Nolan Ryan, bundled up in very chilly conditions, watched his Texas Rangers team fall 2-0 to the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday afternoon. The good news: Ryan will be sitting in his customary aisle seat closest to the Rangers dugout entrance for the rest of the season and, hopefully, beyond.
The legendary Hall of Famer, who has twice helped save this franchise, is remaining with the organization, the club announced Wednesday evening. That's terrific news and a huge relief for president of baseball operations Jon Daniels, the entire Rangers front office and fans. Ryan has been the face of this club. He's been an important asset in helping vault this organization into that elite group of clubs that are annual contenders. The idea of Ryan not being a part of the Rangers -- something that looked very possible over the past six weeks -- just wasn't something anyone, including Major League Baseball, wanted to contemplate.
At this point, I don't know what swayed Ryan. His statement talks only about "productive discussions the last several weeks with Ray Davis and Bob Simpson about the structure of our organization," so let's start with those two primary owners. The co-chairmen of the board had to find a way to keep Ryan in the fold and they've managed to do it.
Shortly after the release six weeks ago that announced promotions for Daniels and Rick George (the COO who is now president of business operations), Ryan was left uncertain of his CEO role and what kind of power he actually had. Bob Simpson convinced Ryan to fly back to Fort Worth a week later and they had dinner at Del Frisco's, Ryan's favorite steakhouse in the area. That pitch wasn't enough to get Ryan to stay at that point. But it was a start. Apparently, the discussions continued. But it sure appeared that Ryan was likely to leave after filling some commitments at the end of March and in early April surrounding the start of the season. The benefit to those commitments is that it gave ownership some more time to talk to Ryan and reach some kind of resolution.
Thank goodness. I'll be honest: I thought Ryan was headed out of Arlington. Maybe back to his ranch. No, I didn't think he'd go to the Houston Astros, though anything was possible. We heard rumblings that MLB was going to try to find someplace for Ryan, unhappy with the idea that he wasn't going to be a Ranger.
It sure seemed like ownership had taken Ryan's job description and split it between Daniels and COO Rick George, leaving Ryan with a title but (it appeared) not much power. I wasn't sure there was a way to persuade Ryan that he still had a vital role in the organization after that restructuring, even though he retained the CEO title. It seemed like he was being shoved aside, and I wasn't sure the situation could get repaired.
But Simpson and Davis (and maybe others) got the job done and Ryan is staying. Good for Ryan and good for the Rangers. Once Fort Worth Star-Telegram columnist and ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM personality Randy Galloway's reports came out about Ryan's unhappiness with the situation, the onus fell on ownership to do something -- now -- to keep Ryan with the club. And they did it.
As for the reason for the initial moves, it appears it was to keep Daniels and his young and talented front-office staff in place as long as possible. And that's certainly a smart move. Daniels has done a terrific job of building a contending club through a renewed emphasis on the farm system, scouting, drafting and critical trades. But in the process of trying to keep that group intact, ownership nearly created a PR nightmare with Ryan possibly leaving the club. Now, Ryan is staying and the structure is set up so that Daniels could shed his general manager title to Thad Levine at some point, if that would help keep Levine (and maybe other key personnel such as Don Welke, A.J. Preller, Josh Boyd, Mike Daly, Kip Fagg, Jake Krug, Matt Vinnola ... and I could go on) in place for as long as possible. In other words, ownership has set up a line of succession and has kept Ryan in place. That's important.
I know the old school-versus-new school folks have clashed at times. That's to be expected with their backgrounds and different views. But that's not a bad thing, either. Having both sides and both perspectives -- Ryan's experience and eye for pitching and Daniels' understanding of personnel and shrewd trades -- have led the club to success never seen in franchise history. Daniels, with a rebuilt farm system, the Mark Teixeira and Josh Hamilton trades and the hiring of manager Ron Washington, helped put the club on a path to the AL championship in 2010 and 2011. Ryan's patience when he was put in charge in 2008 with a group that he didn't hire helped them to grow through tough times. He changed the pitching attitude of the organization and was instrumental in bringing Mike Maddux and Jackie Moore to the coaching staff. And, of course, he joined the ownership group that has been willing in the past few seasons to spend money and supplement the great scouting work done by the staff with key free agents. Both Daniels and Ryan, despite their differences, made critical decisions that led to success. It's nice to have that combination around a little longer.
Take a big breath, Rangers fans. Ryan is still here. That's good news.
Richard Durrett co-hosts with Ian Fitzsimmons on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. each weekday.