Thursday, August 5, 2010

A Day of Comebacks, On and Off the Field

As a proud lifelong fan of the Texas Rangers, I know that Wednesday, August 4, 2010 will go down as a red-letter day in franchise history. Even though the two most important events of the day technically happened in the wee hours of the 5th.

It was a day for comebacks. Victory in the face of defeat. The Rangers were in the Pacific Northwest, but the story begins over 2,000 miles away, in a Fort Worth courtroom.

For months, the Rangers have been mired in desperate times, thanks to owner Tom Hicks’ gradual descent into financial ruin. You see, Mr. Hicks and his ownership group became stuffed to the gills with debt. Millions upon millions of dollars owed to creditors, including a handful of former players who haven’t put on a uniform in more than a decade.

The debt situation had become so bad that even when Hicks decided to throw in the towel and sell his Rangers, it just wasn’t feasible because of the sheer number of people owed money. That led to months of wrangling, while the Texas front office remained hamstrung by a lack of cash.

As we fans have witnesses in recent weeks, the Rangers’ wunderkind of a GM, Jon Daniels, has spun some magnificent trades, convincing other teams to not only trade Texas good players, but cash needed to pay them as well. His moves have given the Rangers, among other things, the ace this team has needed for decades to make a bona fide playoff run.

Meanwhile, team management (and of course, the most faithful of fans) counted down the days until Wednesday, when the team would go up for auction like a prized blue-ribbon pig. Two groups were ready to bid on that pig: a pre-approved group led by Rangers legend Nolan Ryan (and dapper Pittsburgh attorney Chuck Greenberg), and a late addition to the proceedings, led by Mr. Moneybags himself, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.

Cubes had both the cash and the cojones to keep jacking up the price for the Rangers, setting off a tumultuous day in federal bankruptcy court that continued well into the night and following morning. Don’t get me wrong; I think having Mark Cuban as the Rangers owner would be spectacular. He’s passionate, he wants to win, and he’s got the cash (“Steinbrenner money” as my buddy called it) to go out and overpay for elite talent.

But my support was firmly behind Team Ryan/Greenberg. They’ve already been approved by MLB’s owners (the key to ownership in this league), and they are virtually assured to keep the front office as it is, which has turned the Rangers from a joke into a juggernaut. And finally, at about 12:45 am, Team Cuban conceded. The long nightmare was over. The Rangers would have a pair of fresh, friendly faces at the top.

But the drama wasn’t limited to the courtroom that night. Having lost 3 of their last 4 games, the Rangers’ offense had been sputtering, and the team desperately needed a jolt. Thanks to a little disrespect, the team got just that. Backup outfielder David Murphy came up with the go-ahead run on base, which had been put on intentionally so that the Mariners could pitch to Murph. David responded by blasting a home run deep into right field, then staring at it a la Ken Griffey, Jr. From there, the runs kept coming, and the Rangers ended up scoring 11 times. Then after the game was over, the players learned, along with the rest of the world, that the ownership situation had been resolved.

It’s a new day for the Rangers and their fans. The talent is there, from the top of the organization, all the way to the rookie leagues. The front office is talented, and brilliant, and they finally have ownership that will support them financially. This is an exciting time to be a fan. Playoff fever is in the air, and the team is playing as well as any team named “Rangers” ever has. The future, both immediate and long-term, looks amazing.

And who knows, maybe in the next couple of months, the Boys of Summer will knock the Dallas Cowboys off the front pages.

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