ARLINGTON -- One hour before the scheduled start of the Rangers' game with the Baltimore Orioles on Thursday night, club president Nolan Ryan sat in the press box and stared out at the field. The Rangers were in first place. A victory on Thursday night would put them 6 1/2 games ahead of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the American League West. But Ryan confided this season hasn't been as enjoyable as people think. "Not like it should be," Ryan said. "I've had to deal with so many different things."
Ryan expected to be part-owner by now as well as club president. He expected to be a part of a 12-investor group led by Pittsburgh sports attorney Chuck Greenberg that would have completed purchasing the Rangers from Tom Hicks and be in complete control by now. The Greenberg-Ryan group was given exclusive negotiating rights to buy the Rangers back in December. It was chosen ahead of a group led by Houston businessman Jim Crane and another led by former player agent Dennis Gilbert. Greenberg-Ryan reached an agreement with Hicks Sports Group on Jan. 23, but the transaction has not been completed. The creditors who hold the debt on HSG have not approved the deal and the matter currently is in U.S. bankruptcy court. Ryan was once confident the deal would get done. He is not expressing that same confidence now. "I don't worry about it, but there is a good possibility it might not happen," Ryan said. A hearing was scheduled for Friday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court. The hearing was supposed to set the final rules for a one-day auction of the franchise next Friday. Instead the hearing has been changed to a "conference." According to the Associated Press, the Rangers withdrew their motion seeking court approval for the July 16 auction that had strict guidelines set by Major League Baseball. The withdrawal came after opposition from the court-appointed restructuring officer in the team's bankruptcy case. Now there is a possibility that Crane will be given a new opportunity by the bankruptcy court to bid higher than the $575 million sale price negotiated by the Greenberg-Ryan group. "This is more delay, I would venture to say," Ryan said. "It's frustrating what direction this is going and what time frame you are dealing with. Everybody associated with it would like some finality with it." Ryan, who was hired by Hicks to be club president on Feb. 6, 2008, aligned himself with Greenberg early in the process. It's unknown what will happen with Ryan if Crane buys the team. "My position is I'm going to be here until the end of the season, assess where everything is and go from there," Ryan said. "I'm not making any predictions. I'm not thinking about anything except getting some ruling [from the bankruptcy judge] and seeing where we all stand. Getting through this season, that's where my focus is." Ryan clearly would prefer to deal with baseball issues rather than legal challenges. The Rangers, even though their ownership situation is in limbo, appear to be in the market to possibly trade for pitcher Cliff Lee from the Mariners. Reportedly there have been discussions, but Ryan would only say nothing is imminent. "I haven't been in on the conversations, but there are an awful lot of teams running at them," Ryan said. "We'll just have to wait and see." From a baseball standpoint, the Rangers are in a strong position to make a run at Lee, because they have one of the deepest farm systems in the game. The Mariners are looking for offensive help and want first baseman Justin Smoak, but the Rangers would rather talk about Chris Davis. The Rangers also have pitching to include in any deal. The biggest question is the financial side. Lee's contract calls for a base salary of $8 million plus another $1 million added on for winning the American League Cy Young Award in 2008. A deal at this point would mean the team that acquires him would take on about $4.5 million in salary. "We'll just have to look at the possibility and if we're capable of doing it ... the timing of it, the financial requirements," Ryan said.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.