With the Mariners and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?) having busy off-seasons, the handful of people who give a hoot about the Texas Rangers are wondering if they’re serious about competing. From the Dallas Fort-Worth Star Telegram’s Jim Reeves.

Stop the spin-doctoring. Just stop it right now.

That’s my heartfelt message for the Rangers’ owner (above) and his newly extended chief executives.

For heaven’s sake, just make a vow to be honest. It can’t be that hard, can it?

Stop the manipulating, the sleight of hand, the now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t approach and, for once in your lives, just be up front about things.

The truth will set you free.

It may not lure a front-line pitcher, or that premier designated hitter this team so desperately needs, but it’ll make you feel a whole heck of a lot better about yourselves.

More important, it will make Rangers’ fandom feel better about you, and that should matter a great deal.

You all know who I’m talking about, but let’s go ahead and call the roll: Tom Hicks, John Hart, Buck Showalter, are you listening?

Here we are in a winter following a terrific showing by Showalter’s young Rangers that rightfully earned him the American League Manager of the Year award, and the Rangers have once again stumbled and bungled their way into the crosshairs of every media and fan critic in North Texas.

Part of the problem is that Hicks hasn’t done what he promised to do, funnel at least some of the money saved from the free-agency departures of Pudge Rodriguez, Juan Gonzalez and Rafael Palmeiro, the trade of Alex Rodriguez and the selling of The Ballpark naming rights, back into the team via free agency. The ill-conceived Carlos Delgado offer and the belated interest in Magglio Ordonez notwithstanding, it hasn’t happened.

Instead, if the Rangers stick to Hicks’ original plan of around a $52 million payroll, they’ll rank in the bottom third, maybe the bottom fourth, of teams in baseball. That’s embarrassing for a top -five-market team and betrays the public trust.

But the problem goes beyond money. It goes straight to integrity and credibility. Hicks’ financial pockets may be threadbare, but they’re brimming over with gold compared to the credibility he and Hart have with Rangers fans.

The Delgado fiasco is simply the latest debacle for a Rangers management team that worries constantly about its image, yet consistently chooses the wrong course of action. Why? Because telling the actual truth never seems to be an option.

On that conference call from Hicks’ jet Friday, Hart was asked where Delgado would play, DH or first base?

“We consider him a first baseman,” Hart replied after a pause, choosing his words carefully. Hart then went on to tell how Mark Teixeira had come to his office in October and offered to move to the outfield if that’s what was best for the team.

Hart’s answer was disingenuous at best and an outright lie at worst. Insiders say the Rangers never had any intention of moving Teixeira to the outfield and making Delgado their starting first baseman. What they hoped, instead, was that they would get Delgado signed, get him into camp in Arizona and that things would somehow magically work themselves out, much like last spring, when they traded for Alfonso Soriano despite already having an excellent second baseman in Michael Young.

Delgado would see the light, they figured. Showalter, ever the salesman, would turn him around, sell him on being a team guy.

It’s certainly feasible to believe that neither side made the DH situation a focus of their negotiations. The Rangers felt they couldn’t be up front with Delgado about their plans without killing the deal outright, which eventually happened anyway.