I'd like to begin the following baseball discussion by noting that Mark Cuban is in the news again.
Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks since 2000, said some controversial things. That kicked off a typical modern news cycle, as there was a reaction to said controversial things and then him clarifying said controversial things.
We're not going to get into the merits (or lack thereof) of what was said. For now, we're just going to note that this was the latest case of Cuban being Cuban. Be it through his words, his actions or, on occasion, the use of his wallet, being in the news is something he's fond of.
Cuban is one of those owners. The big-talking, big-acting and big-spending kind. Fittingly, the word "maverick" works well to describe the breed.
Cuban is undoubtedly the maverick owner of the NBA. Maybe you'd also put New Jersey Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov in with him. Elsewhere, the NFL has Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, and MLB has...
Well, MLB used to have New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner. But ever since his passing in 2010, there hasn't exactly been a power struggle to seize his throne as baseball's king maverick.
Much to Bud Selig's satisfaction, apparently. As one source told ESPN's Jayson Stark after Cuban's failed 2010 attempt to buy the Texas Rangers, MLB's commish has no desire for any owner "who wants to be The Story."
But the times are a-changin'. Or will soon be a-changin', anyway. Selig's on his way out of the commish's office, which means the door could soon be open for a maverick owner to arise.
With no teams up for sale, the safest bet is that a maverick owner might emerge from MLB's current crop of owners. Culled together from Cot's Baseball Contracts and assorted other sources, the list includes:
|Arizona Diamondbacks||Ken Kendrick||2004|
|Atlanta Braves||Liberty Media||2007|
|Baltimore Orioles||Peter Angelos||1993|
|Boston Red Sox||John W. Henry||2001|
|Chicago Cubs||Tom Ricketts||2009|
|Chicago White Sox||Jerry Reinsdorf||1981|
|Cincinnati Reds||Robert Castellini||2005|
|Cleveland Indians||Larry Dolan||2000|
|Colorado Rockies||Dick and Charles Monfort||2005|
|Detroit Tigers||Mike Ilitch||1992|
|Houston Astros||Jim Crane||2011|
|Kansas City Royals||David Glass||2000|
|Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim||Arte Moreno||2003|
|Los Angeles Dodgers||Magic Johnson, Guggenheim Baseball Management||2012|
|Miami Marlins||Jeffrey Loria||2002|
|Milwaukee Brewers||Mark Attanasio||2005|
|Minnesota Twins||Jim Pohlad||Inherited in 2009|
|New York Mets||Fred Wilpon||2002|
|New York Yankees||Hal Steinbrenner||Inherited in 2010|
|Oakland Athletics||Lew Wolff||2005|
|Philadelphia Phillies||David Montgomery||1997|
|Pittsburgh Pirates||Robert Nutting||2007|
|San Diego Padres||Ron Fowler||2012|
|San Francisco Giants||San Francisco Baseball Associates LLC||2008|
|Seattle Mariners||Nintendo of America||1992|
|St. Louis Cardinals||Bill DeWitt Jr.||1995|
|Tampa Bay Rays||Stuart Sternberg||2005|
|Texas Rangers||Ray Davis and Rob R. Simpson||2010|
|Toronto Blue Jays||Rogers Communications||2000|
|Washington Nationals||Ted Lerner||2006|
Cot's Baseball Contracts/Various Sources
It's to the big-market cities that your eyes go first, starting with New York.
But I don't know, man.
Hank Steinbrenner is nothing if not a chip off the old block, but it's Hal Steinbrenner who's running the Yankees now, and he's anything but a chip off the old block. He showed this past winter that he's willing to spend like his late father, but at no point has he ever shown even a remote willingness to act like him.
Elsewhere in New York is Mets owner Fred Wilpon. The only time we hear him speak, it seems, is when he's offering updates on the club's finances in the wake of his involvement with Bernie Madoff.
On the other side of the country, the maverick candidates are iffy in Los Angeles too.
Angels owner Arte Moreno has been compared to George Steinbrenner on more than one occasion, but that has more to do with his spending than his temperament. In between the signings of Albert Pujols, C.J. Wilson, Josh Hamilton and Mike Trout, he's been quiet.
Meanwhile, in Los Angeles proper, Magic Johnson and his partners have spent mountains of money to rebuild the ruined Dodgers club they inherited from Frank McCourt into a National League powerhouse.
But Magic as a maverick? Eh, that's hard to see. He's a name and a face with tons of money at his disposal, but, well, he's too nice. Silly controversies notwithstanding, Magic doesn't come off as one to willingly seek controversy just to get some attention.
That takes care of baseball's two biggest markets, and the maverick candidates are just as "meh"-worthy in the lesser media markets too.
Red Sox owner John W. Henry? He has the deep pockets, but not the boisterous personality. Maybe if he had Larry Lucchino's mouth. Alas.
Cubs owner Tom Ricketts? Maybe once he spruces up both Wrigley Field and the Cubs' big league roster and actually has things worth boasting about.
White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf? It's easy to forget he's there for the most part. And while he's not cheap, he's not one to break the bank either.
Orioles owner Peter Angelos? He spends big about as seldom as he speaks.
Nationals owner Ted Lerner? I'll just leave this bit about his "Wall of Silence" right here.
Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria? Well, he did seem like a maverick when he ushered in a new era of Marlins baseball with big free-agent signings and a new ballpark in 2012. But that era proved to be a sham, and Loria has since been anointed baseball's king dingbat now and forever.
Et cetera, et cetera. Rather than continue to list all the other stops, I'll stop there and just be out with my best bet for where to look.
That would be the desert.
That's where you'll find Ken Kendrick. He's the managing general partner of the Arizona Diamondbacks, and he's probably MLB's best shot at getting a maverick owner in the near future.
We know a couple things about Kendrick, one being that he's not afraid to ruffle feathers.
Kendrick's highlights include accusing Stephen Drew of taking too long to nurse an injury (quite a serious one, at that) and of trying to light a fire under a struggling Justin Upton in the same 2012 interview.
"He's certainly not the Justin Upton that he has been in the past and that we would expect of him," said Kendrick in a radio interview (via The Arizona Republic). "He's 24 years old, and it's time for him to be a consistent performer and right now this year he's not been that."
Kendrick was at it again last year. Following a season that featured Kendrick ordering Dodgers fans at Chase Field to change their clothes, according to Deadspin's Timothy Burke (h/t Yahoo Sports), and (futilely) asking the Dodgers not to celebrate on the field if they clinched the NL West in Arizona's home, Kendrick refused to take the high road.
"We owe those guys," he told MLB.com.
Bold talk, to be sure. And more recently, Kendrick has shown himself to be a man of bold action.
Rather than simply fire general manager Kevin Towers or manager Kirk Gibson after the Diamondbacks started 2014 with an 8-22 record, Kendrick went and convinced retired Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa to come to town and run everything.
I've referenced it before, and I'll reference it again: SI.com's Jay Jaffe's description of Kendrick as a "desert Steinbrenner wannabe" is spot-on. The desert is where he lurks, and he seems to have the same lust for attention that The Boss did in his time.
All Kendrick needs is some money to spend, and he might soon have it.
Local TV money is all the rage these days. The Diamondbacks don't have a lot of that to spend now, but FanGraphs' Wendy Thurm noted that their deal with Fox Sports, worth $31 million per year, will come to an end after 2015. Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com reported in January that the Diamondbacks' next TV contract could be worth $90 million per year, three times the size of their current deal.
If so, Kendrick's soon going to have a lot more cash to back up his bold talk and bold actions. That could make both more frequent, giving MLB its first real maverick owner since The Boss.
But does MLB need one, necessarily?
Selig evidently figures the answer is no. And despite my clear interest in the subject, I'll grant this is totally understandable.
The recent Mark Cuban drama is a reminder of the obvious downside of maverick owners. Dumb and/or insensitive remarks bring unwanted attention, and unwanted attention is no fun for anyone.
The entity that really needs a maverick owner in MLB is the media. They...oh, heck, we need as many people of interest as possible, for people of interest can be used to draw eyes to televisions and computer screens. The more interesting they are, the better. Every set of eyes counts, after all.
Could MLB benefit from this kind of extra interest? Sure, but I doubt we're talking about an especially extreme level of interest.
Nobody comes out to the park or turns on the TV to watch the owner. Fans will take an interest in their team's owner, sure, but all fans really want is for owners to put a good product on the field. That's a matter of hiring the right people to run things and of signing the checks—and a quiet owner can do that just as well as a loud owner.
If Kendrick or somebody else arises as a maverick owner in the near future, fine. MLB will find a way to live with it.
If not, it's heartening to know that MLB has survived just fine without one and should be able to continue doing so if it must.
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