Hicks Sports Group Creditors Threatening bankruptcy for the Rangers


It’s hard to tell if this afternoon’s BusinessWeek report represents something truly new or if it’s more of a rehash of what we already know, but for the record:

The Texas Rangers, the Major League Baseball team
controlled by billionaire Thomas Hicks, may be forced into bankruptcy
unless terms of a planned sale of the team are improved or another buyer
is found, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Creditors led by Monarch Alternative Capital may
block Hicks Sports Group LLC, which defaulted on $525 million of debt
last year, from selling the Rangers and try to put the team into
bankruptcy, said the people, who declined to be identified because the
debt talks are private. The creditor group, which includes CIT Group
Inc. and Galatioto Sports Partners LLC, is seeking at least $30 million
more from the team’s sale, one of the people said.

The dynamic is the same that we’ve seen all along: Hicks’ creditors want more money, they’re threatening to force the team into bankruptcy if they don’t get it. Based on the tone of the article and based on the positions the parties have taken in the past, my guess is that the source for this specific report is one of the creditors, trying to ratchet up the pressure. The whole thing works best if you read it in a “and this time we really, really mean it” tone.

Not that it’s an empty or meaningless threat. No one ever gets rich forcing one’s opponent into bankruptcy, but this may one of those situations where it makes some amount of sense. The biggest problem of bankruptcy is the delay it causes in the asset in question getting liquidated, which often diminishes its value. The nut of this dispute, however, is Hicks’ proceeds from a land sale to Greenberg along with the Rangers. Land for mixed-use development — which is what this land, next to the Ballpark, is — is likely about as down in the dumper as it’s ever going to be right now.  Yes, bankruptcy will cause everyone to incur costs in the short term, but if the whole thing gets tied up for months or longer that same piece of land is still going to have to be disposed of in the end, and there’s every reason to believe that it will be worth more later than it is now.

But however that shakes out — and there are a million ways it could shake out — this report can be viewed as a signpost.  A week ago it was reported that Major League Baseball was stepping in to try and persuade the creditors to get the deal done. At the time Greenberg made noises that it would get done next week. The next thing we hear from the creditors is a renewed bankruptcy threat.

What to make of it? Perhaps they are not all that impressed with Mr. Selig’s efforts to play peacemaker. Perhaps they are not all that impressed with Mr. Greenberg’s public statements of inevitability.  Perhaps no one — not Hicks, not Greenberg, not baseball, not anyone — has enough money to wave at Hicks’ creditors to make them think that they’d get all that worse a deal in bankruptcy court. Hard to say.

The only thing that is certain in all of this is that Greenberg will come out with a statement in the next 48 hours in which he tells us, once again, that the deal is almost done. Because that’s what he always does.

(Thanks to Kevin T. for the heads up)

Cardinals take 1-0 NLDS lead over the Cubs behind John Lackey’s brilliant outing

John Lackey
AP Photo/Jeff Roberson
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John Lackey flirted with a no-hitter but settled for 7 1/3 terrific, shutout innings to beat the Cubs in Game 1 of the NLDS on Friday. The right-hander held the opposition to two hits and a walk while striking out five. Lefty reliever Kevin Siegrist struck out two to finish the eighth without issue. Closer Trevor Rosenthal worked around a one-out walk and a two-out single in the ninth to seal the 4-0 win, recording all three outs on called strike threes.

Lackey brought a no-hitter into the sixth inning, but lost it quickly when Addison Russell hit a ground ball single up the middle to lead off the frame. Russell would steal second base but was stranded.

Opposing starter Jon Lester wasn’t too shabby himself, relenting three runs on five hits while walking one and striking out nine in 7 1/3 innings. The first run came around in the first inning on Matt Holliday‘s RBI single, which followed a one-out double by Stephen Piscotty. Tommy Pham pinch-hit in the pitcher’s spot in the eighth inning and launched a solo home run off of Lester to double the Cardinals’ lead. Lester walked Matt Carpenter before exiting. Pedro Strop came in and promptly served up a two-run home run to Stephen Piscotty.

The closest the Cubs came to scoring was when Dexter Fowler sent a deep fly ball to right field with a man on base and two outs in the sixth inning, but Randal Grichuk caught it with a foot or two to spare in front of the fence on the warning track.

The two clubs will play Game 2 of the NLDS on Saturday at 5:30 PM EDT. Kyle Hendricks will start for the Cubs and oppose Cardinals lefty Jaime Garcia.

Astros err in letting Scott Kazmir start sixth

Scott Kazmir
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Scott Kazmir went winless with a 6.52 ERA in six September starts. He allowed 41 hits, eight of them homers, in 29 innings, posting an 18/11 K/BB ratio. When the Astros got five innings of two-run ball from him Friday against the Royals, they should have thanked their good fortune and moved right along to the pen.

And they knew this. They must have. Josh Fields got up in the pen after Kazmir issued a one-out walk in the fifth. The left-hander got out of the frame, making himself eligible for the victory in what was then a 4-2 game, but it was still very surprising to see him come back out for the sixth, particularly with the switch-hitting Ben Zobrist (.926 OPS against lefties) and right-handed Lorenzo Cain due up.

Kazmir retired Zobrist, but he gave up a double to Cain. He was then pulled, even with the left-handed Eric Hosmer coming up. Manager A.J. Hinch had committed my biggest baseball pet peeve: he sent his starter back to the mound with the idea of pulling him after his first mistake.

It worked out terribly. Oliver Perez gave up a pair of soft hits to Hosmer and Kendrys Morales before walking Mike Moustakas. Fields then entered and walked the unwalkable Salvador Perez to tie the game at 4. The Astros gave up another run in the seventh and lost the game 5-4.

Maybe that’s the way it would have worked out anyway. Kazmir did give up just the one baserunner. It might not have even harmed the Astros if Perez had better luck.

Still, the thinking that went into the decision was disturbing. It’s always better to bring that reliever in with no one on base when you can. That’s especially the case with this Astros pen, which lacks a double-play specialist, much less a Wade Davis. But anyone in that pen would have been a better choice than sending Kazmir out to face Zobrist and Cain for a third time. Hinch needs to be more aggressive going forward.

Cardinals’ giveaway incorrectly claims ownership of 2001 division title

cardinals logo

The Cardinals have won so many division titles, it’s tough to keep track of them all. At least, it would be tough if it weren’t for Baseball Reference.

40,000 rally towels were given away to fans at Busch Stadium ahead of Friday’s NLDS Game 1 against the Cubs. The towel listed all of the years the Cardinals won the NL Central… and 2001. That year, they tied with the Astros for the best record in the National League at 93-69. However, because the Astros won the season series 9-7, they were awarded first place and the Cardinals took the Wild Card.