By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
For long-suffering Texas Rangers fans, it's Christmas in July.
No, not because of the healthy lead in the American League West or the headline-grabbing acquisition of pitching ace Cliff Lee. Even better, it's the news that a prospective owner with deep pockets and high hopes is finally interested in the local baseball team.
After years of dismissing the Rangers with a grimace and a shrug, Mark Cuban is seriously considering buying them.
"I have an interest," Cuban said last week. "I'm digging in to find out what is actually happening."
Just like that, the Rangers' unprecedented and at times seemingly unsalvageable financial clusterfuck could be cured. Cuban, worth $2.3 billion according to Forbes' latest estimate, could fix a franchise with a single check. At long last, the baseball team eternally reluctant to spend money would have one of the sport's highest payrolls controlled by one of sports' most demanding and innovative leaders.
Just the thought of the scenario has energized the Rangers fan base and propelled Cuban to the top of the Dallas Observer's 50 Most Powerful People in Metroplex Sports.
Remember, this is the same guy who turned Dallas' basketball team from the Mav-wrecks into a model franchise with 10 consecutive seasons of 50-plus wins and playoff berths and a run to the 2006 NBA Finals. He's called out Ross Perot Jr., defeated the mighty Securities and Exchange Commission in court, casually spent $3 million to move up in last month's NBA Draft and aired, on his HDNet network, a Girls Gone Wild weekly program that features hot teenage girls flashing their hoo-has.
Cuban does what he wants, and he usually gets whatever he desires. Triple-digit temperatures be damned, slumbering Rangers fans are awakening to find their stockings finally stuffed with hope.
50. Tom Landry: The day he falls off this list is the day we all catch a flight to Hades in a wicker carry-on.
49. Laura Miller: Even from the political grave, her pathetically powerful decisions are negatively affecting the city of Dallas.
45. Pat Summerall: NFL's former signature voice remains a marketable personality going strong in Southlake.
44. Buddy Lee: President of the Dallas All Sports Association throws the city's glitziest black-tie affair.
41. Brad Sham: Still the most recognizable radio voice in Dallas.
39. Phil Baker: Year after year he successfully runs the area's biggest participant sporting event, the White Rock Marathon.
38. Norm Hitzges: His passion and knowledge are still audible after all these years daily on The Ticket.
37. Michael Young: Veteran will be counted on for the biggest hits and best leadership if Texas is to contend into the fall.
36. Michael Johnson: Performance center in McKinney has sprinted him back to relevance.
35. Cliff Lee: Maybe a one-hit wonder on the list, but if the Rangers make the playoffs he'll be handed the ball in the biggest games.
34. Clint Hurdle: Hitting coach who rebooted Ranger bats is also likely the team's next manager.
31. Ron Washington: From cocaine user to baseball's Manager of the Year?
30. Jason Kidd: Mavs still counting on a 38-year-old point guard to take them where they've never been.
29. DeMarcus Ware: The Cowboys' best player and one of their best human beings.
28. Jordan Woy: Dallas-based agent represents Witten and more than 75 other NFL players.
27. Dale Hansen: Love him or hate him, most of you watch him nightly on Channel 8.
26. Gerald Ford/Carl Sewell: SMU's biggest athletic boosters annually keep the program from slipping to NAIA quality.
25. Neftali Feliz: Young fireballer closer will throw the most important pitches of the Rangers' pennant race.
23. Joe Nieuwendyk: Stars general manager will forever be known as the man responsible for shoving out Modano.
22. Doug Free: The fortunes of a potential Cowboys Super Bowl rest on the untested shoulders of the new left tackle.
20. Emmitt Smith: This summer it's his turn to take a Hall-of-Fame bow.
17. Josh Hamilton: Triple-crown threat found his power after losing his toe-tap.
16. June Jones: After leading SMU back to college football relevance, he's now forcing school administrators to consider bending their strict admissions policies.
14. Nolan Ryan: Big Tex remains the Rangers' most recognizable face.
12. Don Hooton: When Major League Baseball launched its war on steroids, it started with a $1 million grant to his Taylor Hooton Foundation.
11. Randy Galloway: In his unique good-ol'-boy language, he continues to mold area opinions via ESPN Radio and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
9. Jon Daniels: Anyone who can trade for Cliff Lee with his franchise in bankruptcy is possessed with power.
8. Wade Phillips: Enhanced reputation and increased authority via last season's long-awaited playoff win.
7. Jon Heidtke: Wouldn't recognize him on the street, but the Fox Sports Net Southwest senior vice president makes the Mavs, Rangers and Stars decisions you recognize nightly on TV.
6. Tom Hicks: This time next year he'll be former owner of the Rangers and Stars and, fingers crossed, just a memory on this list.
5. Tony Romo: So powerful that he makes headlines for a quiet off-season in which he made no headlines.
4. Dirk Nowitzki: If only for a few hours in free agency, Mavericks fans shuddered at the thought of life without their superstar.
3. Bill Lively: CEO of the North Texas Super Bowl XLV Committee is most responsible for the February game going off without a hitch.
2. Jerry Jones: Add TV star—courtesy HBO's Entourage—to his resume.
1. Mark Cuban: No doubt he can do for the Rangers what he's done for the Mavericks.