Friday, May 30, 2008

How Selig Could Thwart Cuban

Maury Brown explains how Selig could play matchmaker in an effort to head off the Mark Cuban gambit I described yesterday:

So, while MLB may not want Cuban as part of their Lodge, what if Cuban decides he really is interested in the Cubs, and does some heavy cash-laden deal? How could Zell refuse? How could MLB stop letting the rabble rouser in?

How about a marriage?

Selig has been known to play match-maker. One need only look to 2006 to see his handy work (although, he said publicly he had nothing to do with the partnership).

The ownership of the Washington Nationals is the perfect template for what MLB will almost certainly do with the Cubs sale. While Cuban, on his own, could make a cash offer that would be challenging for each of the bidders individually to pull off, if Selig were to take front-runner (at least in MLB’s mind), John Canning, Jr. and move another bidder in as a minority owner along with Canning, you could compete with Cuban who most likely will fly solo in his efforts.
That's quite possible. But here's a question: doesn't that -- along with the rigged-bid scenario Rob Neyer described yesterday (Insider; sorry) -- assume that Mark Cuban is going to play the Huckleberry by bidding first and setting the target for the arranged marriage to shoot for (or to make the rigged bid)? Marriages between rival ownership groups have to be tricky things to put together. Could such a beast be nimble enough to withstand a scenario in which Cuban simply tells Zell to field all of the offers he can and then call him to get them topped? Or, more realistically, structure some kind of offer with escalator clauses and such that makes it quite difficult for the married group (or, in Neyer's scenario, the late-bidder) to beat? That is, assuming the other suitors -- who each presumably want to own the Cubs themselves anyway -- are willing to share the glory with the other group.

Sure, Cuban isn't going to go beyond what he's willing to pay, but that's OK because there are no guarantees in life. The point is that if Cuban is determined enough, it will be practically impossible for MLB to make Zell accept the less-than-best offer as it has done with other ownership groups in the past, and that given the mechanics of the situation -- not to mention Cuban's savvy -- it will be no easy trick for MLB to ensure that its horse is actually making the best offer.

I don't have a vested interest in seeing Cuban own the Cubs. I just want to see it be a fair, market-driven process. Based on the statements from Cuban and Zell's camp, that's probably what we're going to get here.

And Bud Selig has to be hating it.

1 comment:

Russ Smith said...

I hope Mark Cuban gets the Cubs, and I think, Rob Neyer's thoughtful dissent notwithstanding, it's very possible. He wants the team, just like Rupert Murdoch wanted The Wall Street Journal, and if he make a preemptive bid that'll blow away competitors (like the Red Sox did with Dice-K), Sam Zell would jump at it. I'd love to see Selig try to wriggle out of that one. Cuban might be flamboyant, but that'd be cool for MLB.