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Cuban's conditions for buying Dodgers impossible

by | CBSSports.com Columnist
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Mark Cuban said he would like to buy the Los Angeles Dodgers.

"If they're fixable," he told TMZ, "and the deal is right."

In other words, Mark Cuban will never own the Los Angeles Dodgers unless they are beyond fixing any time soon and if the deal stinks to high heaven.

The Mavericks' NBA title validated Mark Cuban's reign as Dallas owner. (AP)  
The Mavericks' NBA title validated Mark Cuban's reign as Dallas owner. (AP)  
As you may know by now, Frank McCourt has essentially mined Dodger Stadium, creating a shell game of Madoff-ian proportions which, while perhaps legal (we're not as versed in Byzantine financial deals, having no financial deals of our own) makes the team about as easy to swallow and digest as a collie-sized pineapple.

In short, he has taken a baseball team and created a bank with branches that only takes deposits -- deposits to Frank McCourt -- which is the real and true reason why Bud Selig wants him out of baseball, if possible in Game of Thrones-style.

Which brings us back to Cuban, whom Selig just as desperately doesn't want in baseball for exactly the opposite reason. Cuban has oodles of money, it's easy to find and he likes to spend it on his players and the trappings of their offices. We assume this because that's how he has run the Dallas Mavericks, who are as of this day The Greatest Basketball Team on the Planet Earth and the Dominions of the Sky (patent pending).

Cuban throws money in, and McCourt siphons money out. The yin and yang of it would make The Buddha abandon his fantasy league teams, for sure.

Point is, though, neither method sits well with Selig or the owners that actually run baseball. McCourt got in because Selig and his bosses did a terrible job vetting him. Twice. He got the Boston Red Sox first, with the same lack of money. It was too important to baseball that franchise values appear to rise, which meant that teams couldn't sit publicly on the market too long.

Now, McCourt has made the Dodgers a national embarrassment, a Third World-level kleptocracy with bats and gloves. And Selig and the owners want him gone, and they shall have it.

But finding a new buyer at the price the Dodgers should fetch under normal circumstances will not be easy, not with the shrapnel that will result from extricating McCourt. If it was easy to move, there would be plenty of buyers, and Selig could steer Cuban out of the way as he did when Cuban made his run at the Cubs.

And if it is as big a mess as it seems, it might even scare Cuban off. Like most businessmen on an acquisition binge, he likes clean sales. He doesn't like forensic accountants and show-cause orders and all the other nightmares a Dodgers sale would figure to include.

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In short, the more fixable the Dodgers' situation is, the less likely Cuban will own them. And the worse it is, the less likely Cuban will want them. Bend that around your head awhile.

Cuban has won a lot of points among the amateur character cops in the media for keeping his yap clapped during the Mavs' improbable victory march, and he even managed to get everyday-guy points for having his picture taken with the Larry O'Brien Trophy and the Kohler Urinal. He must never have known that going easy on Joey Crawford was his ticket to ... well, never mind. You get it.

So maybe he's the kind of owner baseball would love to have after all. Except that he has been exactly the kind of owner that scares baseball to death. And without knowing A) How badly McCourt has trip-wired the Dodgers; and B) How much baseball owners are convinced that Cuban has had a midlife conversion to company-think, it's hard to know whether he would have a better shot this time than last.

It depends, in the final analysis, on how horrible the Dodgers have become -- not on the field, but on the mahogany. If this is the disaster it seems, Cuban would be nearly ideal, but he would find it unappealing. If it's easy to repair, Cuban wouldn't get within light years of them even if he doubled the highest bid.

And he, more than anyone, would find the ironies in that delicious, even if they were also indigestible.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.com.

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