Here's the pitch

The Texas Rangers can't buy a win unless you pay up

"After a while you look at that list and don't get overly excited anymore," he says. "You also recognize that one player doesn't necessarily make the difference."

If the Rangers can't buy a winner, they most certainly will try to trade for one, which is where Gonzalez comes into play. Were Gonzalez to go to the New York Mets, it most likely would be for a combination of players that would include at least one starting pitcher (perhaps Jason Isringhausen or Bobby Jones) and a shortstop to replace Benji Gil, who's got holes in both hands.

But the fact is, the 28-year-old home run-hitting right fielder could go anywhere in the offseason. For that matter--Melvin says with resignation creeping into his voice--just about anyone on the Rangers could be traded at any time to any team. Until the league institutes a salary cap and does away with guaranteed contracts that force teams to pay disabled millionaires in full, players are as dispensable as jock straps.

"I think every club has to keep their ears open to everything," Melvin says. "You can go back in the history of any sport, and some of the greatest Hall of Fame players have been traded--from Wayne Gretzky to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to Shaquille O'Neal to Babe Ruth.

"I don't know if there's anybody that you could ever say is untouchable," he adds. "I'm from Canada, and Wayne Gretzky being traded from Edmonton to Los Angeles was an all-time low for that sport. It was like putting the flag at half-mast. But that's the way it is today."

Melvin knows that if he unloads Gonzalez in the off-season, he will have a full-scale revolt on his hands...for about a month. Rangers fans are the most forgiving in all of baseball, after all; who can forget the furor over the Jose Canseco trade for Otis Nixon...or, for that matter, who can remember?

Juan very well could be gone next year, or he might hit 62 homers for Texas. And Pudge could crap out, as he did after signing his monster deal, or win his seventh straight Golden Glove. And the Rangers could win the Series or finish, once more, behind Seattle.

Only one thing is for certain: Losing, like winning, comes with a high price tag in professional sports, and you, Rangers fan, have only just begun to pay.

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