UPDATE 2:12 am: Mark Cuban was outbid by the Ryan/Greenberg team, they came up with a huge cash bid of $385 million (plus they are taking on additional considerable debt). Cuban is out.
Good for them. Bad for us. Baseball needs some owners who are not willing to just sit back and watch the Yankees and Red Sox, and some who are not so leveraged as to hamper how they build a team. Mark Cuban could be that. He would have been good for the league.
11:05 pm: It is looking more and more like Mark Cuban is going to be the owner of Major League Baseball’s Texas Rangers.
The Rangers are being auctioned off as part of a bankruptcy. When the first bids were announced, Cuban came in top bidder by $25 million, and the lawyers for the other bidding team (legendary pitcher Nolan Ryan and sports attorney Chuck Greenberg) started dropping F-bombs and talking of appeals and litigation.
But after discussing it for two hours, the Ryan/Greenberg group came back with a bid $2 million over Cuban. Then 90 seconds later — literally 90 seconds — Cuban’s group upped the ante by $15 million.
I think we know how this is movie going to end. (Editor’s note: No I didn’t. Much more Crying Game than I expected.)
Even then there are a lot of hurdles left — including MLB approving the deal, which means the other owners welcoming Cuban to the club. Is that going to happen?
I asked Craig Calcaterra, the blogger-in-chief over at Hardball Talk, our sister NBC baseball blog, if Cuban could really pull this off.
I like Cuban’s chances right now. It won’t be easy. Yes, MLB will have to approve the bid, but (a) I think that if the court says that Cuban wins and all Greenberg has is the threat of ongoing litigation, baseball will approve it just to be done with it. They don’t want to have to float loans to the Rangers for another year or how long this process would play out. I suppose there is a small chance that MLB will simply tell Cuban to buzz off, but that’s pretty risky, I think.
There are a lot of owners who don’t want him because he won’t conform to the “keep payroll low, accept revenue sharing $$ from the Yankees and make a nice profit each year” model that so many of them subscribe to. I think the hype about Cuban is overblown, though, and is a creation of people who watch his antics during Mavericks games. He’s way less volatile than George Steinbrenner and Ted Turner ever were, and owners were fine with them.
At the end of the day, the owners will have a choice: (a) deny Cuban, continue to bankroll the Rangers’ operating expenses and risk becoming dragged into a big lawsuit that could imperil their right to approve future owners if a court disagrees with them; or (b) hold their nose and allow him in. I think they’ll choose B.
Cuban would be good for baseball.
He is high profile. He will say what’s on his mind. But he is a very good owner. He brings a lot more than antics to the table. For one, he will push technological innovation and integration with the sport.
And he will push to win. Having owners who want to really win and not just sip rum and Coca-Cola while waiting for the Yankee dollars is a good thing for baseball. Having a liquid owner rather than heavily leveraged owners going through an ugly divorce would be a good thing for baseball.
Remember the Dallas Mavericks before Cuban took over? The franchise was as ugly as the uniforms. They had not won more than 36 games in a decade, let alone gone to the playoffs. They were a laughing stock.
Cuban changed the culture. He upgraded the facilities and was one of the first owners to buy a team plane so the players could fly charter all the time. He made changes and demanded excellence. The Mavericks have never missed the playoffs in any full season he was owner, they have never won fewer than 50 games. He has made the Mavericks a model franchise in a lot of ways.
But he still loses money on the team (covered by the fact that he also owns the American Airlines Arena they play in, plus he is stinking rich and doesn’t mind covering if he has to). Some owners may not like that, but Cuban is about the winning. Rangers fans will love him.
The Rangers are not nearly the sad franchise that the Mavericks were when he purchased them, but baseball could use a good shock to the system. It could use someone who does not easily accept the status quo.
It could use Mark Cuban.