Thinking about the sale of the Rangers.

When we open the boxes of the 2010 Bound Edition at tomorrow night’s party at Sherlock’s, a couple hundred pages in there will be a May 25, 2009 report that started this way:

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Word broke yesterday that Tom Hicks is open to selling a majority stake in the Rangers.  I don’t have much to say about that other than (1) I hope Nolan Ryan chooses to be a big player in this (it’s clear that Hicks wants him to be) and (2) it’s crucial that, whatever transition takes place, the baseball operations crew is allowed to stay on the course that it laid out two years ago and has this franchise poised to be where we all want it be.  

Hicks gets far too much criticism from the mainstream media, who choose not to recognize the guts and foresight it took to make Jon Daniels, who at the time had less than five years in baseball, his general manager, and the patience and lack of ego it took to authorize the plan that Daniels presented to him in May 2007 to trade Mark Teixeira and shift focus and resources to scouting and player development and a wholesale effort to load up on young talent through the draft and international market and trades, a philosophy that’s a lot less flashy and far more gradual than many owners would have signed off on.  

Baseball America’s Jim Callis in an ESPN chat session yesterday:

Q: Bedard trade for Orioles . . . best trade in baseball in 10 years?

Callis:  Check out the Mark Teixeira trade to the Braves.

The Herschel Walker trade wasn’t the Herschel Walker Trade until the Cowboys turned the Minnesota draft picks into Emmitt Smith and Darren Woodson and Russell Maryland and Kevin Smith and three Lombardi Trophies.  The Teixeira trade is no Herschel Walker Trade – yet.  But there’s no question that without it, this franchise wouldn’t be in nearly as good a position as everyone agrees that it is.  Hicks should get some credit for believing in, and consenting to, the plan that Jon Daniels and his crew proposed and have now been executing for two very good years.

Don’t count on the general columnists recognizing Hicks’s role in that, however.

Or acknowledging in print the millions of Hicks dollars that may not have gone to player payroll (a favorite topic of the media, rarely mentioning Ben Sheets or Torii Hunter or Daisuke Matsuzaka or Barry Zito or Carlos Delgado as free agent acquisitions he has consistently greenlighted even though they’d have busted the budget) but did go to annual decisions to pay out of slot to pave the way for the drafting and signing of the right high school and college players (Teixeira, Derek Holland, Justin Smoak, Taylor Teagarden, Julio Borbon, Jake Brigham, Neil Ramirez, Marcus Lemon, Robbie Ross, Clark Murphy, Johnny Whittleman, Kyle Ocampo, Matt Thompson, and others), to outspend the competition in Latin America (examples: Martin Perez, Fabio Castillo, Cristian Santana, and Richard Alvarez, plus the aggregate of a Preller/Welke/Batista class like 2006’s Wilmer Font/Wilfredo Boscan/Kennil Gomez/Carlos Pimentel/Geuris Grullon/Macumba haul), to pay top dollar to make sure we had the hitting coach and pitching coach we’d zeroed in on, and to hire Nolan Ryan.

The Ryan hiring was, of course, an inspired one that has paid off in many ways and will continue to do so, and though the media has been wholly supportive of Ryan’s arrival and impact, rarely is Hicks credited for bringing him in at what had to be a significant financial investment.

Hicks wants to win, and though some with newspaper space will continue to disparage the team payroll (for a roster that today maintains the best record in the American League) and ignore all else, if Hicks wasn’t interested in spending to win, would we have Holland and Smoak and Perez and Mike Maddux . . . and Ryan?

What I’m hoping for, if Hicks does indeed sell controlling interest in the Rangers, is continuity.  I would have faith in a Ryan-led ownership to insist on that and to make it happen.  So might someone coming in from the outside, but if that’s where this is headed, I sure hope that stability is a priority for whoever that might be.  

I guarantee you that the Angels and A’s and Mariners would be thrilled to see someone come in here and push massive changes.

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I’ve written very little this winter about the impending sale of the franchise.  None of us really knew what was going on with the bidding process – media reports at various times this month had each of the three finalists as the likely winner – and even if we could trust the journalistic handicapping, we didn’t and don’t know any more about what Chuck Greenberg or Jim Crane or Dennis Gilbert would be like as an MLB owner as we knew what a Tom Hicks or Jerry Jones or Mark Cuban ownership would be like when they bought local franchises.

I won’t pretend now that I know what a Greenberg-Ryan group ownership will mean in terms of changes to the operations or the structure or the baseball or business philosophy of this franchise, but I do know that, this morning, this feels like a very good choice.  

And I hope, if it bears out that way, that even the snarkiest of local columnists will credit Hicks for making the right choice.

For what it’s worth, a local report suggests that the earliest that the transition could be finalized and approved by the league will be at the mid-January owners’ meetings, but that spring training might be more realistic.  That means a significant payroll infusion, if there is to be one, is less likely to happen in the off-season than in July.

But there is forward momentum to report now, an energy that promises to revitalize things for a club on the doorstep of some very good times, yet not likely to bring with it any wholesale changes in the aspects of this organization that are healthier now than they’ve been at any other time in the 37 years of Rangers baseball.  

That’s good.

See you all tomorrow night.

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(c) Jamey Newberg
http://www.newbergreport.com
Twitter  @newbergreport

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