How one goes about sending in an application to buy a Major League Baseball franchise is a mystery to those of us who aren't in the ballclub-acquisition business. By fax? By standard mail? Or is there an on-line form?
Controversial Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said Thursday that he has submitted his application to purchase the Cubs. He said he believed he sent it in last week, though he wasn't sure. Dates don't matter anyway. What matters is that he's officially serious about buying the valuable, championship-starved franchise on the North Side.
For those Cubs fans who are excited about the possibility of a free-spending owner taking over their beloved team, the news that Cuban formally has taken the first step in the bid process is huge.
But it's hard to shake the image of Commissioner Bud Selig holding Cuban's application by his thumb and index finger, and at arm's length, as if he were holding a rat by the tail. That's probably unfair to Cuban, who runs a successful NBA franchise, but it seems to sum up baseball's general estimation of him.
This sentence ran in a Tribune story Thursday about a potential ownership bid by the Ricketts family, whose estimated worth of $2.3 billion was built on its Internet-based discount brokerage: "And while Internet billionaire Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, has expressed interest, most observers think Major League Baseball would balk at a potential owner as unpredictable and outspoken as Cuban.
"I e-mailed Cuban to get a response to that sentence—a sentence that wasn't a whole lot different than what I've been hearing since Tribune Co. announced in April it intended to sell the Cubs.
"I never comment on 'most observers' reports," Cuban said. "It's like responding to a random blog post, a waste of time.
"I told him the sentence in the story seemed to capture the sentiment of him among baseball people.
"Sentiment?" he said. "Hearsay of hearsay of hearsay doesn't deserve a response either.
"He's right about the hearsay. It's not always true. But I'll say what I hear from people who are close to Selig: Baseball doesn't like Cuban. It doesn't like the fact he has had to pay about $1.5 million in fines for criticizing the NBA and its referees, among other sins. It can't imagine what he would do around umpires, a notoriously grumpy group. Baseball doesn't like the perception that Cuban wants to be the star of the show. It doesn't like the thought of Cuban as ringmaster of the Wrigley circus.
Again, hearsay. About as good hearsay as you can get, but hearsay. What Cuban brings to the table is an armored bank truck. Forbes estimates his worth at $2.3 billion. He has a reputation as an owner who doesn't spare expenses when it comes to building a team or taking care of his players.
Selig has a fairly easy out if he's looking for one regarding Cuban. He has said the prospect of local ownership will weigh heavily in the selection process. John Canning, who heads a private-equity firm based in Chicago, is considered a strong candidate. Other potential candidates include Chicago Wolves owner Don Levin, as well as a partnership of Chicago attorney Thomas Mandler and businessman Jim Anixter.
The Ricketts' bid will be led by Tom Ricketts, who earned undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Chicago. The family is based in Omaha.
The Ricketts family reportedly is readying its application. Cuban's is already on someone's desk at MLB headquarters
.At a minimum, he could help drive up the sale price of the franchise, which some experts believe could top $1 billion.
It's hard to picture Bulls and White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, who has seen Cuban's act in the NBA, remaining quiet during the bid process. It's one thing to have to deal with Cuban as a fellow owner; it's another to have to deal with him as a fellow owner in the same city. Selig takes his cue from the owners and is especially close to Reinsdorf. It's true there's a "Cub" in Cuban's name. It's also true there's a "ban." Stay tuned.