Sunday, June 10, 2007

Players love Cuban?! The next Cubs Owner?

BERARDINO: Players give Cuban ringing endorsementPublished June 10, 2007

There may not be a more player-friendly owner in professional sports than Mark Cuban, so it comes as little surprise the ultimate Dallas Maverick has the makings of a rooting section in the Cubs' clubhouse.Ask Derrek Lee, for instance, if he has any thoughts on who might purchase the franchise in the coming months, and the Cubs' first baseman won't hesitate."I'm just going to throw out there Mark Cuban," Lee said with a laugh. "That would be my vote. I hope that's not tampering."Don't worry, Derrek. Tampering only flows in one direction. We think."Well, he seems awesome," Lee continued. "He's passionate. The guy wants to win, so you know he's going to try his best to make the team a winner. He seems like he'd be cool as an owner.

"Cubs outfielder Cliff Floyd agreed with his longtime friend."From what we've seen of him, I think everybody would welcome that for what he does for his players," Floyd said. "In return you see his players always busting their tail for him."Floyd has talked to his friend Michael Finley about Cuban and heard nothing but good things from the ex-Mavericks forward. And a few years back, when Floyd was with the Red Sox, he received a tour of the Mavericks facilities and came away highly impressed."I got a chance to go in there and see the whole setup," Floyd said. "I tell you what, you'll never beat that. He makes those players as comfortable as possible. When you have that, the players only love you more.

"Cubs closer Ryan Dempster's first thought had to do with possible offseason perks."Can I get tickets to the Mavericks games?" the Denver resident asked of a possible Cuban ownership. "OK, then it would be cool. I'll go to Dallas, sit courtside and watch the Mavericks play."Dempster's other question was more practical, considering Cuban's long history of ref-baiting."Where would he sit?" Dempster wondered. "He'd have to be able to yell at the umpires, right?"Cuban, who is also exploring the idea of starting a pro football league, isn't the luxury suite sort of guy. So if he winds up buying the Cubs -- and early estimates place the potential sale price at $800 million -- you can bet he'll find his way to a field-level seat.In other words, move over Jeffrey Loria. Company could be coming."Baseball's a little different game [than the NBA]," Lee cautioned. "I don't think [Cuban] would be doing all the yelling and screaming."What's Bud Selig going to do? Fine him? David Stern has been trying that for years, and it hasn't worked yet."Yeah," Lee said, "But we might pay for it with the strike zone, you know what I mean?"Speaking of umpires, Cubs manager Lou Piniella returned from a four-game suspension last week for a little ump-baiting of his own. How would he feel about working for Cuban?"I don't know Mark at all," Piniella said. "I know him from watching the NBA, and he's a character. A wealthy character. I know this, he enjoys winning."

And how would Cuban's act play with the men in blue? Isn't Cuban, uh, a tad vocal?"He is vocal," Piniella said, "but almost in a fun way."Fun. That's the No. 1 word you keep hearing when the idea of a Cuban foray into baseball comes up. And if there's one thing baseball could use a little more of in these conflicted times, it's fun."Anybody that would invest the kind of resources that it's going to take to buy this team," Piniella said, "first of all they'd have to have a love for it and second of all they'd want to be successful at it."Having been rejected in his overtures to purchase the Pirates, look for Cuban to put on a full-court press for the Cubs in the coming months.

While former Diamondbacks chairman Jerry Colangelo and the others mentioned in the early stages of this Cubs sweepstakes might be fine choices, there's no ignoring the impact Cuban could have if he won the bidding.Not only on the Cubs and Wrigley Field, both of which could use a dash of his vaunted ingenuity, but on the sport itself.

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