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Thursday, January 28, 2010
Updated: January 29, 1:38 PM ET
Hicks wasn't all bad; it just seems like it

By Jim Reeves
ESPNDallas.com

ARLINGTON, Texas -- This was intended to be a Tom Hicks tribute column until I read in Matt Mosley's "Unobstructed View" that all submissions to that effect would first have to pass muster with him. Rather than suffer the humiliation of rejection, coming up with a second idea seemed to be the better part of valor.

Before leaving the subject of the poor, destitute Mr. Hicks, however, I do have a few parting thoughts.

First, it wasn't all bad, it's just seemed that way for a long, long time now. I really think Tom's heart was in the right place. Unfortunately, instead of on the left side of his chest, more often than not it turned out to be somewhere behind his checkbook.

I'm convinced that it was Scott Boras who ruined Hicks as an owner. Tom never recovered from the Alex Rodriguez/Chan Ho Park debacles. Hicks had never had anyone pick his pocket like Boras did, and it hurt. From that point on, as much as Tom gave lip service to winning, it was always about the money.

A funny thing happened on the way to financial responsibility, though. Hicks ultimately put the Rangers on the right track, rebuilding the farm system and dedicating the organization to drafting, signing and developing young players. Doesn't matter that it was the cheaper way to go, it was also the right way. It didn't happen soon enough and it didn't produce another championship team for him, but someday it will and he'll have been a part of that.

It's difficult to feel terribly sorry for him, though. He has reminded us all what a great country we live in, where a man, if he's smart enough and has enough business savvy, can be half a billion dollars in debt and get Major League Baseball to pay his team's bills, yet still live in the most expensive house ($42 million) in Dallas and keep modest little vacation places in La Jolla, Calif., and Aspen, Colo., for playtime.

As Hicks likes to say, there's personal money and there's business money. Why Mama Reeves didn't force me to go to a fancy business college and learn how that works I'll never know.

Since we just laid Bobby Bragan to rest this week, I suppose it would be appropriate to borrow Bragan's frequently told story about how Cleveland general manager Frank Lane called him in one night after Joe DiMaggio had beaten Bragan's Indians with a late home run.

"I don't know how we'll get along without you, Bobby," Lane told him, "but starting tomorrow, we're going to try."

We've arrived at that same point with Tom Hicks, which brings us around to the cavalry that arrived at The Ballpark this week when the agreement between Hicks and the Chuck Greenberg-Nolan Ryan group was reached.

They galloped in with bugles blaring and their colors flying in the wind. There's no lack of confidence, nor should there be. This is a franchise poised to do something special. With this ugly ownership cloud lifted, it's just a matter of time.

Nolan Ryan
Nolan Ryan brings credibility to the new Rangers ownership group.

At any moment I expect a call from Chuck or Nolan, asking for my advice on how best to proceed. Not one to stand on protocol, however, I'll just dispense with the formalities and get right to the five key points that the new guys need to keep in mind if they want success for the Rangers.

Don't just talk the talk, walk the walk

Everybody likes to hear Greenberg say that the Rangers can be one of baseball's "powerhouse franchises," that it's no good just drafting, signing and developing great young players if all you're doing is acting as a minor league outpost for the Yankees and Red Sox. Greenberg, in fact, hasn't said one wrong thing yet as far as I can tell.

But if you're going to talk it, you'd better be prepared to walk it, too. Media, fans and the rest of baseball will be watching carefully to see if this new ownership group is prepared to stand behind what it says, especially when things don't always go as planned.

There will definitely be a honeymoon period for the new owners. How long it lasts will be entirely up to them.

Let Nolan be the face of the franchise

Greenberg's stated intent is to be heavily involved in the business and marketing end of the franchise and to allow Ryan and GM Jon Daniels to make the baseball decisions. This is good.

The Rangers are blessed to have such a credible figure as Ryan as the team president and now part owner. In fact, without Ryan aboard over the last two years, there's no telling how bad a hit the Rangers' image would have taken. People believe in Nolan Ryan, whether he's telling them what pain meds to take, that they should get their foundations repaired or that Rangers pitchers need to be in better condition.

Forget Josh Hamilton, Michael Young or Neftali Feliz. The Rangers' most important asset right now in the foreseeable future is Nolan Ryan.

Support Jon Daniels

Under Daniels' watch, the Rangers' farm system was just ranked No. 1 (by ESPN.com) for the second straight year. What he was able to accomplish with almost no resources this past offseason was next to miraculous.

The Ryan-Daniels tandem may be the most potent baseball twosome since Koufax and Drysdale.

Rangers Ballpark
Rangers Ballpark in Arlington has all the amenities for a fan-friendly experience, except for a roof.

Don't talk about money

Unless, that is, it's about how many millions you're willing to spend to help produce a winner.

Hicks couldn't help himself. Even when the Rangers were finishing last in the West year after year, he was gloating about how the franchise was turning a profit. We don't want to hear it.

All that matters to the fans is winning, not dollar signs.

Keep working on The Ballpark

It is a great place to watch a ballgame, and don't worry about the Death Star down the street. You have the right ballpark for baseball, but don't hesitate to make improvements when you can.

We know that a study has been done about ways to cover the ballpark that would lower summertime temperatures by 15 degrees. Just do it.

That should get things rolling, boys, but there's plenty more where that came from when you're ready. You have the number. Don't hesitate to call.

Jim Reeves is a former columnist with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and will be a frequent contributor to ESPNDallas.com.