Texas Rangers co-owner Chuck Greenberg, left, shakes hands with team...

Texas Rangers co-owner Chuck Greenberg, left, shakes hands with team president and co-owner Nolan Ryan, right, after Greenberg threw the honorary first pitch to Ryan before a baseball game against the Boston Red Sox. (Aug. 14, 2010) Credit: AP

Before the Mets put up a partially for sale sign Friday, baseball's most talked-about ownership saga of recent years was that of the Texas Rangers. It began in similar fashion.

On March 25, 2009, Tom Hicks said he was in the market for investors for his Hicks Sports Group, which owned the Rangers and the NHL's Dallas Stars, but said he planned to retain majority control.

Less than a week later, HSG defaulted on $525 million worth of loans. By late May, Hicks was conceding he might sell a majority of the team to the right buyer.

Eventually, that is what happened, when a group led by Pittsburgh lawyer Chuck Greenberg and Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan struck a deal with Hicks in January 2010.

It did not become final until August, after the Rangers were forced into bankruptcy by creditors unhappy with the price, prompting an auction Greenberg and his partners won over one that included Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. They paid a total of $590 million.

Marc Ganis, president of SportsCorp, a Chicago-based consulting firm, said there are some similarities in the Rangers' and Mets' cases, in that Hicks initially sought minority investors.

But he said extent of the parallels can't be measured until it is known how much Irving Picard, trustee representing victims of the Bernard Madoff fraud, is seeking from the Wilpons.

"If that is a big number, then the parallels are apparent to everyone,'' Ganis said. "If it turns out the Madoff/Picard situation is crushing, it may force them to look at a sale.''

It is far too soon to tell whether the Wilpon family will be forced to follow a path similar to that of Hicks, but it would not come as a surprise to many who are following the case closely.

"This could easily morph into a majority stock interest sale or a full sale," said Michael Cramer, a former professor of sports management at New York University and now director of the Texas Program in Sports and Media at the University of Texas.

Oh, one other thing: Cramer was president of the Rangers until 2004 and a minority owner until the Greenberg group completed its deal in August, giving him an insider's perspective. He sees potential trouble ahead for the Mets.

As Hicks learned, finding a person or group of people willing to put up hundreds of millions of dollars for non-controlling ownership is difficult, if not impossible.

And even when he signaled willingness to give up control, Hicks had a couple of advantages over the Mets. One was a beloved former player such as Ryan able to knock on doors and extract money.

It helped that a friend of Ryan's, Ray Davis, recently had sold an interest in his energy company when he was approached and was flush with cash. The billionaire became one of the biggest investors in the group.

Another advantage was that as expensive as the Rangers were, they were less so than the Mets, and were perceived as an up-and-coming franchise in an underserved market.

"It is a desirable market in the medium price range, whereas the Mets are clearly second banana in New York,'' Cramer said. "There is not a perception the team is heading in the right direction.''

Cramer said having a franchise that might approach $1 billion in value puts the Mets "in the stratosphere for Major League Baseball.'' That price tag could make it less practical to find multiple minority owners.

There was a time when rich people might be willing and able to contribute $10 million for the vanity value of owning a piece of a team. "Now you need a few $100-million guys, and there aren't as many as there were,'' Cramer said.

Cramer said the Mets might need a "white knight'' to rescue them, even if it is against business logic. An iconic front man might help. Cramer suggested someone like Tom Seaver, a former star with the cachet to appeal to well-heeled businessmen.

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