The Rangers could be sold this week — maybe to Tom Hicks

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The Rangers’ economic doom and gloom is almost exclusively attributable to Tom Hicks’ practice of loading the team’s parent company — Hicks Sports Group — with boatloads (and soccer team loads) of debt. Unable to make their cash calls, the group has had to be bailed out by Major League Baseball once already, and Hicks has the team on the market. The cash crunch comes at a time when the team is really only a piece or two away from being able to stomp on the Angels for supremacy in the AL West. Instead of doing that they’re doing things like messing around with the idea of bringing back Milton Bradley. Blah.

The thing about it though is that the Rangers — separate and apart from their debt-laden parent — make a lot of money, as Adam Morris at Lone Star Ball notes today.  So much so that according to Adam (and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram), Hicks is trying to work out a way that he, along with some partners, could buy the team from his own company and own the thing in his own name.  Given what his management of Hicks Sports Group has wrought there ought to be a law against that, but it could happen.

Lone Star Ball thinks that if he does it, Hicks will find economic religion and run the team like Jeff Loria runs the Marlins: low payroll, nice revenue, and the glad acceptance of Major League welfare from other clubs.  I could totally see that: gamble big with everyone else’s money, but when it comes to his own, keep things nice and lean.  It’s exactly the sort of thing you’d expect from a guy who once signed A-Rod and Chan Ho Park to $315 million worth of contracts, and then mere months later sat on the deck of his luxury yacht while screaming about how baseball needs a salary cap.

But as depressing as such a possibility may be, Hicks may not get the chance to run the Rangers into the ground for a second time. As Phil Rogers at the Chicago Tribune noted in his Whispers column yesterday, MLB appears to be forcing him to sell the team to one of three groups that submitted bids in the past couple of weeks. Right now the front-runner appears to be a group headed by Pittsburgh attorney Chuck Greenberg.  His group includes Nolan Ryan in the package, and he may as well be the Almighty Himself when it comes to Texas baseball, so you know everyone with the exception of Tom Hicks himself and maybe Robin Ventura will push for it.

Whatever the case, this thing could be over quick. A source tells me that Hicks Sports Group is gearing up to make an announcement of a sale this week.  If that happens it would be great timing, because maybe, just maybe, the prospect of a new owner would be enough to give GM Jon Daniels the green light to go make some noise at the Winter Meetings in Indianapolis next week. 

Jonny Venters is still pitching

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Lefty reliever Jonny Venters was among a handful of players the Rays signed to minor league contracts, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Venters, 32, hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2012 and has logged just 27 2/3 innings in the minors in the meantime due to a continuous battle with his elbow. According to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Venters has undergone four — four! — Tommy John surgeries.

When he was healthy, Venters was a fearsome late-game option for the Braves. He posted a 1.95 ERA with 93 strikeouts in 83 innings in 2010, and a 1.84 ERA with 96 strikeouts in 88 innings in 2011. His first-half performance in 2011 earned him a spot on the National League All-Star roster.

Venters has spent the last two years in the Rays’ system and he’ll try to make it a third.