Things have really changed in 21 months. Back in the fall of 2008, after yet another losing season, Jon Daniels was being compared unfavorably to a fern, and, while many of us were begging for new ownership for the Rangers, Mark Cuban buying the team was an out-of-reach fantasy.
A year later, as the pieces that Daniels had begun to accrue in 2006 finally began to achieve success at the major league level in 2009, as even wary fans (right here) began to embrace Nolan Ryan's good judgment, and as Tom Hicks finally announced that he would sell the team, most Rangers fans and observers began to hope that a transfer of ownership would mean little to no change in the team's management structure. And as the saga reached the summer, Ryan's selected purchasing group had near-unanimous support.
In steps Mark Cuban. After years of being told that he was the one guy who could save the Rangers, Cuban finally sees the club as a positive financial venture, but at a time that will cause him to be painted as a villain in the eyes of most supporters. Now, whether he deserves that tag is one of many issues that could be debated in this process, but those who see him as the bad guy in the sale/bankruptcy drama do so because...OK, for many it's just because they don't like him. But for the rest it's because they don't think that the overall situation wouldn't be as positive with him running the team as with Chuck Greenberg's group.
My feeling is that Greenberg-Ryan is the best case scenario, assuming that the behind-the-scenes marketing that Greenberg has done is sincere, at least in this one regard, and Ryan does want to keep Daniels on board. If that option is taken away, Cuban might be my second choice -- with one caveat. By all accounts, Ryan is almost assuredly out of the picture if he and Greenberg don't get the team. There are rumors that Cuban's bid will be in conjunction with Dennis Gilbert, and if that is what Cuban decides to do, I will root against him. But for this conversation, let's assume that Cuban is the majority owner and that he does not partner with anyone who wishes to run the day-to-day operations of the club.
Ryan would likely be gone, but I would definitely think that Cuban would want to keep Jon Daniels on board. Using the Mavericks as a guide, Daniels fits what Cuban would seem to want for an executive, and one of the smartest things that Cuban has ever done, including all of his wise business maneuvers, was to recognize that he had good people in place when he bought the Mavs. Not only did he retain Don Nelson, he kept recent hire Terdema Ussery in place and eventually made him CEO of HDNet.
Whether Daniels and Cuban would work well together is a little hard to predict, but I would guess that the relationship would be more similar to Cuban's with Donnie Nelson than with Papa Don, and the fact that Cuban would manage this team more with his brain (since he's a Cubs fan) more than his heart would probably be a good thing, both for the team and for Daniels.
One common misconception, particularly held outside of the metroplex and likely with some small minded MLB owners, is that Cuban would spend the Rangers into a different salary stratosphere. I really doubt that this would happen. He might take a shot here and there, knowing that he will take a loss, but I think that he would manage the team financially a lot like Greenberg intends to. He would attempt to grow revenue, but beyond that he would look to spend what he can budget. Most Mavericks moves in recent years have involved consideration not only for the NBA's salary cap, but the leagues luxury tax and its impact on Cuban's wallet. Cuban was outbid for Steve Nash, and he has passed recently on deals that made some sense on the court but not in the budget. And his star player just signed a deal $13 million below his free agent market value just to save Cuban money.
Assuming that Cuban is in this alone, I think that things would work out okay -- assuming that you're not too upset with Ryan's departure. He lives here and is familiar with the heartbeat of Rangers fans. He would spend respectably but not to big personal losses, and the organization would most likely grow revenues. He'd certainly be fingernails on the chalk board for some fans and a lot of outsiders, but that likely wouldn't have the effect that might have in the NBA, since he wouldn't be as visible. If he really is involved with someone like Gilbert, who has his own ideas about how baseball operations should run, though, count me out.