Mark Cuban has Bud Selig derangement syndrome

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Mark Cuban has tried to buy a major league team three times. He was probably squeezed out a couple of times. At least once — with the Rangers — he simply wasn’t willing to keep up with the bidding. Whatever the details are behind those efforts — and it’ll likely always be he-said, he-said — I don’t think it’s wrong to say that, to some degree, Mark Cuban got the shaft. A shaft that MLB could legally give him because of its ridiculous antitrust exemption, but the shaft all the same.

But at some point Cuban had to realize that if they don’t want him, he probably doesn’t want them either. You’d think he’d just wash his hands of baseball and its silliness when it comes to ownership matters. But that seems to not be the case. He’s still kind of mad! He went on the Dan Patrick show and the topic of Bud Selig came up:

“Was Bud Selig a bad commissioner?” Patrick asked.

“Horrible,” Cuban said. “Has the sport grown at all?”

Patrick said: “Regionally it has.”

Cuban continued: “The only growth it had was at the end of the ’90s and we know what happened there. He’s tried to act like a — I’ll tell you what really turned me off, other than the fact that he didn’t want me in. I had another owner who owned an NBA team walk up to me in an NBA meeting and say, ‘You have no chance. Don’t waste your time.’ What happened in the courtroom when I was looking at the Rangers and bankruptcy, it was ridiculous what they were trying to do. What’s worked for baseball, you know, other than steroids? And home run derbies because of it? You just can’t look at it and say this is a growth sport. You can’t say people enjoy it more.

Baseball revenue is up from $1.5 billion in 1995 to nearly $9 billion in 2013. Attendance has been at or near all-time highs for the past decade. Maybe one can measure baseball’s “growth” in ways other than revenue and attendance, but if you’re going to claim that Selig has been a horrible commissioner or that the sport has not grown at all, you had better come with some data, and not some generalized disdain for a guy who you don’t much like for personal reasons.

And they are personal reasons. Read the rest of Cuban’s comments about Selig. It’s all based on Cuban being mad about his experience with Selig and the idea that, according to Cuban, Selig reads everything written about him and thus Cuban wants to wind him up.

I don’t much care for the way MLB picks and chooses its owners. And I think baseball might’ve been a lot more fun with Mark Cuban as an owner than it has been without him. But you read this stuff and you can’t say that baseball’s keeping Cuban out is a very surprising.

Free agents who sign with new teams are not disloyal

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Most mornings my local newspaper is pretty predictable.

I know, when I navigate to its home page, that I’ll find about eleventeen stories about Ohio State football, even if it is not football season (especially if it’s not football season, actually), part 6 of an amazingly detailed 8-part investigation into a thing that is super important but which no one reads because it has nothing to do with Ohio State football and, perhaps, a handful of write-ups of stories that went viral online six days previously and have nothing to do with anything that matters.

Local print news is doing great, everyone.

I did, however, get a surprise this morning. A story about baseball! A baseball story that was not buried seven clicks into the sports section, but one that was surfaced onto the front page of the website!  The story was about Michael Brantley signing with the Astros.

Normally I’d be dead chuffed! But then I saw something which kinda irked me. Check out the headline:

Is Michael Brantley “leaving” the Indians? I don’t think so. He’s a free agent signing with a baseball team. He’s no more “leaving” the Indians than you are “leaving” an employer who laid you off to take a job at one of its competitors. This is especially true given that the Indians made no effort whatsoever to sign him. Indeed, they didn’t even give him a qualifying offer, making it very clear as of November 2 that they had no intention of bringing him back. Yet, there’s the headline: “Michael Brantley leaves Indians.”

To be clear, apart from the headline, the article is unobjectionable in any way. It merely recounts Ken Rosenthal’s report about Brantley signing with the Astros and does not make any claim or implication that Brantley was somehow disloyal or that Indians fans should be upset at him.

I do wish, though, that editors would not use this kind of construction, even in headlines, because even in today’s far more savvy and enlightened age, it encourages some bad and outmoded views of how players are expected to interact with teams.

Since the advent of free agency players have often been criticized as greedy or self-centered for signing contracts with new teams. Indeed, they are often cast as disloyal in some way for leaving the team which drafted or developed them. It’s less the case now than it used to be, but there are still a lot of fans who view a player leaving via free agency as some kind of a slap in the face, especially if he joins a rival. Meanwhile, when a team decides to move on from a player, either releasing him or, as was the case with the Indians and Brantley, making no effort to bring him back, it’s viewed as a perfectly defensible business decision. There was no comparable headline, back in early November, that said “Indians dump Brantley.”

Make no mistake: it may very well turn out to be a quite reasonable business decision for Cleveland to move on from Brantley. Maybe they know things about him we don’t. Maybe they simply know better about how he’ll do over the next year than the Astros do. I in no way intend for this little rant to imply that the Indians owed Brantley any more than he owed the Indians once their business arrangement came to an end. They don’t.

But I do suspect that there are still a decent number fans out there who view a free agent leaving his former team as some sort of betrayal. Maybe not Brantley, but what if Bryce Harper signs with the Phillies? What if Kris Bryant walks and joins the Cardinals when he reaches free agency? Fans may, in general, be more enlightened now than they used to be, but even a little time on talk radio or in comments sections reveals that a number of them view ballplayers exercising their bargained-for rights as “traitors.” Or, as it’s often written, “traders.” I don’t care for that whole dynamic.

Maybe this little Michael Brantley headline in a local paper that doesn’t cover all that much baseball is unimportant in the grand scheme of things, but it’s an example of how pervasive that unfortunate dynamic is. It gives fans, however tacitly, license to continue to think of players as bad people for exercising their rights. I don’t think that belief will ever completely disappear — sports and irrationality go hand-in-hand — but I’d prefer it if, like teams, athletes are likewise given an understanding nod when they make a business decision. The best way to ensure that is to make sure that such decisions are not misrepresented.