By David J. Cohen
The Cubs and Wrigley Field are for sale, and the first round of bidding was recently completed. Three groups have bid over a billion dollars for the entity, and the leader in the clubhouse is Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. His bid of $1.3 billion trumps the field so far. The prohibitive favorite, John Canning, was endorsed by MLB Commissioner Bud Selig but did not make the cut.
The other two groups in the running are the founders of what is now TD Ameritrade and a sports holding corporation. The latter group involves congressman Jack Kemp and Henry Aaron. It is kind of like the group formation which allowed Jay-Z to be an owner of the New Jersey Nets.
Many Cubs fans are hoping and praying that Cuban wins out. His energy and commitment to his team is unmatched. Many Cubs fans believe he could elevate their team to a level above the curse, like John Henry did with the Red Sox. It has already reached the point where there is a website campaign: cubanandthecubs.com. (the picture for the article comes from them)
Fans in Dallas heavily endorse Cuban with good reason. The Mavericks were an NBA bottom feeder for years before he took over. In the 90s, the Mavericks struggled despite having talent like Jason Kidd, Jamal Mashburn, Michael Finley, and Steve Nash. Cuban was a Mavs fan and decided to step in himself. On January 4th, 2000, Cuban bought the team.
In the first year of the Cuban era, the Mavs went 40-42. It was their best record since the 1989-1990 season.
The next year, the Mavs exploded. Dirk Nowitzki became a household name. The Mavs went 53-29, finishing fifth in the Western Conference. Nowitzki became the first Mavs player ever to earn All-NBA honors. The Mavs were finally capitalizing on their talent.
The year after that, the Mavs started the year 14-0 and tied for the league’s best record. They made the Western Conference finals but lost to the San Antonio Spurs.
Two years later, the Mavs were in the Finals and up 2-0 against the Miami Heat. They had a 13 point lead going into the fourth quarter and were minutes away from a 3-0 lead. Then Dwayne Wade arrived and the Mavs lost that game and the next three games to blow the finals. The team was irreparably damaged.
The honeymoon in Dallas was over.
The next year, the Mavs went an outstanding 67-15 and won 52 of 57 at one point during the season. Then the playoffs started. The Golden State Warriors were led by Cuban’s nemesis in former Mavs head coach Don Nelson. Baron Davis and the upstart Warriors tore the hearts out of the seemingly unbeatable Mavs. They dominated the Mavs and won the series 4-2, becoming just the third team ever to beat a number one seed in the opening round. And they didn’t just beat them. They dismantled them. They won the four games by 12, 18, 14, and 25 points.
The psyche of the Dallas squad was absolutely shredded at this point. This is also when whispers began about Cuban thinking of selling the Mavs.
Last season, the Mavs clearly took a step backwards. In what looked like a last ditch effort, Cuban and the Mavs traded promising point guard Devin Harris and valuable future first round draft picks to the Nets for Jason Kidd. Kidd and the Mavs weren’t good afterwards and the Mavs lost in the opening round to another upstart team, the New Orleans Hornets.
The whispers of Cuban selling the team were getting louder.
Now Cuban is the front-runner to buy the Cubs. If Bud Selig and the other owners get over themselves, Cuban will be the next owner of Wrigley and the Cubs. What could separate Cuban from the other two groups are the renovations he would be willing to pay for the stadium. It is estimated the costs of renovating Wrigley Field are between $400 and $600 million. Cuban has already shown a creativity and brilliance in renovating the Mavericks and would deliver the same results with Wrigley.
Cuban as an owner is an amazing asset. His dedication to putting everything he has into his franchise is tremendous. He becomes part of his team. He can’t just sign the checks; he must be immersed in his club.
This is why Mavs fans better pray Cuban doesn’t win the Cubs.
Cuban is a wise businessman and understands that he cannot give his whole-hearted effort if he owns two teams in different parts of the country. He has proven he can pounce on an opportunity. That’s how he acquired his massive wealth. He can’t be the owner he feels he should be if he owns both the Mavericks and the Cubs. Especially with the length of the baseball season.
Cuban, if he seriously looks at it, might acknowledge privately that the Mavs window of opportunity has closed. With the Hornets, Lakers, and Blazers all young teams on the rise and the perennial Spurs now in their title year (their pattern is to win every two years), the Mavericks are in a tough spot. Either a drastic shakeup has to be made or they won’t make the playoffs next year.
Cuban wants to win and is looking for a chance to do so. He feels the Cubs might fill the void.
They are the ultimate challenge. They haven’t won in a century. Assuming the Cubs fall short again this year, Cuban could become a folk hero. If he were to lead the Cubs to a World Series and do it in quick fashion he would go down as one of the greatest owners of our time.
The Cubs themselves have a solid core of players. Zambrano and Harden could anchor the rotation for the next five years. Carlos Marmol could evolve into one of the game’s best closers in due time. The Cubs have a solid young catcher in Geovany Soto. They have several highly talented position players. They also have some up and coming talent in the minors, like recently called up pitcher Jeff Samardzija (who might be the best wide receiver playing in Chicago). The Cubs are much better equipped than the Mavs for a title run in the coming years.
The Cubs are just opening their window of opportunity. The Mavs will soon be going through the rebuilding cycle.
Cuban put the Mavs in position to win a championship but the players choked for him. It was out of his hands once his team went up 2-0 in the finals with a fourth quarter lead. Dallas and their core players are yet to recover from their collapse against Miami, and Cuban can't do anything to change their psychology.
Cuban basically has a choice to make. He can begin a long rebuilding process in Dallas. He could become a legend in Chicago.
The choice is his.
That $1.3 billion bid was his decision.
If Cuban does indeed buy the Cubs he will likely look into selling the Mavericks at some point within the next calendar year. He will make sure to sell the team to a reputable owner; he won’t sell the team to a Clay Bennett. The next Mavs owner will probably be smart enough to have some success.
But they will never be the same. David Stern will be celebrating, but there won't be a party in Dallas.