Commentary

Cuban, Jones usually worth emulating

New Rangers owners should heed neighborly example about passion for winning

Updated: February 18, 2010, 12:24 PM ET
By Jim Reeves | ESPNDallas.com

New Texas Rangers owners Chuck Greenberg and Nolan Ryan don't have to look far to find the perfect template on how to prove to fans that they're indeed here to win.

All they have to do is turn and face east, where Mark Cuban just provided an instant lesson in ownership passion. And if they happen to glance just down the block to the west, there's another example sitting there in Jerry Jones.

All we can hope for is that Greenberg and Ryan grow up to be just like their DFW sports owner big brothers.

OK, maybe not just like them ... but at least as passionate about winning as they are.

[+] EnlargeJerry Jones & Mark Cuban
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty ImagesMark Cuban and Jerry Jones don't always get it right, but that doesn't dampen their passion to win.

That really was the only knock on the dearly (almost) departed Tom Hicks, who was scorched badly by the Alex Rodriguez and Chan Ho Park signings and was never the same owner again. That's the great thing about Cuban and Jones: They've been known to miss on some -- Jason Kidd and Roy E. Williams come immediately to mind, though I feel guilty putting Kidd in the same sentence with Williams -- just like Hicks did, but that hasn't kept them from loading up and firing again. Like the good guys in the old shoot-'em-ups of yesteryear, their guns never seem to run out of bullets.

Cuban, it seems, will pay almost any price if he thinks it gives his Dallas Mavericks a better chance to win. Case in point was the just-completed deal with the Washington Wizards in which the Mavs added Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson at a cost of an additional $13.6 million in payroll and an equal amount in luxury tax.

That's almost a $30 million check Cuban just picked up even though you'd be hard-pressed to find a single NBA expert who believes the Mavs improved enough to match up with the Los Angeles Lakers, should it come to that. In fact, some would argue that the Mavs would have had just about the same chance to get out of the second round of the playoffs with the team they had instead of the far more expensive one they'll field now. Maybe, maybe not.

Trying to install three new players into the Mavs' system during a grueling stretch of the schedule halfway through the season is not the recipe for instant success, either, but the goal is to be a better team by the time the playoffs arrive, and this deal should help accomplish that.

What I truly love about Cuban is that he was willing to take the gamble that this trade will make the Mavs significantly better in the playoffs and at least be poised to strike if something happened to Kobe Bryant late in the season, causing the Lakers to falter.

Cuban's passion and determination are priceless, but don't forget, he's had his own role model to follow for a while now.

He's just trying to keep up with the Joneses.

Say what you want about Jerry's general manager expertise with the Dallas Cowboys -- and we all do -- no one questions his desire as an owner to win ... except for when it comes to his comfort level with a certain coach who understands that Jerry's looking for only one answer when he asks the head coach a question ... any question.

"Yes sir!"

Other than his preference for a milquetoast coach he can push around to his heart's desire, it's difficult to nitpick Jones' ownership style. Only the NFL's salary cap holds him in check, and three Super Bowl titles in four years is stark evidence of what he can do when that restriction is lifted.

There is much, then, that Greenberg and Ryan can learn from their neighbors. Certainly the soon-to-be new owners of the Rangers have talked the talk about wanting to turn Texas into a perennial winning franchise, and many of the pieces are in place to do that. But if they can learn anything from Cuban and Jones, it's that action, not talk, is how they'll be judged.

Actually, they're going to have to let their money do their talking. That won't be able to happen, of course, until they assume official ownership, hopefully before opening day. By then it'll be too late to do much about the Rangers' payroll for 2010, at least for the first four months of the season.

And that payroll, thanks to Hicks' penny-pinching, is a joke. Texas was 22nd in baseball in 2009 at about $68.6 million, and the Rangers will start this season somewhere in the same neighborhood. Consider that even the tightwad Minnesota Twins, for goodness sake, will field a $90 million-plus payroll this season, and small-market teams such as the Kansas City Royals and Cincinnati Reds ranked ahead of the Rangers last year.

But circle July 31 on your calendar. That's when we may get our first inkling of how serious the new ownership is about winning. The Rangers haven't made a significant deadline trade since their flurry of salary-dumping deals in 2007 (Mark Teixeira, Eric Gagne), all which were for the future and, of course, drastically lowered the team's payroll.

You have to go back a year earlier, in July of 2006, to find a deadline deal in which the Rangers were trying to do something to help the team at that time. That's when general manager Jon Daniels sent closer Francisco Cordero and outfielders Kevin Mench and Laynce Nix to Milwaukee for outfielders Carlos Lee and Nelson Cruz.

So as spring training opens this week, with some baseball sabermetricians (PECOTA, CHONE) even picking the Rangers to win the West, fans will be watching Neftali Feliz, Julio Borbon and Derek Holland, and that's as it should be. But keep a close eye on the two guys with "owner" after their names as well.

Greenberg and Ryan have something to prove, too, and they could do worse than model themselves after the old guys in town.

Jim Reeves is a former columnist with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and will be a frequent contributor to ESPNDallas.com.

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