Congratulations to the Dallas Mavericks for a surprising run to their first NBA title. A franchise who was often known more for their owner Mark Cuban and his “Do whatever it takes to win,” approach reached the pinnacle of their sport, proving a team is more than a couple of star players. The bad news for the NBA, and I realize this is a Dodgers blog so give me a moment I’m getting there, is a potentially ugly labor dispute, that many experts feel could cost the NBA at least the first few months of its season.
That labor dispute could be a good thing for Dodger fans, why you ask, well because it may tempt Cuban to look into finally pulling the trigger and purchasing a Major League baseball team. He tried a few years back when he made a run at buying the Cubs, and the general impression was that MLB owners didn’t want Cuban as a member, due to his controversial and sometimes brash approach.
After witnessing the transformation he has led for an NBA franchise that’s never been considered one of the “Elite” markets or teams, MLB owners may want to change their attitude about Cuban. He would certainly bring a swagger, and charisma to one of MLB’s most storied franchises on one of it’s biggest stages, Los Angeles.
He’s certainly mellowed the last few years in terms of fines and frustrating NBA commissioner David Stern, what has never wavered is his non-stop dedication, bordering on obsession, in providing his franchise, and ultimately his fans with the best possible product in an effort to win a championship.
Talk about your complete opposites, when was the last time a Dodger fan felt that Frank McCourt was doing everything in his power to provide the best product for his fans, at the expense of his personal well being. Considering the Dodgers payroll has gone down every year, while the teams debt has gone up at an alarming rate, despite being at the top in terms of attendance every year, obviously there’s something wrong.
There is no doubt that McCourt is the polar opposite of Cuban in terms of his approach to running his franchise. First of all Cuban has something McCourt never did, no not charisma or a common sense savvy business approach, I’m talking about the funds aka cold hard cash to operate the Dodgers the way they deserved to be run. Have you once read a story about Cuban defaulting on loans he used as collateral to buy his team, and losing his collateral aka parking lots in the process? Nope.
Could you ever imagine Frank McCourt on the field before a home game taking batting practice? I don’t think it would be a stretch to say that McCourt couldn’t even swing a bat. Yet day in and day out Cuban is on the court before games, working on his mid-range game (LeBron take note you could use a mid-range game) or giving interviews to the press while he rides the exercise bike before games. This is the same guy who uses his chandeliered ballroom of his house as a wiffle ball field, could you ever imagine McCourt doing something like this? Never, especially after his ex-wife takes half and his home becomes a hotel, he wouldn’t really have room to play wiffle ball anyway.
Cuban’s down to earth approach to his employees and fans is also a 180 degree difference than what you see from McCourt and his entitled I’m better than you are arrogance, that has alienated him from fans and MLB execs alike. CBS did a great interview with Cuban back in 2007 and his comments tell you every reason why the Dodgers need his passion and dedication instead of McCourt’s arrogance and greed. Cuban said:
"“I don’t sell basketball, we sell sore throats, we sell smiles, we sell the look on your son’s or daughter’s face when they’re standing up and screaming and yelling.”"
Meanwhile McCourt is selling his TV rights for the next three years and his sponsorship’s for the rest of this season to scrape up cash to make payroll, and hopefully just delaying the inevitable, a one way ticket out of town.
McCourt has also been notorious for his constant turnover of key front office personnel, as for Cuban’s employees, “Turnover is almost non-existent.” How about their approaches to the product they put on the field? When the Dodgers were making back-to-back runs to the NLCS they clearly lacked an ace pitcher, something that may have been enough to get them to the world series. McCourt’s emphasis was on purchasing matching Malibu beach homes for he and his future ex-Mrs. instead of getting a Cliff Lee or Roy Halladay. Cuban however:
"spares no expense in signing new players and taking good care of them. He installed flat-screen TVs and Sony PlayStations in each player’s locker."
I doubt McCourt even knows what a Sony PlayStation does, let alone being in tune enough with his players to realize the benefits simple gestures like this mean to current players and more importantly attracting future talent. And I’m not the only one who thinks Cuban to the Dodgers is the ideal fit.
When I interviewed ex-Dodger Tommy John last week I asked him about the disappearance of “The dodger way,” and what the Dodgers needed to get back on top his answer “they need a change of ownership more than anything. Maybe Mark Cuban?”
There’s also been a website started called Mark Cuban Save the Dodgers. Check it out on Twitter and lend your support, who knows, Maverick blue is pretty close to Dodger blue so Cuban’s not looking at a major wardrobe adjustment. Obviously the Dodgers have a key week coming up starting today. They survived a wild 10 game road trip going 5-and-5 against some tough competition and have manged to stay in the race in the NL West despite their long list of injuries.
However, as has become a trend during the McCourt era the more important news will be taking place in court rooms and off the field as Frank and Jamie try to settle their contentious battle over dividing up their assets. And what is tragic is Frank views the Dodgers as just that, an asset, not a fundamental priority that demands his utmost attention.
Also the next Dodger payroll comes due June 15th. Frank sold off this years team sponsorship rights for cash to make the last payroll, and with Bud Selig announcing that MLB will likely conclude their investigation of Dodgers finances on June 22nd, if McCourt makes the June 15 payroll he could hold off MLB for a bit longer.
Yet just because MLB could conclude it’s investigation on June 22nd doesn’t mean they will be ready to make their final decision by the end of the month. If they don’t then Frank will almost certainly be sunk as old friend Manny Ramirez is due over $8 million in deferred salary at the end of June, meaning McCourt would have to come up with double his normal payroll at once.
So obviously many things need to play out, but if things happen the way they should, and the way Dodger fans deserve, then who knows perhaps the door would be open for the anti-McCourt to take control of the franchise. Considering he took the worst team in the NBA when he bought them, and turned them into NBA champions, just imagine what he could bring to the Dodgers. One can hope, and at this point in the Dodger season hope is about all we have to go on.
Congrats Dallas and congrats to Mark Cuban, now for your next project how about saving our Los Angeles Dodgers?