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The Rangers go to court today

Jun 15, 2010, 10:17 AM EDT

For what it’s worth, I continue to stand by my story about the Rangers-Astros talks. A deal may never happen because of all the financial complications surrounding the team, but that doesn’t mean the front office has simply given up the notion of trying to improve itself. Quite the contrary, actually.

And though he was the first to say I was full of it regarding the Oswalt thing yesterday, Buster Olney is right about one thing: the hearing that’s going down in a Dallas bankruptcy court this morning regarding the Rangers’ sale is going to tell us an awful lot about how aggressive Jon Daniels will be able to be in adding pieces to his contending ballclub.

For those who missed it or whose eyes glaze over at such things, today’s hearing is going to determine the time frame of the Rangers’ bankruptcy proceedings and ultimately the sale of the team.  If things go smoothly, there could be a schedule in place that has the team emerging from bankruptcy before the trade deadline.  If they don’t go smoothly, the process could be protracted and Major League Baseball will continue to foot the bill in Texas. That would likely mean no big shiny pieces added for the playoff stretch.

The complicating factor: on Friday, the creditors to Hicks Sports Group made a filing in which they purported to establish that one of the losing bidders — the Jim Crane Group — had a superior bid to the Greenberg-Ryan Group. The emails that were part of the filing are not flattering for the Rangers, inasmuch as they show Hicks Sports Group people (i.e. the ones selling the Rangers) admitting that Crane was offering more money. Perhaps $13-20 million more.

Major League Baseball counters, however, saying that those communications and the money discussed therein reflected unauthorized negotiations during a time when Greenberg was supposed to have exclusive dealing rights, so they don’t count. More importantly, baseball says that during that same time (i.e. the exclusive negotiating window) Greenberg’s offer improved dramatically itself, so the communications are misleading at best.

I understand what baseball is trying to say here, but they probably need to be careful about how hard they hit the notion that baseball’s bidding calendar and exclusive negotiating periods control the matter.  For one thing, one of the most important party to the deal — Hicks Sports Group — apparently didn’t give a rat’s butt about the exclusive window, because it was apparently still negotiating with Crane.

For another thing, baseball’s right to control these kinds of sales, to pick the bidders and to ultimately pick the winners, is not as iron-clad as it likes to pretend it is.  It’s hardly ever challenged so, yeah, in practice it has always had the right to do it. But at least one federal court has held that baseball cannot control this process like it thinks it can. Though it would likely be a logistical nightmare, if a given team owner and a prospective team buyer wanted to do their own deal and leave MLB out of it, they could theoretically do it.

This case would be different in that, rather than a team owner who wants to reject MLB’s wishes, it would be a court substituting its judgment for the bankrupt team.  Specifically, the bankruptcy judge is tasked with figuring out what’s best for the creditors here, not what’s best for Major League Baseball’s interpretation of the breadth of its antitrust exemption, and he could very well say “Hey, Crane had a higher bid here before he was shut out; we need to reopen this bidding to make sure the best deal is done.” I have no clue what the judge will do with all of this. The easy play would simply be to defer to MLB and the Rangers and get the sale done. But he could be a maverick and decide to reopen the sale.

In any event, we’ll definitely have a better idea after today of what is within the realm of the possible for the Texas Rangers.

  1. Pete Toms - Jun 15, 2010 at 12:09 PM

    Wasn’t this the crux of the matter when Jim Balsillie attempted unsuccessfully to purchase a bankrupt NHL franchise sans league consent?

  2. Chris - Jun 15, 2010 at 12:46 PM

    The hearing is in Fort Worth, not Dallas. Minus one to your credibility… or rather two now that your statement yesterday has been shot down by every media outlet out there, not to mention Jon Daniels.
    Who are you again?

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