Commentary

Slow down on that Tom Hicks statue

Bankruptcy plan looks like a good thing, but let's not treat current owner like a hero

Updated: May 24, 2010, 9:12 PM ET
By Jim Reeves | ESPNDallas.com

ARLINGTON, Texas -- On the honored roll call of Texas heroes, right up there with Sam Houston, Stephen F. Austin, William Barret Travis and Davy Crockett, the Texas Rangers presented a new name for your kind consideration Monday: Thomas O. Hicks.

The statue at the home plate gates of Rangers Ballpark in Arlington will go up any day now.

OK, we're just funnin' folks a little bit here, because the Rangers were having a little fun with us on a day when they were actually able to use the words "bankruptcy" and "celebration" in the same sentence.

I can even understand that part of it. After all, if filing what's being called a voluntary "pre-packaged" process under Chapter 11 facilitates the sale of the Rangers from Hicks to Chuck Greenberg and Nolan Ryan once and for all, then they can set off the fireworks, they can call team meetings and news conferences and spin that really bad word -- bankruptcy -- any way they like.

Don't ask me to explain all the financial wheelings and dealings involved here, or what it all means, though I think I get the general idea. I mean, I can't even balance my own checkbook, so these higher-finance moves and countermoves tend to make me dizzy.

But if I understand this correctly, the decision by the Rangers to declare bankruptcy allows Hicks to separate the team's debt -- about $75 million -- from that incurred by Hicks Sports Group. The Rangers' creditors -- including familiar names like Alex Rodriguez ($24 million-plus) and Kevin Millwood ($12 million and change) -- will all be paid.

Those owed by HSG, who just thought they could depend on the team as collateral, will have to snarl and fight over the rest.

If you're like me, you could give a rat's behind about that.

The important thing for the fans is that this gets done sooner and not later, that it doesn't get tied up in legal maneuverings, that some other bidder, willing to up the ante a little more, doesn't pop out of the woodwork and muck up the situation, delaying this even further.

Hicks predicted, in so many words, that the deal will be rubber-stamped in bankruptcy court and that the transfer of ownership could be finalized in four to six weeks, two months at the outside.

That doesn't mean that some of HSG's creditors won't squeal and send their own lawyers into the fray by the battalion, but Hicks and Greenberg seemed unperturbed by that likelihood.

"My lawyers tell me they will, and we expect that," Hicks said.

Things could get "noisy," Greenberg admitted.

"The way some of these renegade creditors have acted, I'm not expecting a personality transplant," Greenberg said. "But the deal will satisfy what the Texas Rangers owe. Every creditor of the Texas Rangers will be paid 100 cents on the dollar."

It would also seem logical that the Rangers wouldn't be calling major news conferences to announce this maneuver, or go to the trouble of arranging a team meeting at Love Field before the players board their plane for Kansas City, if they weren't feeling pretty confident about how all this is going to work out.

Again, the typical Rangers fan isn't concerned about whether those who trusted Hicks get every million they're owed. For the fans, it's about moving forward and the Rangers having the cash to pay their picks in the June amateur draft and maybe being able to trade for a key piece, whatever the contract, at the trading deadline at the end of July.

The current budget is one put together by Hicks and approved by Major League Baseball, which is another way of saying it's frills free. Greenberg assured those at Monday's news conference that once the ownership transfer is finalized, a new "larger budget" will go into place.

If Hicks and the Rangers filing bankruptcy allows that to happen, then it's definitely a red-letter day for Rangers fans.

On the other hand, this whole situation reminds me of folks in suits and ties trying to negotiate their way across a giant pigpen: Nobody gets to the other side clean. Even club president Nolan Ryan wound up with slop on his shoes.

Ryan sat right there beside Hicks on Monday, saying that the Rangers' budget situation had no impact on the team's inability to sign No. 1 draft pick Matt Purke (now TCU's Matt Purke) last summer when Ryan knew up front exactly what it was going to take to get Purke signed and was willing to pay it. MLB changed the ground rules on the Rangers and everyone knows it.

What is truly sickening is this attempt to paint Hicks as some sort of Great White Knight, riding to the Rangers' rescue.

"Clearly, this could not and would not have happened without Tom Hicks' leadership and hard work over a long period of time," Greenberg said in the official press release. He made the same points again during the news conference, as if Hicks is somehow a hero because he filed for bankruptcy.

What that logic overlooks is that the Rangers wouldn't be in this predicament and the sale would have been finalized long ago if Hicks hadn't over-leveraged the franchise and squeezed every penny out of it, like a kid squeezing lemons for his front-yard lemonade stand.

So give us a break with this Hicks-as-hero farce. Nobody's buying it.

If they do put that statue up at the home plate gates, there's only one way Hicks should be depicted: with his pockets turned inside out and a blank look on his face.

Maybe he can erect a duplicate in front of his $40 million mansion in Highland Park, just for grins.

Jim Reeves, a former columnist with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, is a regular contributor to ESPNDallas.com.

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