What the Hicks was he thinking?

Originally Published: August 7, 2003
By Ray Ratto | Special to ESPN.com

There are two ways to cope with buyer's remorse in the exciting world of big-money sports -- the Snyder way, and the Hicks way.

The Snyder way, the modern capitalist way, is to do what Dan Snyder is trying to do with the Washington Redskins -- find someone who will buy a large but still minority stake in the team, which shaves his profit margin a bit but allows him to keep utter, complete and plutonium-fisted control of the hired helmets.

Is Alex Rodriguez, right, really worth $252 million to Rangers owner Tom Hicks?
The Hicks way, the what-the-hell-did-I-get-myself-into way, is to do what Tom Hicks seems, indirectly, to be considering -- to take the shiniest bauble in the crown, and find someone to take it off his hands.

The Snyder way is difficult only because it requires finding someone with enough disposable money to go for it but without the ego needs, because Snyder will be keeping those as part of his share, and thank you.

The Hicks way is difficult in a different way, because if the shiniest bauble in the crown is cost-prohibitive, nobody will buy it, and if he decided to pay shipping, handling and the other miscellaneous fees, it can stop being smart business after awhile.

And if you're wondering who the bauble in question is, then you either pay too much attention to the Rangers (Colby Lewis?), or not enough attention to modern baseball (Jeff Burroughs?).

In other words, yes, it's Alex Rodriguez, the shortstop, power hitter, model-pretty team spokesman and all-around big deal.

As you know, Rodriguez makes enough money to wipe his stockbroker's nose with David Beckham. He is still well on the front end of his 10-year, $252 million deal with the Rangers, one which Rodriguez has upheld on his end to an extraordinary level. He catches, he throws, he hits, he hits with power and he says the right thing, persistently and unfailingly.

Well, except when he drops little hints like last week's I-like-it-here-but-I-could-be-happier-if-we-didn't-stink, If-trading-me-would-help-the-Rangers-find-their-inner-trophy-I'd-go-along-with-it, but I-really-want-to-stay-honest-and-true stemwinder.

Tom Hicks
Tom Hicks burned a Texas-sized hole in his pocket when he signed A-Rod to a contract worth a quarter billion dollars.
Of course, by now everyone has backtracked. Rodriguez has reiterated his willingness to stay, and Hicks his willingness to pay.

But you know what? Hicks would like to be out from under the bind he has cleverly built for himself. He found out that even being the best shortstop God ever punched a piehole in has only so much revenue generating potential.

For one, Rodriguez cannot pitch every fifth day. For two, he isn't exactly the picture of off-field effervescence. He has chosen to live a semi-normal, semi-private life, and to the extent that buzz can be translated into bucks, he is down on the list.

None of which is Rodriquez's fault. He is who he is, a magnificent baseball player, quite possibly even the logical inheritor to the title Barry Bonds still guards so jealously.

But is he worth $252 million to Tom Hicks? Well, that's a good one. Hicks wanted to make a splash, and he did, but the water was a lot more brackish than he thought.

Of course, brackish is a relative term, because while he says he's losing tons of dough on the Rangers, there is no way to know whether he is telling the truth, let alone how much truth he is telling. He might be making it in his other businesses simply on the strength of having his name in the paper every day.

Still, he isn't making the Metroplex-sized killing he thought, and the hints are reaching Rodriguez. Hence the offer to find happiness outside the 214, and Hicks' very-nearly sincere claims that he wants nothing more than for The Rod Of A to retire as a Ranger.

Thus we learn one more valuable lesson in the exciting world of money -- if you pile it high enough, you scare both the donor and the receiver. Alex Rodriguez sees a future of "Angels 11, Rangers 8," "He'd be the MVP for sure if his team wasn't so God-awful," and "Well, he's just another greedhead getting what he deserved."

The first two are true. The third isn't. But what's that got to do with anything?

But Rodriguez will survive, because he is a superior example of a modern athlete -- plays well consistently and has no CourtTV appearances scheduled any time soon.

Hicks, though, is just a rich guy among a field of rich guys, and he's looking like a rube just out of the Wall Street Journal's Fledgling Billionaires course. A quarter of a billion dollars for a shortstop? What could he have been thinking?

Well, right about now, maybe he's thinking that Dan Snyder might be on to something.

Ray Ratto is a columnist with the San Francisco Chronicle and a regular contributor to ESPN.com

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