….and his name is Tom Hicks.  While the Texas owner’s money troubles have attracted considerable attention from supporters of Liverpool F.C., Hicks’ dire straits have reached a point where the Wild Card-contending Rangers are admitedly, “kind of hamstrung” in the words of club president Nolan Ryan. From the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Jim Reeves :

Hicks essentially has lost fiscal control of the team, which has had to borrow at least $15 million from major league baseball. MLB is making many of the calls regarding Rangers™ moves, including the one that cost them the ability to sign No. 1 draft pick Matt Purke.

The Rangers thought they would be able to offer Purke one amount, but commissioner Bud Selig, responding to pressure from other owners, forced them to back away from that offer and Purke wound up rejecting the team™s subsequent lower offer and will play for TCU instead.

The seriousness of the situation was brought into sharper focus Friday with speculation about the possibility of MLB stepping in to force the Rangers to shut down right-hander Kevin Millwood before he reaches 180 innings pitched, automatically guaranteeing him $12 million for 2010. It was a very relevant and valid question.

Millwood, who was scheduled to start against the Mariners on Friday night before the rainout, needs just eight more innings ” probably two starts ” to trigger the option clause for next season.

Nolan Ryan and general manager Jon Daniels said that contract clauses would never influence the team™s decision about who starts in the rotation, but the fact is, that decision potentially could be taken out of their hands, just as their ability to sign Purke was blocked.

“I don™t think MLB is really that in tune with all the details of what™s going on here,” Ryan said.

That™s probably a good thing and it would certainly be an embarrassment to Major League Baseball if it did anything that might hamper the Rangers™ ability to finish what has been a remarkable season.

Baseball Time In Arlington’s Joey Matshula raises the spectre of the Rangers turning into a contemporary version of the MLB-maintained Montreal Expos, while reminding us (as per Reeves’ reporting) that Ryan  — widely hailed for the Texas pitching staff’s improvement — has only a handshake agreement with Hicks.