The Rangers will be auctioned on July 16th. Kinda.

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All the parties to the Great Texas Rangers Clusterbang will be at a mediation starting at noon today, and there’s no telling what will come out of it. Maybe they all leave happy and ready for a judge’s rubber stamp. Maybe someone loses an ear. Could go either way, really.  If fisticuffs break out I got money on Nolan Ryan coming out on top.

If there’s anything other than a hearty chorus of Kumbaya coming out of that conference room today, the Rangers are going to be auctioned to the highest bidder on July 16th.  That according to Barry Shlachter of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, who reports that the Rangers have agreed to the auction scenario recommended by the court appointed restructuring dude last week.  The judge could still put the kibosh on it, but now that everyone seems to be on board, it will probably happen barring some kind of breakthrough at the mediation today.

And it’s really only kind of an auction in that the court has agreed to still allow Major League Baseball to have veto power over the winner. So, if Houston businessman Jim Crane wins — and he was reported to be the high bidder the last go-around — he’s probably S.O.L. because Shachter (and others) report that he remains persona non grata in MLB circles.  Harder to say what happens if the Jeff Beck/Dennis Gilbert team participates again and bids high. Gilbert is a Selig favorite, but he may not even be part of the proceedings anymore.  In other news, allowing baseball to hand pick their owners despite the fact that they probably don’t really have the legal right to do so is totally weak.

Final fun fact: last night Chuck Greenberg’s publicist sent out a press release telling everyone that Team Greenberg has its financing in place and its purchase money in escrow.  This is likely a result of increasing chatter — which began with my report back in December — that Greenberg’s financing was shaky (I haven’t heard anything new on that recently, but Buster Olney made mention of this just the other day).

So that’s fixed, and Greenberg wants to make sure everyone knows it. Granted, I’ve never been accused of suffering from a cynicism deficit disorder, but I tend to take a press release that says “everything is great!” as a sign that everything wasn’t great before the date of the press release.  Otherwise the stuff in the press release is not news, see.  So congratulations Mr. Greenberg on fixing the financial problems you claimed you never had.

Red Sox look to punch their ticket to the World Series tonight

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Thanks to some amazing defense, some big hits and — to continue to beat this horse, a bad call by Joe West — the Red Sox have a 3-1 lead in the ALCS and look to clinch the AL Pennant tonight down in Houston.

If you believe in momentum, you’d have to say it’s on Boston’s side. If you believe that momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher, however, you’d have to say things favor Houston more than the standing of the series would suggest. All of which makes me wish Game 5 was starting right now, because it figures to be a tense and exciting affair.

ALCS Game 5

Red Sox vs. Astros
Ballpark: Minute Maid Park
Time: 8:09 PM Eastern
TV: TBS
Pitchers: David Price vs. Justin Verlander
Breakdown:

If someone told you that you had to win one baseball game against the Martians to save the human race, you could do far worse than calling on Justin Verlander to be your starting pitcher. Among the pitchers still in the postseason, he’d almost certainly be your choice right now.

Does Verlander himself appreciate the situation? This is what he said about that yesterday:

“I mean, these are all must-win games at this point. Every time you take the mound I don’t think there’s any difference whether it’s 2-2 or 3-1.”

Look, we’re asking him to beat the Martians here, not win the National Math Bee, so let’s let that go. The point is that after all of these years he’s still one of the most dominant pitchers in the game and after the exhausting, see-saw battle of Game 4, he stands the best chance of giving Houston what it needs: a quick, quiet and drama-free win.

Not that the Red Sox are likely to roll over for that. They didn’t the first time they faced Verlander in this series. They Astros won, yes, and Verlander limited them to two runs on two hits. But he also issued four walks and wasn’t his sharpest overall. Boston didn’t capitalize on his mistakes as best they could, but he’s not invincible.

For Boston it’s David Price. He allowed four runs on five hits and four walks over four and two-thirds innings in Game 2, not factoring in the decision. That’s not great, but given the talk leading up to that game being all about how Price is a postseason flop, the fact that the Sox won it in the end had to bouy him at least a little. As does the fact that, here, tonight, it’s not 100% on his shoulders. Sure, the Sox want to close this out, but with a 3-1 lead there is less pressure on Price than on his former teammate Verlander. Worth noting, though: Price is on short rest and warmed up in the bullpen last night in case he was needed to bail out Craig Kimbrel. He may not go deep into this game.