Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Mark Cuban: We want your mind, not your money

The Post-Gazette reignited my flagging interest in the Pirates today. In addition to a solid, well-argued and carefully substantiated column by the Geek--the voice of one sensible man speaking truth in the wilderness of Pittsburgh sports columnists--the usually execrable Ron Cook got out of the way and passed the mike to Internet billionaire Mark Cuban. Here's the money quote (pun intended):
"I think one of the reasons McClatchy won't sell is, that if you can deal with the abuse that goes with losing, you can make $15 million or $20 million a year," he said on Patrick's show, mentioning figures that McClatchy has disputed as the Pirates' profit. "Would you put up with the abuse for $15 million or $20 million a year? ...

"Not me. Oh, no. I'd have to win. Winning vs. losing money, I'd take winning every time."

Cuban said he will lose some money with the Mavericks this season but is getting closer to breaking even.

"It's a simple equation," he wrote in his e-mail. "Running a team to break even vs. running it to make $15 million or $20 million means a lot more money for player development and players."

Well...okay, yes, it would be nice to have an owner who is rich enough to be willing to lose money for a few years in order to build a fan base for the long term.

But what intrigues me most about Cuban is his potential for tranforming the Pirates from charter members of the Flat Earth Society into a team that uses information technology to gain a competitive edge. True, several years after Moneyball introduced the average baseball fan to an information revolution that was already well underway in baseball as in many other industries, this is not exactly a secret anymore. But from what can be discerned from their public statements, the Pirates still operate on principles from a different era compared to more enlightened franchises such as Cleveland, Milwaukee, Oakland (of course), and Boston.

In Pittsburgh, it takes a Geek to explain, carefully and patiently, the absurdity of tired homilies about "productive outs" and the like. Cuban, let's remember, made his millions and billions from a computer consulting company called MicroSolutions in 1990 and an internet company, broadcast.com, in 1994. I'd expect a guy with his background and resume to find smarter, more daring, more innovative, and more imaginative lieutenants than Littlefield, Graham, and Creech.

Wouldn't it be fun to root for a team whose owner really believes he can compete instead of pleading for corporate welfare and then exploiting it for personal gain when it is provided?


Blogger Rory said...


10:11 PM  
Blogger Pat said...

I agree, Cuban is definitely the most innovative owner the NBA. While his money would certainly help it's not what I think would make him a great owner.

11:15 PM  
Anonymous BenM said...

Not only would he get smarter lieutenants, he would get a lot of them. He shook up the basketball world by hiring coaches for every basketball act, shooting, rebounding, low post play etc. He really believes in giving all of the tools necessary for his team to succeed.

That would be a nice change from ownership who has only recently discovered the benefits of having an advance scout.

12:59 AM  

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