It’s time for MLB to pucker up and embrace Mark Cuban
I waited a few days to write this article because of the initial shock. I’m a rational person for the most part, so I figured maybe it’s just a moment in time that caught me off guard. Currently, I broadcast for Radford University’s Women’s Basketball team; our girls had just picked up their first win of the season, in decisive fashion I might add, when I checked Twitter. Seeing some of my colleagues here at TTFB mentioning the words “trade”, “Jose Reyes” and “blockbuster” was enough to shock me. It was then I dug deeper and — to my chagrin — saw that it wasn’t just Reyes but a gaggle of Miami Marlins traded to the Toronto Blue Jays. A rage came over me like a surfer caught in a tsunami. I thought, “How could they do this?”
Then reality set in, and I realized because it’s the Marlins, that’s how. So, I read up, took a nap on the bus and slept on it. The next day, I did some errands and heard some analysts give their opinion on the trade. The rage had yet to subside. Finally, as I sit on my couch waiting for “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” to come on, something hit me. It is as if the bulging vein in my neck triggered a neuron in my brain that commanded my fingers to type. So, before we get to what this rant is about, let’s figure out what it’s not about.
Some may say it’s because I’m a Yankees fan, and I understand that argument, but I don’t think it is the sole reason for my frustration. Is this about the Marlins blowing everything up for the third time in the last 15 years? I’d say maybe on the surface level, but not wholly. What this is about is how disgraceful Major League Baseball has become.
How has this “boys club” of rich, uptight, arrogant, good ol’ boys been able to look themselves in the mirror when people like Jeffery Loria rob them of money in luxury tax? Not good enough for you? Here’s what absolutely infuriates me: The fact they shut out Mark Cuban and scoff at him as an owner when you have laughingstock franchises polluting baseball.
In case you don’t remember, MLB eliminated Cuban twice from the bidding process (Cubs, Rangers) and three times he was squeezed out, dropped out or never had an opportunity for one reason or another (Pirates, Dodgers, Mets).
So, how is Cuban poisonous for baseball when you have stories like the McCourts, Fred Wilpon, whatever the Pirates were doing for nearly 20 years and let’s not forget our friend Loria ruining not just the Marlins, but also the former Montreal Expos.Oh, my, how people have forgot about that! He crumbles a franchise and how is he rewarded? They let him buy another one! Unbelievable.
I guess Cuban is bad because he has received nearly $2 million in fines, and that’s only counting disclosed amounts. There’s no excuse for that, but if you’re looking for a twinkle of goodness, he matches each fine with a charitable donation. I can see how you could view that as a “black eye” for the sport. I’m so glad that baseball hasn’t had anything like that in recent years. Excuse me, my phone just rang.
“What’s that? Players did what? Owners tried to do that?! So, he knew too? Alright, well that’s interesting.”
Sorry about that; I’ve been informed to move on.
Even though Cuban jabs at the hierarchy at times, what he can do to revitalize a franchise is unquestionable. Before Cuban (B.C.) the Dallas Mavericks were a toilet of a franchise. In the decade leading up to Cuban, the Mavericks averaged 14,500 fans. In the first 10 seasons in the Cuban-era they averaged 19,500 with six seasons of 20,000 fans and two seasons of 19,900 plus. Let me crunch the numbers for you, that’s a 35% increase at the gate over that time period. A huge portion, to the naked eye, would have to do with the product that he put on the floor. Looking at the 20 years B.C., the team was terrible. Their average record was 33-49. In the Cuban-era, the team has registered wins in 69% of their regular season games. That makes their record around 57-25 every season for his tenure. However, it’s the little things that Cuban does that has players flocking to play for this once putrid organization.
Although secured by the previous owner, H. Ross Perrot, American Airlines Arena continues to be one of the top places to play in the NBA. In terms of the cookie cutter layout of most NBA/NHL shared venues, it is no different, just newer. However, it’s those little things that Cuban does to make his team happy. There are HD TVs in each player’s locker, state of the art equipment and plush offices. Cuban’s love for his players is unlike any other. When former Maverick Guard, Delonte West, was hitting hard times financially and couldn’t find an apartment, Cuban made phone calls so that he wouldn’t have to sleep in his truck.
On a business level, Cuban can expand your brand. This mogul dips into the acting world, has a television show that promotes innovation and business ventures, is a pitchman for products and is active in the social landscape of our country. Baseball is constantly talked about, for better or worse, in Congressional meetings in our nation’s capital, so let the smartest guy in the room be Cuban and fight for the sport. I know, baby steps, but you see that the possibilities are endless. Plus, what other owner would make a derogatory remark toward a referee and food establishment, and then accept their offer to manage a store for a day? One final plea to all you owners out there: Loria is taking your money through revenue sharing. It is estimated his franchise has received nearly $300 million since 1997. Wouldn’t you like to have some of that? I’m looking at you, Kansas City and San Diego. Guess who has largely ignored the luxury tax to field the best team possible? Out of guesses? Seriously, if you didn’t guess Cuban then get a head scan.
Anyway, before the new NBA collective bargaining agreement, the Mavericks organization spent willfully. Since the league’s luxury tax implantation in the 2000-2001 season, only the Knicks have spent more in penalties. At over $150 million in penalties with a roster of 12-15 players, you can extrapolate what a Cuban-led team might be willing to spend before hitting baseball’s luxury tax. Once again, a competitive balance could shift and make a woefully bad team viable.
It’s your move, Bud Selig. Stick up for your owners who actually care about their franchises and the sport you’ve spent defending for over 20 years. Heed Cuban’s warning as he spelled out to the L.A. Times, “I’m done chasing and bidding on baseball teams … I’ve just come to the conclusion that if I’m going to write a huge check, I’d rather have my [butt] kissed than have to chase.”
The owners need to put on their best shade of red and pucker up, because it’s time to realize Mark Cuban needs to be the present and future of baseball ownership.