There are times that I find myself lamenting the late-night predisposition that often keeps me awake deep into the early-morning hours, but this revelatory column on the reportedly intensifying financial plight of Hicks Sports Group and the Texas Rangers has, for once, justified that late-to-bed, late-to-rise streak:
● "[Team president Nolan] Ryan said he can't imagine the team being sold and a sale approved before April or May  at the earliest and at this point, there's reason to wonder if there are any serious bidders out there" (Jim Reeves, Fort Worth Star-Telegram)
[On August 31st, Daniel Kaplan of the Sports Business Journal reported that the Rangers had fielded letters from "about six prospective buyers" whose interest in acquiring the debt-challenged franchise was apparently significant enough to merit a formal indication of enthusiasm, and one week later, ESPN.com's Buster Olney noted that the field of potential buyers for the Rangers had been narrowed to three candidates, indicating that there are, at the very least, multiple semi-serious bidders in the mix prepared to duke it out.
Whether those prospective buyers are serious to the tune of the low-to-mid-$500 million range appears to be the prevailing question, with a mid-nine-digit selling price being deemed by sports consultant Marc Ganis as favorable towards Hicks Sports Group given that ownership of Rangers Ballpark in Arlington wouldn't be transferred in any transaction.
Ancillary question: With Tom Hicks and Major League Baseball apparently setting their sights upon the $600 million mark, what sort of contingency plan is in place in the event that those ostensibly serious bidders don't meet the reserve price? Is that the point where the Rangers become the 2002 Montreal Expos, doomed to an MLB-governed fate? Or will the status quo remain in place, with the Rangers being financially emasculated and operating under league-imposed restrictions into perpetuity?]
● MLB is calling many of the behind-the-scenes shots with the Rangers, as evidenced by the Matt Purke debacle in which commissioner Bud Selig allegedly caved after pressure from the owners and forced the Rangers to back away from their initial offer, after which Purke rejected a lower subsequent offer and elected to attend Texas Christian University (J.R.)
[I heartily applaud Reeves for divulging more details than his R.G.-initialed colleague, whose August 19th musings on the Purke situation lacked requisite clarity and consequently generated a heaping dose of confusion, but this story still doesn't align with everything else that we know about the situation.
On the morning of August 18th, MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan reported that the Rangers had presented Purke with a $4 million offer in the final minutes leading up to the 11:00 p.m. CDT deadline, which the young hurler -- whose bonus demands apparently never dipped below $6 million -- summarily rejected. For the repeatedly cited Star-Telegram story to be accurate, either (a) MLB would have had to have killed the Rangers' $4 million offer during those waning minutes and the Rangers would have then had to come firing back with that purported lower-grade offer almost instantaneously, or (b) Sullivan's sources within the organization would have to be engaging in a large-scale cover-up. What's the explanation for this glaring discrepancy in the narrative?
A callback to my August 21st thoughts on the issue: "It also fails to explain why the Rangers were allowed to spend in excess of $3 million to sign Jurickson Profar and Luis Sardinas earlier this summer, much less the organization's reported $425,000 expenditure on Dominican right-hander David Perez." And, once again, when Reeves said the Rangers "borrowed" money from the league, was this an actual loan or an advance on revenue-sharing payments that would have eventually been due to the team anyway? How difficult is it to get some clarification on this?]
● The decision to allow Kevin Millwood's 2010 option -- worth $12 million, as reported many times over -- to vest could be taken out of the Rangers' hands in a manner similar to the Purke situation, with Ryan stating that he "[doesn't] think MLB is really that in tune with all the details of what's going on here" (J.R.)
[What sounded virtually unfathomable just 24 hours ago seems to be gaining more traction; nevertheless, one has to figure that the commissioner's office doesn't have the cojones to force a playoff-contending team to bench one of its core pitchers during the stretch run, since doing so would reflect terribly on the game itself and bring a hailstorm of national criticism crashing down upon Selig's terrible combover. On a tangentially related note, Ryan's commentary greatly bothers me.]
● Even if a league-imposed mandate were to preclude the Rangers from retaining Millwood's services into 2010, it's "almost guaranteed" that the league won't permit the franchise to spend that money elsewhere -- including on its impending free agents (J.R.)
[One could certainly reason that none of the Rangers' expiring contracts -- Joaquin Benoit, Hank Blalock, Marlon Byrd, Eddie Guardado, Andruw Jones, Ivan Rodriguez and Omar Vizquel -- are pressing must-sign players, but the probability of at least one or two names from that notable veteran cast reprising their roles seems fairly strong. Byrd will assuredly be the highest-paid among them, and frankly I'm not sure that Texas should be jockeying for his services, but then that figures to be one of the more captivating transactional storylines of the winter ... that is, if the league allows it to be.]
● Nolan Ryan's four-year contract "never actually materialized," as he's currently working on a handshake agreement with Hicks; when queried on what his plan would be if a new owner wanted him extricated from the organization, Ryan replied, "I'll just go on home" (J.R.)
[Wrote MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan on February 29th, 2008: "Nolan Ryan finalized a four-year contract through the 2011 season with the Rangers on Friday to become the 10th president in club history." Is it now fair to ask just what in the hell is going on?]
The validity of Reeves' jaw-dropping assertions is something that others are better equipped to debate than myself, but assuming that even half of what has been presented here is the truth, I think that we have no other choice but to begin concerning ourselves over the short-term and long-term fallout of this destructive fiscal tailspin, and what this all really means for the future competitiveness of the franchise. We may not want to acknowledge it, but it seems that we no longer have any choice in the matter; ignorance might be bliss, but it's also excessively dangerous.
I've interjected extensive commentary on the matter and painstakingly highlighted the inconsistencies that seem to be proliferating as this story begins to take on a life of its own, but it's not my reaction that ultimately matters in the grand scheme of things ... it's yours.