The Fleecing of Tom Hicks - Round 103
Tom Hicks has to be sick of this.
For the last ten years, since the advent of monster contracts in free agency, the Rangers have played their reliable role (and done an Oscar-worthy job): driving up the bidding on free agents for everyone else. The surest kiss of death for any Rangers free-agent chase is when an agent announces publicly that his client is "very interested in playing for Texas." Zito's agent Scott Boras confirmed this recently when he called up the Rangers owner, who is his friend and favorite mark. He also recently visited with Hicks and and the rest of the Rangers crew.
Here are a few questions for Mr. Boras. Does your client enjoy playing in an oven of an open air ballpark? Does he enjoy the lack of endorsement contracts from being in a "second-tier" market in flyover country? God only knows that the only things worth covering in the media happen on the coasts. This means that your player, Mr. Boras, cannot hawk Reeboks on TV for $10 million. He would have to settle for, oh, about $2 million. The people of Dallas need Zito on the air, shilling for Rodney D. Young immediately! (Think Young! Rodney D. Young!)
The Rangers need to discover only one item in their free agent list: Is the player a money whore? If not, then the player usually cares about going to a winning team or playing near his family (with a few million in walking around money). If the answer is yes to money whore-dom, then this highlights the high wire act all Rangers GMs must walk. (I feel sorry for you, JD.) Daniels has two choices. Tom Hicks can bust the budget and drive a dump truck full of money to the player's driveway. (See A-Wad, Chan Ho) Or, the agent knows he can play Hicks for a sucker and drive up the price in a contract or trade for a player who would never be caught dead in a Rangers uniform. (See Roger Clemens, Carlos Delgado, Josh Beckett, and a depressing list of others.)
After Ron Washington was hired, the Star-Telegram reported that Zito called Washington and told him the Rangers were now on his list of destinations. Signing the Oakland surfer dude would be a coup for the Rangers, of course. All this talk of his high innings count and fly-ball tendencies can be trumped by his record at Ameriquest field - 11-1, 3.75 ERA in 15 career starts. He's a three time All-star, and 2002 Cy Young winner. This 28 year old left is reaching his prime, and the Rangers could reap a windfall if they take advantage of it.
Sadly, we know that Zito desires many millions, based on the 7 year, $105 million contract he's seeking. Boras, though, has fleeced Hicks on many separate occasions, so I kind of like the Rangers chances on Zito. So, to sum up - any free agent coming to the Rangers must contend with triple digit heat, the loss of millions in endorsements, and the worst front office and owner this side of Al Davis. If Zito wants the millions, he can take Hicks' money and go add to his guitar collection. If he cares a LOT about the money, then the Rangers are in for their annual shattering of free agent dreams.
I can hear Boras' phone calls right now to the other general managers. "Mr. Minaya, the Rangers just offered my client 6 years, 90 million dollars. What say you, sir?"