have you SEEN these commercials? Have you had to endure watching the MLB Network?
I digress. This isn’t about Bud Selig being the worst commissioner in sports (although he is). This is about how good it would be for the game to have an owner like Mark Cuban leading the Pirates or Astros. The way the New York fans lionize George Steinbrenner is there any reason to think Mets fans wouldn’t do the same for Mark Cuban? How much fun would it be to have another giant monolith of an owner to root against? How great would it be to have Mark Cuban pushing the innovation of a league that still likes to think of itself as planted in the 1970s?
Sadly we’ll probably never find out. After running into all the roadblocks it looks like Cuban is done chasing the elusive grasp of MLB ownership. I think that’s really too bad for all of us.