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Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Vincent bashes Cuban

By Christina Kahrl

Didn’t Fay Vincent’s 15 minutes end already, or is he just great at keeping booking agents hip-deep in donuts?

Listening to baseball’s accidental former commissioner talk about Mark Cuban and potentially “troublesome owners” is something like listening to a misanthrope complain about people. Give this man time, and there is perhaps no owner he wouldn’t chalk up as “difficult,” at least not after first exposing them to his brand of ham-fisted stewardship of their industry.

Lest we forget, and instead of perpetuating the myth of martyred St. Fay the Last, this is the ex-commissioner who alienated and annoyed a good chunk of the National League over his happily stillborn realignment scheme -- something that brought on a lawsuit from at least one club, the Cubs. It’s notable that realignment was achieved without friction by his replacement, Bud Selig, with Czar Bud’s characteristic consensus-building among his cohorts, and without railing about employing his “best interests” power to have his way. Vincent was also the czar who did himself no favors with the American League’s owners with the 1993 expansion, making the American League a full participant in the expansion draft for the National League's new entries in Denver and Miami -- something that was not the case in previous MLB expansions -- while apportioning just 22 percent of the expansion fees to the AL. After alienating owners in both leagues, is it any surprise he wound up with two entire leagues’ worth of “troublesome owners,” and a quick invitation to unemployment?

The follow-up question on "The Herd" was spot-on, in that what Vincent was asked, about Cuban’s investment in his actual product -- his team, the thing that people are expected to shell out money for, as opposed to some archaic sense of noblesse oblige -- highlighted the extent to which Vincent is at best an anachronism, and at worst irrelevant while playing make-believe over the purportedly gentlemanly conduct of the likes of Gussie Busch. (Let alone the examples set by clumsily inadequate stewards like Bowie Kuhn or Peter Ueberroth.) That Vincent would bundle Cuban’s various run-ins with the NBA over the "maverick" owner of the Mavericks with George Steinbrenner’s Spiragate reflects the extent to which he has little or no sense of proportion. Where George Steinbrenner sought to slime an employee (Dave Winfield) by unsavory means, Cuban is guilty of airing complaints about his league's product, or in its officiating, or in his desire to improve his team, or what Americans might consider an above-board matter of exercising his freedom of speech.

Vincent's sense of what the game deserved is perhaps what is truly telling: his choice for a replacement, Steve Greenberg. Greenberg, a former player agent, got himself sued by one of his clients, Bill Madlock, and was only found not guilty because of the statute of limitations, not apparently because of the absence of actual guilt. Really? That's the guy you want to run an industry that employs players, a guy accused of screwing players?

So, for those of you keeping score at home, you’re supposed to value the input of a former commissioner, despite the fact that he was someone who demonstrably lacked the diplomatic skill to work with the people within the baseball industry he was employed by -- the owners -- to achieve what was demonstrably achievable, like realignment, and a man and with questionable judgment when it came to selecting his lieutenants. Sure, no problem -- you first.

Admittedly, Mark Cuban may never get past Bud Selig and company when it comes to passing muster as a potential big-league owner. Given awful past choices such as Carl Lindner or Jeffrey Loria, or now war profiteer Jim Crane with the Astros, not being found of like quality by the lords of the game may be the sort of compliment that Cuban might relish. But to also be condemned by Vincent, one of the game's true front-office failures? I would suggest that the best course is to consider the source, and to value the merits of Vincent’s charges on the basis of his own horrendous track record when it comes to his judgment and his happily brief stewardship of the game.