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Tough lesson learned, Hicks exits

The sale's not quite complete, but one way or another Tom Hicks will soon relinquish control of the Rangers. Jennifer Floyd Engel got Hicks on the phone:

    So I had to ask. He had hinted before in private that signing Alex Rodriguez to that 10-year, $252 million deal had been a mistake. He had never said so, not publicly, until now defending his biggest baseball decision.

    "It was a mistake," Hicks admitted Monday. "I thought he would lead us to the championship. We finished last two straight years."

    And overspending for A-Rod is a thesis for what has gone wrong in his baseball tenure.

    His problems began with hockey. He can see that now. He bought a Stars team so very close and he spent money, money from his pocket, they did not have as an organization to sign players like Pat Verbeek then Eddie Belfour and finally Brett Hull because he wanted to win. And they did, bringing a Stanley Cup to Texas in 1999.

    It is in this time period he entered baseball and so he figured "why not handle the Rangers the same way?," literally whipping out his business wallet to try to compete with the Yankees. It is a way he would never operate a business yet he did so for his sports enterprises, green-lighting contracts that the team was not generating the cash flow to support.

    And there was no group of investors to say, "Wait, what in the world?", or his usual alarms of "I can’t keep borrowing to spend."

    "I didn’t have to ask, obviously that is where some of the debt came from," Hicks said. "We tried to take a shortcut with A-Rod and Chan Ho and it didn’t work. I learned some expensive lessons."

It's strange, how many times these same lessons must be learned. The odd thing about baseball -- about professional sports, generally -- is how many intelligent men, who made fortunes with their brains before buying a sports team, forget everything they've known in the (usually) vain grab for short-term success.

Some of them eventually figure it out.

Some of them lose many millions of dollars and many hundreds of games, and are forced to sell their team.