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SURPRISE, Az. – Time is up for Nolan Ryan. Time to decide whether he wants to stay or go as Chief Operating Officer of the Texas Rangers, whether he wants to continue making many millions of dollars a year to head the team’s depth chart, provide wise counsel and remain the iconic face of an organization that’s having the greatest success in its history.
It’s been five days since Dallas Metroplex media star Randy Galloway, who is described as one of Ryan’s best friends and loyalist supporters, reported from anonymous sources that Ryan is so upset by the decision to give the lower of Ryan’s two job titles to wunderkind general manager Jon Daniels, and a bit of power, too.
A pall has been cast at Rangers camp, which isn’t good for anyone involved. One mid-level Rangers-connected person described it the other to me as five days (now seven) since the bomb was dropped on their camp. We don’t know if Ryan’s the one who dropped it to Galloway, or if one of Ryan’s many connected friends did. But Ryan sure as heck knows it’s been dropped, and working right there in the middle of the bomb site. So he has to know damage is being done.
His chum Galloway’s report said Ryan would decide by “the end of spring training” whether to quit or not. Which means, assuming Galloway heard that from Ryan or another one of Ryan’s other good buddies, that they have about another three weeks to deal with the bomb. Another three weeks where Ryan’s silent tantrum (and he is quite upset, people connected to the club confirm) may linger.
Ryan hasn’t said a thing publicly (the team spokesman confirmed on Thursday he isn’t ready to talk) but many folks around the scene suggests he is anything but happy with the new set-up, that he is acting angry. Until he says something publicly, one way or the other, the pall has little chance to be lifted.
Until Ryan decides whether he wants to keep one of the best jobs in Texas, he takes precedent on everyone’s mind, above all the actual baseball storylines, above the development of 20-year-old wunderkind shortstop Jurickson Profar who’s trying to make the team, above the race for the No. 5 starter after top pitching prospect and presumed winner Martin Perez suffered an unfortunate broken arm and above all the other happenings here for the team that’s made the playoffs three straight seasons but is in for a fight again with the Angels and A’s and maybe even the improved Mariners in a very difficult A.L. West.
Until Ryan, who’s not just a pitching icon and untouchable man in Texas but a very smart person, puts an end to the guessing game about whether he stays as chairman, he remains the story of the Texas Rangers. This is not good for anyone involved, maybe even Ryan himself.
And the guesses will go on. “I think he will (quit),” one close confidant of Ryan speculated to me. “He was a figurehead before with the Rangers under Tom Hicks and he won’t go back to that.”
At this point, five days after his friend Galloway dropped the bomb, Ryan is no longer the innocent guy who saw two guys below him on the team masthead promoted to take the lower part of his title. Seven days ago, Daniels was named president of baseball operations, and Rick George, a former PGA executive, president of business affairs. And two days after that everyone found out from Galloway Ryan was upset to the point of maybe quitting.
Ryan has been through this drill before. He was maybe the greatest power pitcher of alltime, and he knows about being a power player, as well.
Ryan basically ensured that the current ownership group would win the team when he announced that he would quit if longtime agent and baseball executive Dennis Gilbert’s group was selected as the new owner. This came after a meeting, according to sources, when Gilbert honestly informed Ryan that he would not be guy making the final baseball calls. Ryan wasn’t making them under Hicks, but he wanted to start making them. And Gilbert told him no.
As soon as the iconic Ryan said he couldn’t work with Gilbert, Gilbert was a goner. He had been the leader to win the team. But suddenly, he was history. Just like that.
With the two ultra-rich Texas oil men Ryan preferred, Ray Davis and Bob Simpson, installed, Ryan gained power but was still beneath Chuck Greenberg, the new managing partner, on the masthead. Though not for long. When Ryan decided Greenberg was an overbearing annoyance, he went to Davis and Simpson with the request that the one person above him be removed.
Of course it was no choice for Davis and Simpson since Greenberg was annoying everyone, not just Ryan. Greenberg was a Pittsburgh interloper who did nothing but put together the deal, so he was sent away with a stack of money for his troubles. Ryan was the alltime strikeout king, and untouchable icon. And Greenberg was history.
This time when Ryan wants the power (and really, the final call on baseball-related decisions), it’s a little trickier. Simpson and Davis just promoted Daniels. And Simpson and Davis, while baseball neophytes, already what some owners never get. And that is the idea that the final baseball call should rest with the general manager, not the owner or even an icon.
This is especially when you have one of the best two or three general managers in the game. And the Rangers have that. Even if the GM is just average, most folks have figured out that the teams where the owner or someone else above the general manager makes the ultimate call on baseball-related decisions don’t succeed anymore. Teams are run by bright young executives, not former playing greats, for a reason.
It’s great to have someone as smart, savvy, accomplished and beloved as Ryan to provide smart counsel on all the big calls, but to think Ryan should pick the players and make the majority of baseball calls, and not Daniels, is just plain folly.Of course on the really big calls, like whether to give Yu Darvish $100-million plus, the folks at the top of the flow chart, Ryan and especially the owners have to provide approval.
But when it comes to day-to-day baseball calls, to have anyone beside Daniels make the call would just be silly. Ryan helped bring credibility back to the Rangers, and he knows a player when he sees one. But he hasn’t spent the last decade inundating himself with all the pertinent info. He couldn’t provide the names, or the strengths and weaknesses, of all 30 teams’ rosters, and all the minor-league teams, too.
Ryan may win again, as he usually does. But it’s hard to see how. Daniels is no Greenberg, who entered the baseball scene assuming he knew everything when the opposite was true.
Daniels built the team that won two straight American League pennants. He hired the great front office that includes Thad Levine, A.J. Preller, Don Welke and a lot of other terrific and dedicated baseball people.
Daniels made the Mark Teixeira trade that brought Matt Harrison, Elvis Andrus and Neftali Feliz, the best baseball trade made in a quarter century. He and Preller established a powerhouse operation in Latin America. He and the guys he hired rebuilt the farm system.
Daniels isn’t one to throw around money, either, and the owners have to love that. Sources indicate the Rangers have plenty of loot left in the coffers, but Daniels is patiently waiting for the right opportunity.
He passed on No. 1 target Zack Greinke’s offer to join them even though he wanted Greinke badly. Consistently, he tries to drive the hardest bargain possible. He takes chances but hasn’t made any glaring mistakes since an early trade or two at the very beginning of his tenure.
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