So Richard Justice has a new idea, and frankly, I sort of like it. What if instead of another nameless businessman as pro sports team owner, Drayton McLane sold the Astros to a businessman with a name above all else- Mark Cuban?
Cuban certainly improved the Dallas Mavericks in recent years- turning the Mavs into a respectable lot after years of being a terrible organization with a fanbase that was pretty much non existent. I can vividly remember watching Rockets vs. Mavericks games in 1993, 1994 and wondering what it would be like to be a fan of a team that was as bad as the Mashburn-Jackson-Kidd Mavericks. Flash forward 15 years and the Astros are almost as bad, almost as hopeless.
The difference in the two clubs is that the Mavericks had to wait until 2000 to start their relationship with the Pittsburgh native turned billionaire. Our Astros, should McLane decide to pursue a sale earnestly, could find themselves across the table from Cuban in a negotiations session sooner rather than later.
Does Cubes have any intentions as far as becoming an owner on some level of a MLB team? Well, he flirted with the idea of buying the Chicago Cubs, but that never materialized as the Cubs have found new ownership. There is the potential hurdle of getting the stodgier, more set in their ways MLB and their respective club owners to sign off on a renegade of sorts becoming one of their peers.
If money talks like I think it does, this shouldn't be an issue. Bud Selig has turned MLB as much into a profit making vehicle as a professional sports league- whether it be moving back start times for World Series games to get prime TV time for advertisers and networks, to overseeing the evolution of free agent contracts, Selig understands the importance of the financial viability as much as any league commissioner.
On the micro level, the city of Houston could benefit greatly from Mark Cuban owning the Astros. While it's not as if the Rockets, Texans and Astros are laughingstocks, none of these franchises are visible nationally. Take that trip up I-45 and you find yourself in Dallas with at least two of the three professional sports teams (the Stars don't count with me. If you like hockey, I'm sorry, but your league is on life support) are well known nationally- the Cowboys and Mavericks. Even the Rangers, one of the more forgettable MLB teams, are making national headlines- albeit for less than desirable reasons. The striking thing about this, is that outside the Mavs, none of the Dallas teams have accomplished all that much in the past decade and a half.
The Cowboys have a history of losing in December that dates back nearly 15 years. Imagine the Yankees not winning their division or even winning a playoff series since 1996. Now imagine them still getting the lion's share of attention on ESPN. That's the Dallas Cowboys. They've been able to stay in the national consciousness because they have a history of winning, but also because they have an owner, Jerry Jones, that has pushed boundaries and made headlines. Bottom line: they're interesting.
Back to the Cuban front, the Mavericks have a lone Finals appearance to show for their near decade of great play. Their owner though, has given them every opportunity to win, has changed a losing culture and like Jerry Jones has perfected the art of turning controversy into revenue and attention. Unlike Jones though, Cuban has turned that notoriety into consistent winning.
Yes, I realize the chances of a) Mark Cuban being interested in buying the Astros b) the MLB establishment giving the OK on the sale, and c) a Mavericks-like success story occurring is slim. But hey, it's December 21st. A guy can dream, and so can a city. So Mark, come on down to Houston. We're not that much different than Dallas. We don't have a riverwalk (I hear you have problems with those), and the MLB/NBA seasons don't overlap all that much. Just think about it. Rest assured, Astros fans are.