Texas Rangers: Rangers ownership negotiations

Judge's comments in bankruptcy case unsealed

November, 24, 2010
11/24/10
11:05
AM CT
Richard Sandomir of The New York Times revisited the bankruptcy case of the Texas Rangers, and unearthed how judge D. Michael Lynn really felt about the case after the paper filed a motion to unseal court tapes.

Among Lynn's comments:

ON COURTROOM BULLYING: “I do not like being bullied, and I will not be bullied.”

ON BASEBALL: “I don’t like what’s been done to it, with the designated hitter and interleague play and an interminable playoff. But I used to love baseball, and I can talk baseball with — at least in terms of people like Whitey Ford and Bob Turley and their ilk — until hell freezes over.”

ON COMMENTS DURING CASE: “By the way, if I sound like I’m one-sided in this, I’m not. I don’t like hedge funds any better than I do Major League Baseball. In fact, if anything, I used to like them less, but I’m making progress on that.”

ON POSSIBLE THREATS (to lawyers): “I’ve alerted the U.S. Marshals because I don’t want to see my home vandalized. If any of your clients want to take a contract out on me, tell them to be sure to aim true and to make it as painless as possible. Do you understand me?”

What ballpark changes do you want?

August, 13, 2010
8/13/10
12:00
PM CT
The new Rangers ownership team, led by general managing partner Chuck Greenberg and president Nolan Ryan, will be announcing some fan initiatives later today. It got me wondering: What ballpark changes do you want most to see? Some possibilities:

* Cheaper beer prices (wouldn't that make games even more fun?)

* A drop in season-ticket prices

* New videoboard in the outfield

* New scoreboard on top of the home run porch (Ryan hinted at this in his chat with ESPNDallas.com on Wednesday)

What else would you like to see? (A retractable roof is not an option, BTW).

Nolan Ryan: Heat factor overblown

August, 12, 2010
8/12/10
1:49
PM CT


As he discussed on his chat with ESPNDallas.com on Wednesday, club president Nolan Ryan was asked about the heat at the ballpark on a conference call on Thursday. The temperature takes on adding meaning these days after Cliff Lee talked about how hot it was on the mound last night. Lee, of course, is a free agent and both Ryan and new managing general partner Chuck Greenberg said the heat should not impact the club's ability to sign or keep key players. They did say it's more about what it does to fans than players.

Ryan said April and May make it "as enjoyable to play here as any place." He added that you're probably talking about 50 games in the Texas heat and a pitcher may play 20 of those games.

"And of those 20, maybe four or five are possibly in extreme heat," Ryan said. "When you start analyzing, this heat situation is blown way out of proportion. I'd much rather pitch last night and be climatized to it and not in the cold somewhere else in April or September."

Ryan said with no breeze last night that it was particularly hot to be pitching in those conditions, which Lee could certainly attest to after the game. But he doesn't believe that heat will determine whether Lee stays in Texas or goes somwhere else.

"The heat is what it is," Ryan said. "What your attitude is about the heat is a personal thing -- How you view it, how you use it, if it’s a distraction for you. It depends on the individual. As far as Cliff’s concerned, it was one of the hottest games because it was extremely hot and there wasn’t a breeze. I’m a believer that you use that to your advantage. He outlasted the other pitcher. What happened last night is our bullpen couldn’t hold them and our offense shut down. I look at it as the individual and what their priorities are. We have a lot of very attractive things here in the Metroplex versus going somewhere else to play. That’s going to come down to whether it's Cliff Lee or another free agent and what's important to them."

Greenberg was quick to point out that the weather is nice in October during postseason baseball, something he plans on seeing this season and in the future.

Ryan was also asked, as he was on our chat on Wednesday, about what the club is doing in terms of looking at modifications to the park to make it cooler.

"As I said in that interview, we’re looking at any new technology that comes along that we think can make economic sense to pursue," Ryan said. "Do I see us putting a retractable roof over the stadium? No I don’t. It doesn’t make economic sense to do that. Our players feel like the heat is an advantage for us because a lot of visiting teams are overwhelmed by the heat. I don’t look at that as a priority as much with the players as I do with fan experience and the impact it may have on the fans. When we’re into an extreme heat wave in a long homestand it does have an impact on fan participation because of the fact that people deal with it on a daily basis in their lives. They don’t want to experience that. They want to go home and get away from that."

How much money will new owners spend?

August, 12, 2010
8/12/10
9:48
AM CT
ARLINGTON, Texas -- One of the biggest questions now that the Greenberg-Ryan group has been approved by Major League Baseball is how much money they'll spend. We've heard the figure of $90 million as a possible budget, but Nolan Ryan said Wednesday in a chat here on ESPNDallas.com that the group has to figure all of that out.

"We have not worked on a budget for next year," Ryan said. "We will sit down and start working on a budget in September to finalize it by October and at that point, we'll have a feel for what we think our needs will be and what we feel like we can justify in spending."

Baseball Prospectus did a look at what other new owners have spent in taking over clubs the last 20 years. They looked at how much of revenue was spent on payroll of teams and tried to make a prediction. And it's right around that $90 million figure. Here's what they think will happen with the Rangers:
And that takes us back to the Rangers, who haven’t had an above average Revenue/Payroll+ since the end of the A-Rod era in 2003, and have been in the bottom 10 every year except 2006. This year, they’ve actually bottomed out, coming in ahead of only the Padres and Pirates (which shouldn’t be much of a surprise, considering they had to take a loan from MLB just to make payroll).

All told, based on a regression of the past 20 years’ data, we should expect the Rangers’ Payroll+ to increase 15 points in the next three seasons. That would take them from 77 to 92—still below average, but far more respectable, at the very least. If we use 2007-09 instead—given how anomalous this year has been in a thousand different ways—we’d expect them to go up 11 points, from 85 to 96.

Regardless, payroll should be going up by a pretty significant amount. And in general, if your team is drastically underspending (what’s up, Dodgers fans?), a sale is usually a pretty good cure.
If you get a chance, read the whole thing. It's lots of formulas and numbers, but it's very interesting.

MLB owners approve Rangers sale

August, 12, 2010
8/12/10
9:29
AM CT
The sale of the Texas Rangers has been approved in a unanimous vote by MLB owners, said managing general partner Chuck Greenberg via text. Greenberg is in Minnesota for the owners meetings along with general manager Jon Daniels.

Official word from the league is expected to come later this morning.

Closing on the team could take place as early as later today, but Greenberg and club president Nolan Ryan, along with the entire ownership group, are expected to be the owners when the club faces Boston on Friday at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

More to come later after the meetings this morning conclude.

Ownership approval expected today

August, 12, 2010
8/12/10
6:30
AM CT
ARLINGTON, Texas -- It's an off day for the Rangers, but not for Chuck Greenberg, Nolan Ryan and the rest of Rangers Baseball Express.

Greenberg is in Minneapolis, Minn., for the owners' meetings. He was in to meet with the ownership committee on Wednesday and both that committee and the executive council unanimously approved the sale. The final vote on whether to approve the Greenberg-Ryan group is scheduled for later this morning. That is not expected to be an issue, as MLB has preferred the Greenberg-Ryan group for months now since they agreed to a deal with Hicks Sports Group in January.

We'll have some comments from Greenberg and Ryan once the vote is official. The closing of the team could happen as early as today, with Friday as the first game where Greenberg and Ryan would be owners.

Cuban blogs about bidding on Rangers

August, 5, 2010
8/05/10
3:30
PM CT
SEATTLE -- Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has a new blog entry up (it's a long one) about why he decided to go after the Rangers and his thoughts on the process. Cuban said he looked into the purchase for a while. Here's some of that:
This wasn’t a spur of the moment thing. More than a year ago, before the current parties were involved (or at least I was told there weren’t others involved), I was contacted by someone the team owed a lot of money to and asked if I would be interested in buying the team side by side with them. I said yes. Got information. Did some very preliminary homework and told the group I was interested. That fell through. They decided not to go forward.

Then I was contacted by the departing owner of the Rangers and asked if I would be interested in investing in the team . I said no, but to get in touch if there was the opportunity to buy the team. Not long after that, I was contacted and started the process of discussing a purchase of the team. We had a few meetings and quite a few options were discussed. Most of the options required that I also purchase and take on expenses and assets/liabilities that I believed were not core to the operation of the team and could in fact make things more difficult. I was not willing to do that.

What I was willing to do was to make a significant enough of an investment that would catch the team up on all of their debt and provide some working capital (it would require the creditors to make some adjustments, but early discussions suggested that it would not be a problem). I was willing to go forward if i got control of the team. I want to win Championships and in my mind there was hope of winning a World Series with the Rangers.

Later in the post, he talks about how things changed and the possbility of a TV network or forcing FSN to pay a high price to keep the games:
Around the 2nd week in July, I got asked by someone who was considering bidding in the auction if i wanted to partner with them. I told them that i doubted it , but I would take a look. From that first look, it appeared to me that all those obligations that I didn’t like were still in the deal. But I was soon informed that because of the bankruptcy auction, they could be removed. That got my attention.

In my opinion if those operational issues could be removed, there would be more operating cash flow for the team. That’s a good thing. In addition, as everyone told me time and again, the Rangers TV deal ran out in 4 years. Combine that with the Mavs TV deal running out just a few years later and it could either form a foundation for a new sports network, or preferably cause Fox to pay an ungodly amount of money to keep the teams on FSN. Fox had more to lose from a competitive sports network being formed, particularly in Texas, than a new network had to gain from being created. So the leverage of owning both teams was enormous.

Cuban said he contacted Greenberg about joining his group once the auction looked like it was going to happen and that Greenberg decided to stick with his current group, something Cuban said he understood. But he looked at the financials themselves and saw an opportunity, which he describes more fully in the entry.

So why couldn't Cuban go it alone? He explains:
As it turns out , I wasn’t in a position to go after this myself. Why ? Two reasons. First, despite what people think, I don’t keep hundreds of millions of dollars in a checking account. I prefer that it earn money doing things for me. It is not easy to get liquid to the point of $400mm dollars or more in just a few weeks. And in those few short weeks, its not easy to go to the banks and get a loan for a baseball team. Lots of reasons. Some I don’t like, but it’s not. Second, I didn’t have enough time to do all the due diligence my folks needed to do. You don’t read every contract and get people to run numbers and advise you on what all the implications of a bankruptcy auction are in a couple weeks. I was paying people to work round the clock. I was killing my General Counsel Robert Hart to the point of exhaustion. There wasn’t enough time.

So a meeting was set up with Jim Crane. I liked him. He had been working on the Rangers for several years. He had all the due diligence in place. His people had scoured the contracts , etc. He had smart people around him and he had his money ready to go as well. Plus he had a relationship with the existing creditors who were willing to loan us money in order to facilitate a competitive auction. Of course the creditors were very self serving. If lending us money helped us, it helped them potentially earn more money from the auction. Together we could put together a bid. As it turns out we could afford a purchase price up to about $600mm dollars. (Right where we left the bidding last night/this morning.)

And one more thing...Cuban responds about how many bonds he purchased and what the auction means to him financially.
Finally lets talk about finances. Lets talk about the bonds I own. I have been getting a bunch of emails from reporters asking how much money I made on the bonds I own. Suggesting that I bid up the price of the Rangers in order to increase the value of the $2mm i spent on bonds. To all of you I offer a lesson in economics.

It is NEVER a good idea to risk hundreds of millions of dollars on the purchase of a team AND to spend what could come to more than a $1million in professional fees in order to increase the value of the $2mm you bought in bonds. I know its something for the media to talk about. But if any of you out there think it through, I dont want you to think i was stupid enough to do something that stupid.

I'll leave it at that because this entry is already long. But it's worth your time to read the entry and get Cuban's thoughts.
Maury Brown in The Biz of Baseball has some highlights of today's confirmation hearing to approve the auction process and the club's pre-packaged bankruptcy plan. The hearing, going on now, revealed that Tom Hicks won't have any part of the team now because that's been stripped based on the auction. Here's part of Brown's entry:
Maybe the biggest news has little monitary implications, but has a lot to do with public relations. Tom Hicks will be removed completely from any ownership role within the organization. Prior, Hicks was going to be given less than 1 percent ownership equity with Greenberg/Ryan with the ceremonial title of Chairman Emeritus. That has now all been stripped.

The total assessed value of the deal, including cash and debt obligations totals $593 million, or approx. $73 million they had on the table before the auction started.

The lenders gained approx. $100 million through the process.

In other words: Wednesday was a good day for the lenders. Brown also has this note:
At the hearing, Judge Lynn said to Jessup, that he thanked Cuban and Crane for bowing out when they did, and that he admitted, the majority of fans got who they wanted. Saying that both were exceptionally gracious after conceding to Greenberg and Ryan.

There will be tweaks to the plan today, addressing concerns by the MLBPA and former Rangers players, such as Alex Rodriguez surrounding deferred compensation owed the players. The MLBPA filed a limited objection to the amended plan that the Rangers have been working on that Greenberg/Ryan would comply to, that asks for, “adequate assurance of future performance within the meaning of Bankruptcy …. and cure of defaults within the meaning of Bankruptcy Code section.” The latter would address current players that are owed deferred compensation while the former would guarantee future money payments that must be set aside in escrow for players that can then be drawn for their deferred compensation.

We'll have more once more information is available.
SEATTLE -- It was a relieved and tired Chuck Greenberg that I talked to on the phone in the early hours of Thursday. Click here to read that entire interview. It was a strange and twisting day and I can tell you it was interesting to try to follow it from Seattle as some of the players tried to keep tabs on it and so did the four beat writers traveling with the team (we were hitting refresh on our twitter accounts 1,000 times). A few general thoughts now that it's the morning after:

* If you haven't already, read ESPNDallas.com columnist Jim Reeves' take. He, like some other media folks, stuck it out through a very long day in a Fort Worth courtroom. He talks about what happened here.

* As the Rangers game began, the auction was commencing with sides analyzing bids. But as the game headed to the fifth inning or so, the Rangers were down 5-2 and the Jim Crane-Mark Cuban group had the leading bid. There was a sense in the in-game chat that it was not going to be the kind of night most Ranger fans wanted. It's certainly seemed from the beginning that most fans wanted Nolan Ryan and Chuck Greenberg to get this team if for nothing else than to insure that Ryan remained an integral part of it.

But in an instant, things changed. David Murphy hit the big three-run homer after Seattle had intentionally walked Nelson Cruz. Shortly after that, Greenberg-Ryan put in a bid higher than Crane-Cuban and you got the feeling things were far from over. After a while, Crane-Cuban went higher again.

That's when Michael Young hit the grand slam just after Greenberg-Ryan decided to really up their offer. That ended up being the decisive moment in both the game and the auction. The mood in the in-game chat certainly changed.

* I remain surprised that the Crane-Cuban group didn't win this auction. I just assumed that as serious as Cuban showed he was on Wednesday that he wouldn't leave without the team. But this also proves that what Greenberg said all along about having the capital was true. The money behind his group stepped up and got this done.

* The fact that Greenberg-Ryan won the auction (and should gain swift approval) means that the transition should be smooth. When the Red Sox come to town late next week, the Greenberg-Ryan group should be in control. That means they can jump right into some critical negotiations: tying up Jon Daniels and his staff long term, talking with agents for free agents Cliff Lee and Vladimir Guerrero and exploring a contract extension for Ron Washington, who could end up being manager of the year. And, of course, getting a deal done with Josh Hamilton, who is arbitration-eligible next season.

* As for the game, I thought it was very big for this club. They keep an 8-game lead and avoid the possibilty of being swept in Seattle. With Felix Hernandez on the mound tonight, it won't be easy. The offense came out of it's slumber to pound out 11 runs -- 10 of them with two outs. We'll see if it can carry over against a tough pitcher tonight.

Did you stay up for the end of the courtroom drama and the game? What were your emotions like last night?

Q&A: Winning bidder Chuck Greenberg

August, 5, 2010
8/05/10
6:00
AM CT
Chuck Greenberg, driving home early Thursday from a long day at the courthouse in Fort Worth after he and partner Nolan Ryan (and their group of investors) won the auction for the Rangers, talked to ESPNDallas.com about the day and his plans for the Rangers going forward (he wants Cliff Lee to sign a long-term deal).

ESPNDallas.com: When you woke up this [Wednesday] morning, did you think you would own the team?

Greenberg: I did. With no disrespect to any of the other groups who looked at the team, we thought we were the strongest group with the best fit. I was confident at the decisive moment that we would demonstrate that one last time. I was wary because of the ups and downs and disappointments, but I genuinely felt we’d prevail.

Some speculated that we were undercapitalized and that we didn’t have sufficient resources. Those were rumors that were circulated for whatever reason, but they were never accurate. We were always a group that was well-capitalized and had very strong resources, and when push came to shove and we had to put them to use to buy the ballclub, we stepped up and did it.

ESPNDallas.com: Did you ever think you’d end up having to buy the club at auction?

Greenberg: For the last five weeks, it was inevitable. It was really a question of the ground rules. On the other hand, the reality and the naked feeling of stepping into a shootout was something that hit me hard for the first time Tuesday night.

The day moved very slowly and we decided well into the evening to make a really dramatic move upwards in our bid. At the exact moment we announced that bid, Michael Young hit a grand slam. How about that? It was a good omen.

ESPNDallas.com: Did you talk to Jim Crane and Mark Cuban, the other bidders, after the result?

Greenberg: I did. They could not have been more gracious. Jim Crane shook my hand and congratulated me and Nolan, and I had a nice conversation with Mark Cuban as well. I respect the fact that they bid aggressively. Clearly, they were sincere in their efforts. I respect what they tried to do.

ESPNDallas.com: Now that you’re about to become the owner officially, how hard will you work to re-sign Cliff Lee?

Greenberg: We’re going to work really, really hard. Cliff is not only a great pitcher; he’s an exemplary professional, teammate and role model. We are going to do everything we can to keep him. We’ve got a period of time where we’ve got a chance to demonstrate to him how special it’s going to be to be a part of the Rangers family, and that’s what we’re going to be, a family. We’ve got a great group of guys on the team, a committed ownership and a great front office. We’re going to do the best we can to show him he’s found a home and that this is a place where he wants to be.

ESPNDallas.com: When might you take over? What are your plans out of the gate?

Greenberg: It should be Friday the 13th. If all goes well, we close on the 12th and the 13th would be our first game. We had a pretty wide set of plans in March that we were going to activate on Opening Day or as soon as we closed, but it’s been over four months since I had the luxury of going over those. Since then we’ve been grinding away at this process. I think I’ll take a day or two to kind of detox from this saga and clear my head and get my operator’s hat back on. This has been such a magical season so far. I’ve been fortunate to enjoy it up close , but to be free of all the uncertainty and start to implement things will be exciting.

ESPNDallas.com: Will fans see a new video board soon?

Greenberg: There’s a long lead time in ordering and installing a video board. We’re going to have to really hustle to place an order in time for 2011, but we’re going to do everything we possibly can.

ESPNDallas.com: Are you going to close on your house in Westlake now?

A: Oh yes. We are already working on setting up the closing date.

ESPNDallas.com: Is there anything else you want to say to Rangers fans?

Greenberg: I want to say thank you. I can’t even begin to estimate how many e-mails and text messages and Facebook messages I’ve received from fans. This has been an extraordinary process. I’ve been at this 15 months. If you go back to November, December, there have been so many ups and downs, and the encouragement Ranger fans have given me and Nolan has been more than I can say. It’s been sustaining and given me hope through tough times. Ranger fans have been great to us and we’re going to return the favor.

Players happy about Greenberg-Ryan

August, 5, 2010
8/05/10
1:40
AM CT
SEATTLE -- It was a loud clubhouse as soon as the Rangers' 11-6 win ended. And it got louder as players checked their phones and news filtered that the group headed by Pittsburgh attorney Chuck Greenberg and club president Nolan Ryan had won the bidding.

"It was a big day on and off the field for the Rangers," said Michael Young, smiling after his grand slam had put the game out of reach. It turns out that the winning bid was submitted about 10 seconds before Young's big blast.

Clubhouse manager Hoggy Price was walking around the clubhouse, shouting: "Nolan did it. He did it."

Bench coach Jackie Moore, who has had a long relationship with Ryan, had a look of relief as he changed out of his uniform.

"This was something they deserved, so I'm relieved and overjoyed," Moore said. "The good guys prevailed. Just look back at what's happened to this club since Nolan's been involved in it. And we're on the verge of making something real big happen. Why should he be involved in that? Why shouldn't Greenberg be involved in that? This was big for the game of baseball and the Rangers. It's great news."

The players talked this week about how the ownership issue wasn't a distraction for the club. But there was a sense of relief in the clubhouse that the process is finally ending. The process is expected to get the judge's blessing this week and then it's up to Major League Baseball to approve the group, but that's also not supposed to be an issue at all.

"That's awesome," Murphy said about the news. "Chuck and Nolan are great guys and I think they are the perfect group to take over. There's nothing but good things to come. It's got to be a great day for them. They had a lot of days of frustration over the past few months and I can't imagine what they've gone through -- they thought they were going to get it, then they didn't and had to wait for so long."

Murphy, a native Texan who went to school at Baylor, understands what Ryan means to baseball in the state and the Rangers organization.

"Every since Nolan has been on board here, this franchise has gone nowhere but the correct way and the right direction inside and out," Murphy said. "You look at the farm system, you look at the big league club and it's gotten better in all aspects. He's not just a Texas icon; he's a baseball icon. I think people will be proud that he's part of the ownership group of the Texas Rangers."

Manager Ron Washington walked around the hallways near his office, asking a few folks as if to make sure the auction was really over. Washington, who was hired by general manager Jon Daniels before Ryan arrived but has clearly earned Ryan's respect, was pleased with the outcome.

"I think it's a great thing for the Texas Rangers organization," Washington said. "Those guys work awfully hard and they are committed and dedicated and I'm glad it worked out for them and for us."

Ian Kinsler noted that some of the players have gotten to know Greenberg as he's been in and out of the clubhouse during various homestands this season.

"We're happy," Kinsler said. "He's put a lot of effort into this. He seems like the right fit. We're happy we're in good hands. We feel like we have a good thing going here, and Jon Daniels and Thad Levine have put together a great organization. We just got better. I don't think Nolan would want to leave what he started, and it's important to have him here."
SEATTLE -- Outfielder Josh Hamilton was asked about the Rangers ownership issue Wednesday and said he knows whoever owns the team will have money to try to keep the team competitive. But in his mind, Nolan Ryan has to remain in his role.

"Nolan Ryan is the face of Ranger baseball and has been for a long time and baseball in Texas, period," Hamilton said. "To have him in it, obviously, would be a great motivation for fans to keep coming out and be a part of the organization that has Nolan leading it and knowing what it takes as a player and being a good businessman."

Hamilton said he hadn't kept much track of the auction and wasn't too concerned about it. That seemed to be the thought of most of the players I talked to Wednesday.

Report: Greenberg group drops land deal

August, 4, 2010
8/04/10
9:27
AM CT
Maury Brown, who is following the auction proceedings today at The Biz of Baseball, has a report up that the Greenberg-Ryan group has terminated its land deal with Ballpark Real Estate, owned by Tom Hicks and some investors.

The land deal is not part of the auction, so by terminating the agreement to purchase those 154 acres, it could mean the group has more money to work with in the auction today.

Here is part of the statement from BRE about the termination:



The two groups said they mutually agreed to the termination of the land sale agreement to help create a "level playing field" at Wednesday's auction of the Texas Rangers Baseball Club.

Last week, Bankruptcy Judge Michael Lynn rejected an enhanced bid from Greenberg-Ryan that would have removed the land from the franchise bidding and canceled the auction. Lynn ordered the auction to proceed although bidders have been instructed not to include the land as part of the Rangers assets. However, until late yesterday, the land sale agreement was still in force between Express and BRE.

"This is all about good faith," said Philip Danze, attorney for BRE. "We don't want any confusion about what is included or rights that only one bidder would have. The sale is for the Texas Rangers Baseball Partners assets, and that does not include the land."
Click here for Brown's entire report.

News Corp. not bidding on Rangers

August, 3, 2010
8/03/10
4:53
PM CT
SEATTLE -- It looks like it's down to Mark Cuban (either by himself or with someone else...maybe Jim Crane?) against the Chuck Greenberg-Nolan Ryan group, assuming Cuban enters the bidding by 8 p.m. today.

But we do know that News Corp. is not going to bid.

Let's talk bankruptcy and auction

August, 3, 2010
8/03/10
10:49
AM CT
SEATTLE -- I don't know about you, but I'm very excited to be thinking about courtrooms and auctions with the Rangers set to face the Mariners in the second of this three-series road trip. But what can you do? A few things to watch for today and tomorrow:

* Potential bidders have until 8 p.m. Dallas time tonight to submit their bids. Once they are in, if there is more than one bid, an auction will take place at 8:30 a.m. at a courthouse in Fort Worth.

* So either later tonight or tomorrow morning we'll know if Mark Cuban is bidding alone, combining with Houston businessman Jim Crane (reports say William Snyder, the court-appointed CRO, mentioned that possibility in court the other day) or maybe even Dallas businessman Jeff Beck. Or if Cuban decides not to bid (I can't see that happening).

* News Corp. could also bid, as long as they have the necessary clearance from MLB, which must pre-screen any potential bidder.

* The auction won't have an auctioneer up there trying to up the bidding. But bidders could go up by $2 million in each round, so it could have some dramatic turns if someone is working hard to really improve the bid during the auction. The opening bids must be at least $15 million over the cash portion of the Greenberg-Ryan group -- $306.7 million.

* Remember: MLB must still approve any winning bidder. And they could choose to go with the runner-up in the bidding. If they do that, expect litigation to follow.

* It's unclear how quickly a potential winning bidder would be approved by MLB. Cuban petitioned the court yesterday to have MLB speed it up and MLB said they would do it as quickly as they could, but no date was set, according to a story in the FWST.

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Yu Darvish
WINS ERA SO IP
9 2.92 159 126
OTHER LEADERS
BAA. Beltre .324
HRA. Beltre 15
RBIA. Beltre 55
RA. Beltre 53
OPSA. Beltre .888
ERAY. Darvish 2.92
SOY. Darvish 159