Mac Engel

February 8, 2014

Here’s hoping Rangers aren’t pulling Hicks-era revival

The Rangers’ owners are going down a familiar path, starting with the naming rights at the ballpark.

The scars run deep, and for this new generation of Texas Rangers fans, you hope they never experience these types of indelible marks on their sports psyches.

These are scars from the Tom Hicks Era.

Those scars are fading, but still faintly visible, from the era of lavish spending, of big-budget projections based on winning World Series, naming rights gone stupid, losing seasons and, the ultimate smudge, Alex Rodriguez.

A few years after A-Rod left town, Hicks, then the Rangers’ owner, told CBS 11’s Babe Laufenberg that every new owner in pro sports should begin his tenure by not spending money. It was knowledge based on firsthand experience.

When he bought the Rangers in 1998, the team was winning and popular, and Hicks wanted to spend the money to win a World Series. He eventually overruled Doug Melvin, the general manager who had built the team Hicks bought, and signed the likes of A-Rod.

Now, it is 2014, and the Rangers are winning and popular, and new primary owners Bob Simpson and Ray Davis clearly have been bitten by the same winning bug that got Hicks. These men are not Tom Hicks, but the many moves they are making — up to and including Wednesday’s announcement of a new naming-rights deal for the ballpark — have disturbing similarities.

Trading for Prince Fielder, who has seven years remaining on his contract, is a move a young Hicks would have OK’d. The same for the seven-year contract handed to free-agent outfielder Shin-Soo Choo.

And now the Rangers have renamed Rangers Ballpark in Arlington to Globe Life Park. The last time the Rangers renamed the ballpark, Hicks signed an agreement with Ameriquest in 2004, which turned into a complete embarrassment.

Randy Galloway called it “Bad Credit OK Park” — a line taken directly from Ameriquest’s website. It was completely appropriate for the Rangers.

According to Globe Life’s website, it has been protecting America’s families since 1951. There is, however, no mention of a third starter, or who is going to be the closer.

What we have now is “Insurance Made Easy Park.”

Maybe the similarities are just a coincidence, but most seasoned owners will tell you the best investment they made is the money they never spent. Perhaps Hicks’ advice would have been different had A-Rod worked out, but that didn’t and neither did many of his moves until he gutted his roster and embraced scouting and player development.

Hicks bought the team in June 1998, and in the 11 seasons the team was under his exclusive direction the Rangers had winning records three times.

Unlike when Hicks ran all over Melvin, there is no sign that Davis and Simpson are doing the same thing to Jon Daniels. There is also no sign they are telling him no.

There do exist, however, a few signs to be worried about. After all, these scars run deep.

Focus on this Dallas Star in Sochi

Four members of the Dallas Stars are headed to Sochi to participate in what sports journalists are already crying and whining over as the worst Olympics ever held.

Head coach Lindy Ruff is an assistant for Team Canada, and forward Jamie Benn was picked for the most talented team in the field.

Surprisingly, Team Russia added rookie forward Valeri Nichushkin, 18, and Team Finland has goalie Kari Lehtonen.

Don’t expect any of the players to make much of a dent; if you have to pick one to do anything, go with Nichushkin. He was a controversial pick, but he is scary talented. If Team Russia puts him on one of the top two lines, don’t be surprised if he does something big.

“He’s got it,” Dallas Stars general manager Jim Nill told me. “Some guys have it, and he’s got it.”

NHL should stay in Olympics

Once again, NHL owners are complaining about taking a two-week break to provide free labor to the Olympics. Philadelphia Flyers owner Ed Snider last week openly whined about it, and it does sound like the owners and the league might win this one.

When the International Olympic Committee voted to allow pro athletes in the Olympics, the NHL balked because the Games interfere with its season. When the NBA sent players to the Olympics, however, and NHL boss Gary Bettman saw the major impact it had on pro basketball, he pushed the league to get NHL players into the Games.

That began in 1998, and the NHL is now tired of the whole thing.

The players want this — Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin said he was going to play in this tournament with or without the consent of his team, the players’ union or the league.

It might be a pain for the owners, but the NHL’s participation in the Olympics is wonderful PR for a league that needs it, here and abroad. It’s the best tournament in the world. It’s every four years. Let ’em play.

Circle it

Wednesday: Baylor at TCU. TCU’s men’s basketball team is actually worse than it was a year ago — blame injury and youth — but it is due for an upset. This would be the game. Scott Drew’s crew is inconsistent, and who knows where their heads will be for this one? If Baylor has any prayer at the NCAA Tournament, it can’t lose to the Horned Frogs.

Numbers game

16,9 The points and rebounds average posted by Dallas Mavs center Samuel Dalembert in wins against Cleveland and Memphis last week. He shot 13 of 18 from the floor, defended and cared in those two wins. If he can do this semi-regularly, the Mavs can catch the sixth seed in the Western Conference. If he returns to being Sleepy Sammy, which is expected, it will be a fight for the eighth spot.

Pop talk

House of Cards vs. The Walking Dead.The second half of The Walking Dead’s fourth season returns Sunday night, and House of Cards’ second season is released Friday on Netflix. The Walking Dead is about death, depravity and wretched human behavior, yet the characters on this show are better, cleaner and more decent than those on House of Cards.

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