In the Cheap Seats
Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor

Rangers owner Tom Hicks is sitting on his mountain of money right now, kicking away all the free agents who dare to try to get a piece of his fortune.

if history holds true, very few will be successful.

If Hicks has shown us anything over the last decade as owner of the Rangers, it's that he will spend big money once every four years for a free agent. Then until the next leap year, he'll sit back, watch his team go through another losing season and raise ticket prices.

First, he overspent for A-Rod, then three years later it was Chan Ho. Last year, it was Kevin Millwood. Don't expect anything this year.

Shoot, the Rangers won't even sign their own free agents.

So far this year, Hicks has saved himself about $180 million by having general manager Jon Daniels basically ignore Ranger free agents Gary Matthews Jr. ($50 million over five years), Carlos Lee ($100 million over six years), Mark DeRosa ($13 million for three years), Rod Barajas ($6 million for two years), and now Adam Eaton ($24 million over three years). That adds up to $193 million.

Subtract the $13 million that the Rangers will pay free agent Frank Catalanotto and you come up with $180 million.

Oh, the Rangers will spend some of that to sign used-up pitchers or down-on-their-luck outfielders. They may even make an offer to Barry Zito, the hottest free agent pitching prospect out there, but it likely won't be a serious proposition.

Don't expect this team to be any better than it was last year unless Daniels starts getting serious about signing free agents. Who's going to take Matthews place in centerfield? Overweight, strike-out prone, weak-armed Brad Wilkerson? He may be out there, but he won't take Matthews place.

Now that Adam Eaton has signed with Philadelphia, the Rangers have a starting rotation of Kevin Millwood and Robinson Tejeda. If they can pitch every other day - Millwood preferably on the road - then Texas has a chance.

The Rangers may have some young pitchers and players step into prominent roles this year, but you can't expect that for half the team. All three starting outfielders from last year have signed with other teams, the starting rotation is in shambles, there is absolutely no DH on the team, and only one major league catcher.

Like the saying goes, Mr. Hicks, either run with the big dogs or stay on the porch. Get serious about being an owner or sell the team to someone who will.

TIT FOR TAT - The Cowboys traded in one head-case kicker for another. It looks like Mike Vanderchoke has never gotten over that duck hook kick in the playoffs last year for Indianapolis that could have forced overtime against Pittsburgh. But, Martin Gramatica brings his own mental baggage. The Cowboys just need to hope that they don't need a game-winning field goal, because it's likely no better than a 50-50 proposition. ... Tony Romo at quarterback has proven something that I thought all along - Cowboys receivers can get open, they just need someone to recognize it and get them the ball. ... Maverick fans were already counting up 12 wins in a row, but Dallas almost got blindsided by Minnesota. They had better not overlook Toronto tomorrow, either. That could be the streak-breaker.

A DIFFERENT SUBJECT - This isn't about sports, but I'm wondering what all the hullabaloo is about the KGB spy who was poisoned. Isn't that just one of the dangers of being a SPY? Seems like if you're spying on American intelligence and putting our troops and citizens in harm's way, then you deserve an arsenic cocktail. If the American government - I'm talking both political parties - took more seriously the matter of treason, then Iran and North Korea would not be arming themselves with nuclear weapons, the secrets of which were taken by acts of treason. Let's cry over something besides a dead spy.

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