There is a battle set to play out today in Texas, reminiscent of the classic western shootouts with the grand prize being an MLB team that's currently sitting in first place. The Rangers will officially go up on the auction block in a bankruptcy court where a strange process seems to allow the court to select a single winner, but then the MLB somehow gets final say and can select a different bidding group to take ownership.
While we don't purport to understand all of the legal nuances of the federal bankruptcy process for anti-trust exempted business entities, we do know that this appears to have come down to two groups of investors led by local sports icons who come from vastly different backgrounds and represent extremely different potential futures for the organization.
On one side of the O.K. Corral stands baseball great Nolan Ryan, the roughneck fireball hurler and Texas bad ass who has spent the last 15+ years since his retirement owning a minor league squad outside Austin and, more recently, calling the shots for the Rangers organization. The leader of the other posse is the outspoken multi-gazillionaire Mark Cuban, who made his fortune on the Internet and has spent the big bucks taking the Dallas Mavericks from perennial cellar dwellars to one of the most high profile franchises in the NBA.
Cuban has long wanted in on the MLB and last year he offered a cool billion for the Chicago Cubs, but his bid was thwarted by some untimely insider stock trading allegations that let the good old boys from the baseball fraternity keep him out. Reportedly his bid was the only new one to make its way into the auction by yesterdays deadline and its expected to include a cash component thats more than the $306.7mil that Ryan's group offered up previously.
Ryan is a legitimate living legend and as great a baseball player that the state of Texas has ever been able to claim its own. He's also done a heck of a job as Rangers team President building a team that includes one of the best pitchers in the game in Cliff Lee and arguably the greatest offensive player in the league with Josh Hamilton. They are currently in first place in the AL West, up 8 games over both the Angels and A's, and appear to be cruising towards the playoffs. Ryan's presence would continue to legitimize the new front office and most would expect him to help be a guiding force in their likely continued success.
On the other hand, Cuban is eccentrically entertaining and has already proven his worth as a Dallas area pro-sports franchise owner, having turned the pitiful Mavericks into a Finals team - all while whooping it up on the sideline as the most energetic fan in the building. If his group wins the bid, Rangers fans can have full confidence that in a league without a salary cap, Cuban will open up the checkbook and spend like he owns the Red Sox or the Yankees, which should help to ensure that the franchise is able to sustain success well into the future.
It should be interesting to see how the court rules and then how Bud Selig and the MLB owners choose to handle their decision. Either way Rangers fans are likely to have a positive outcome.
And, we welcome whichever party loses to join the Project Franchise effort as a partial owner in the minor league team we acquire - as long as they don't mind that on our team the fans will be the one's really calling the shots.