If you -- like myself -- have ever stopped everything down for just a single moment and wondered aloud, "Does this ever end?", permit me to answer your rhetorical plea: No, no it doesn't.
With the fate of the Rangers' ownership precariously hanging in the balance and another round of setbacks being dealt to the prospective Chuck Greenberg/Nolan Ryan ownership consortium, another fascinating wrinkle has been added to the complexion of the on-going madness, as FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal reported very early this morning that general manager Jon Daniels' contract contains an out clause which would enable him to leave the organization after the 2010 season if ownership changes hands.
Daniels, according to a source equipped with knowledge of Greenberg's and Ryan's plans, would be "totally safe" under their ownership, but any semblance of certainty regarding the future holder of majority ownership appears to be on the brink of flying out the window, as a scheduled MLB-supervised July 16th auction has been nixed while the court-appointed restructuring officer (William K. Snyder) overseeing the Rangers' bankruptcy case sets about hammering out new bidding procedures. Said a dejected Ryan of the latest developments: "I don't have a good feeling about things ... It's a good possibility that [the sale of the Rangers to Greenberg/Ryan] might not happen."
[Still in the hunt for the team appear to be Houston freight-shipping magnate Jim Crane and Dallas investor Jeff Beck, the latter of whom appears to have partnered with L.A.-area sports agent Dennis Gillbert. Ryan, for his part, is adamant that he wants no part of any ownership regime other than that which he is currently a part of; Crane would likely attempt to convince him otherwise, and might succeed in doing so, but the chances of ever seeing a Rangers power structure simultaneously comprising Beck/Gilbert/Ryan are about as good as the chances of myself and Jason Parks supplanting Norm Hitzges during The Ticket's 10 a.m.-12 p.m. weekday timeslot, which is to say that they're rather minimal.]
My belief is that there's nothing inherently wrong with Crane/Beck/Crane in the context of prospective ownership, a position borne from the reality that we think we know these guys ... but we really don't. To claim or pretend otherwise is ignorant. It may, however, be the case that any of the three would want to exercise their due prerogative to bring their own people in, and with Ryan -- who would seem to serve as Daniels' protector, in the sense that he currently insulates the front office from ownership -- insisting that he wants no part of those groups after the fact, Daniels and his closest advisors could conceivably be staring down the barrel of a loaded shotgun.
The thing about your head resting on the proverbial chopping block is that such knowledge -- and we can rest assured that Daniels is privy to a heaping load of off-the-record, ownership-related information -- can and does affect how you approach your job, unconsciously or otherwise, which brings a new trade deadline-related element into play. If we run deeper into the month of July and Daniels perceives the chips to be stacked against him as far as still being securely employed by the organization 4-5 months down the line, it's likely going to leave him more inclined to take a shot that he otherwise might not so readily take. I'm not talking about egregiously irresponsible stewardship of the ballclub's young assets; I am, however, talking about doing what is required within good reason to put the Rangers over the top in the Cliff Lee sweepstakes and giving Daniels the opportunity to savor the post-season fruits of his labor.
Granted, there's an already compelling argument to be made for the Rangers taking their shot this year (one which Josh Garoon far more eloquently conveyed on Monday), but invoking the win-now protocol vis-a-vis Cliff Lee would also give Texas a measurably better chance of advancing deep into the playoffs, which would, in turn, make it quite a bit more difficult for an incoming owner to immediately ax the whole of upper management while trying to maintain a positive P.R. image during the delicate early stages of ownership. In other words, the reasons why any lessening of Daniels' job security -- or even the mere perception of such -- could force him into a more aggressive wheeling-and-dealing stance are multifold.
To be clear, I don't know whether Jon Daniels is the right person to oversee this franchise's eventual (hopeful?) ascendancy into late-round playoff baseball. I don't think any of us can truly know that; we can only project his general managerial body of work to date into the future and draw inferences of questionable repute. I also don't know whether he'll still be employed by this organization in six months, whether the scouting department will still be intact, whether Greenberg/Ryan will yet acquire the team or whether Cliff Lee will ever don a Rangers uniform ... because if there's one thing we can be certain of during this moment of chaos, it's that nobody really knows anything.
[Addendum: For those of you who are wondering why I'm still considering Lee available in light of this morning's report of Lee going to the Yankees, well, (a) nothing has been finalized yet, and (b) Newsday's Ken Davidoff is reporting that talks between the Mariners and Yankees have hit a "snag," which, in the baseball rumor parlance, means that it's not over until it's over ... unless it's over.]