The Mark Cuban Factor: Mavericks owner applies to purchase Cubs

17 07 2007

by mr. travis

mark cuba

On June 12th, 2007, in the office of Bud Selig, the commissioner of major league baseball, an application passed through notifying the MLB of billionaire Mark Cuban’s desire to be the next owner of the Chicago Cubs. There is no record of his reaction, only the possible image of Selig’s mousy head in his hands hoping that his band of “good ol’ boy” owners will quickly disseminate the possibility of Cuban becoming the owner of an MLB team (and of the storied yet mostly sullied Cubs for that matter) by voting down his application, moving on to the next, faceless corporate owner, who may just happen to be John Canning, part owner of the Milwaukee Brewers and close friend of Selig.

From the perspective of anyone with a logical business sense and an understanding of the importance of forward motion in the sports world, allowing Mark Cuban control of any MLB team would be a coup for baseball. Not only would he energize the fans of whichever team he purchased, but his back and forth with the commissioner could lead to positive change for a sport that has had more than it’s fair share of bad publicity. Everyone knows about the back and forth between Cuban and NBA commissioner David Stern, whether or not it has brought change to professional basketball is arguable, but one thing is for certain, when you are consistently challenged by someone in an open dialogue, it allows for ideas to be tossed about, which in turn cause the wheels to turn. The NBA is a league on the rise, with some of the best and brightest young athletes. Cuban’s team, the Dallas Mavericks is in the upper echelons of its respective sport, when ten years ago it was a joke of a franchise. Yet, Selig and his “ol’ boys” club look at Cuban as a stain, as an annoying brat who would only serve to pester a commissioner who wants nothing to do with decision making, let alone making positive change within his respective sport.

With baseball coming upon a crossroads in its history, it becomes apparent, that the problem with the sport is Bud Selig. To say that he, nor the owners had any clue about the rampant steroid use is ridiculous; for them now to shun the very players that lined their pockets in the late 90’s is embarrassing, as if by pretending the Mark McGwire’s of the world don’t exist, the problem will go away. While records are being broken at an incredible rate, the seats continue to be filled, but for much longer will this safety net last? Does baseball even have a long term solution for the inevitability of old age taking their top players, combined with whatever steroid revelations come down the pipeline in the near future (which will be a problem once all will be revealed. The hit the sport takes will probably rival that of the 1994 strike that almost killed it)? Probably not, Selig can barely muster the decision making powers to decide if he’ll be at the stadium when Bonds passes Hank Aaron.

Meanwhile, the Chicago Cubs find themselves at a strange crossroads as well, having the honor of being the first team to have not won a championship in 100 years and of being put up for sale after over two decades of horrible ownership via the Tribune Co. The sale price for being one of the worst franchises in the history of professional sports: Opening bid at 600 million dollars. How does that occur one asks? Easy, the Cubs don’t have to win, because their stadium Wrigley Field is one of the largest tourist destinations in the country. Why spend the money to build a good team when your product is the stadium not the team? Only this year did the Tribune Co. push the payroll into Yankees numbers with a team salary of $300 million. But, this was only a shrewd move to build investment interest from potential buyers, one that has since handicapped the team from making any major trades or securing players such as Carlos Zambrano with a contract extension. In a lot of ways, the Cubs are a microcosm for major league baseball, an organization that is coasting on past financial success without looking forward, slanging nostalgia as if it were a drug to the beer swilling denizens of Wrigley. No need to build a winning team, they have all the beer, peanuts, Harry Caray t-shirts, and goat curses one could possibly need.

The NBA found itself in a similar situation as baseball after the retirement of Michael Jordan and the dismantling of the Bulls dynasty at the end of the 90’s (ironically, the Bulls were dismantled by owner Jerry Reinsdorf, also the owner of the Chicago White Sox, who infamously was the only owner to vote against giving ownership of the Dallas Mavericks to Mark Cuban). Knowing that it could no longer rely on the days of Jordan and Magic Johnson it was able to change, adapt and thrive now in the new century. While Mark Cuban is not the sole reason for this, he is a major player, one that has increased interest within the sport. His competitive spirit would be a stark contrast to the complacent corporate entity that currently runs the Cubs, perhaps even striking the idea of consecutive winning seasons into the heart of Wrigleyville. A winning Cubs team, one that sells games based on its strengths and not on nostalgic tourism could only be a boom for baseball. The idea of the Cubs competing with the Red Sox or the Yankees in October on multiple occasions would bring about the kind of television ratings and advertising revenue that sports could only dream of, which is also something that baseball could use considering the last two World Series’ were busts.

The reality of the situation though is that Cuban will probably not be allowed to purchase the team. Reinsdorf, who has voiced his dislike for Cuban and his practices on record, could easily persuade the majority of the owners to vote against Cuban. Selig already has a personal interest with John Canning one that will surely result in the commissioner pushing for his friend become the owner of the Cubs. Which is unfortunate, for new blood is needed, not only for the Cubs, but for baseball as well, not the same “ol’ boy” club. Not allowing Mark Cuban the opportunity to purchase this team (or any), will only result in stagnation for the major leagues, at a time when progress is necessary or else the fans will leave to the greener pastures of the NFL and NBA, leaving baseball in the dust.

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