— Mark Cuban had flirtations with baseball not long ago, and like many affairs of the heart, they didn’t end well. No, Cuban didn’t stalk the Chicago Cubs or Texas Rangers afterward, or drown his sorrows in cheap whiskey while listening to old blues songs. All he did is swear off baseball. But you know how that is. A wink from an attractive new team and he’ll be smitten again.
Meanwhile, Bud Selig has an uncomfortable situation on his hands. He damaged the Los Angeles Dodgers the minute he allowed Frank and Jamie McCourt to buy the storied franchise with little in the bank. Now the McCourts are in the midst of a venomous divorce, Selig has seized control of the team and it’s only a matter of time before a permanent new owner is sought.
So isn’t it obvious? These two need to be fixed up. Cuban and Selig have to sit down over a glass of wine at a trendy café and share their thoughts and feelings about life, love and the infield fly rule.
It doesn’t have to necessarily be Mark Cuban. It could be any suitor who can provide for the Dodgers in the style to which they’ve become accustomed. But after the McCourts finally make their tar-and-feathers exit, MLB has to approve the sale of the franchise to somebody who understands what the Dodgers mean to baseball, and what they can do for the game in the future.
The reason Selig and the rest of the owners are in this preposterously humiliating situation is because they themselves were terrified of a deep-pockets owner like Cuban who might turn the Dodgers into the Yankees West. So they let a smooth-talking couple buy it that had parking lots in Boston for collateral.
In a way, I can understand it. We just went through an era of banking in which people who had no business buying a house were buying houses. The mood of country was “Have it now, worry about it later.” That led to a financial meltdown.
And speaking of financial meltdowns, Frank McCourt tried to borrow money behind Selig’s back because he couldn’t meet payroll, which on Selig’s end was like finding out that the woman you married in a quickie Vegas ceremony isn’t who she said she was, and on top of that she’s finagling deals behind your back.
This is needless ugliness. The Dodgers are one of the great franchises in all of sports. They’ve won six World Series titles and 21 National League pennants. They’re the club that has had illustrious names Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese, Roy Campanella, Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Duke Snider, Jim Gilliam and Fernando Valenzuela in its employ.
The Dodgers created a family atmosphere — the O’Malley family, not the McCourts — that spread good will in baseball for decades. In a staggering display of loyalty and stability, they had two managers — Walter Alston and Tommy Lasorda — from 1958 until 1996. They’ve had Vin Scully at the microphone since 1950, and his popularity in Southern California is second only to sunshine.
Now think about it, Selig: You allowed this vitally important segment of American sporting life to go to the McCourts?!
It’s natural for someone like Selig to wake up and say “What was I thinking?” after a fling. The embarrassment runs deep, especially when it involves people like the McCourts. You take two or three showers and it still doesn’t wash away the slime. The key is to learn from your mistake and make wiser choices in the future.
Selig and the other owners misjudged Cuban, and guys like him. Cuban isn’t an idiot. Oh, he may act like one occasionally. When most people think of Cuban, they envision a rich guy in a T-shirt at a basketball game yelling at the refs. Yes, he is that, and he is solely responsible for that image.
But he also didn’t get where he is by squandering money or making poor business decisions. He is as capable as anyone in sports in determining whether a professional athlete is worth the money he is asking. Just because he has a fat wallet doesn’t mean he’ll open it for every Scott Boras client who is demanding a eye-popping sum.
Cuban’s stewardship of the Dallas Mavericks — he purchased a majority stake in January, 2000 — hasn’t produced a champion, and the team has been to the Finals only once. But they’re at least in the mix every year.
Also, while Cuban has made a fool out of himself on many occasions, resulting in over $1.5 million in fines from the NBA, he seems to have gotten the message and chilled. He’s still intense, just less obnoxious.
Again, it doesn’t have to be Cuban who buys the Dodgers. It just has to be an anti-McCourt.
The horrible and cowardly attack on Giants fan Bryan Stow in the Dodger Stadium parking lot on opening day represents the nadir of the McCourt Era. The incident itself was highly disturbing enough, but the lack of a quick response from Frank McCourt — presumably refusing to make any public comments in the immediate aftermath because he didn’t want to face any divorce inquiries — caused the LAPD to step in and say, in essence, “If you can’t handle security, we will.”
First the police had to intercede. Then Selig. The reign of the McCourts is over; only the paperwork needs to be completed.
What Dodger fans will not tolerate is another major screw-up by Selig. They had the McCourts foisted upon them, and now they deserve recompense in the form of an owner who is financially solvent and knows what the heck he’s doing.
The Dodgers aren’t terrible, they’re just irrelevant. Los Angeles is the No. 2 media market in the nation, and yet MLB has treated the Dodgers with complete disregard, like a dog tied to a stake in the backyard.
You might even say that baseball has jilted Los Angeles. Of course, in situations like this a new relationship is always just around the corner, and it’s up to Selig and the other owners to get the matchmaking right this time.