Thursday, October 17, 2013
Five things that marked Nolan Ryan's tenure
By Todd Wills
Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan had several memorable moments with the Texas Rangers as a player, from his two no-hitters to his 300th win and record-setting 5,000th strikeout.
But he also made a big impact as team president and CEO. Here are a few highlights of Ryan's six-year tenure in the Rangers' front office, with the announcement Thursday that he will step down Oct. 31:
1. Showing patience with Daniels and Washington: The Rangers' manager and general manager, Ron Washington and Jon Daniels, were already in place when Ryan was hired as team president on Feb. 6, 2008. Ryan could have come in and made immediate changes, especially with Washington, who had gone 75-87 in his first season as manager in 2007. Ryan stuck by both guys. The rest is history, with World Series appearances in 2010 and 2011. The Rangers had a record of 536-437 in the six seasons that Ryan, Daniels and Washington were together, the best run in franchise history.
2. Making the pitchers tougher: Ryan stepped in and, along with the help of pitching coach Mike Maddux, changed the mentality of the Rangers' pitching staff. He encouraged hard work, mental toughness and throwing the extra pitch and the extra inning. Ryan didn't want to hear anything about pitch counts and felt that way to the end, even as some in the front office didn't want to push ace Yu Darvish's pitch count too much. The Rangers' team ERA of 3.79 in 2011 was the club's lowest since 1983.
3. Attendance records: Rangers fans turned out in droves to watch Ryan pitch in his five seasons for the team. He was a box-office draw. His presence as team president and CEO and his presence on the front row by the first-base dugout at most games helped him continue his legacy as the face of the franchise. The Rangers established single-season attendance records in 2011 and '12, surpassing 3 million for the first time in 2012. The Rangers went over 3 million again in 2013.
4. Finally, the World Series: The Rangers had won one postseason game in 38 seasons in Arlington before the start of the 2010 season. They ended that futility with consecutive runs to the World Series and another playoff appearance in 2012. The Rangers have won 90-plus games for four straight seasons. It seems only fitting that the winning started with Big Tex in charge of the franchise.
5. Near departure before this season: Ryan's retirement comes nine months after it appeared he would walk away from the franchise during last spring training. His role was reduced when Daniels was given the title of president of baseball operations, and Rick George, now the athletic director at Colorado, was named president of baseball operations. Ryan met with members of the ownership group, including co-chairman Bob Simpson, who persuaded him to stay on as CEO. Ryan took back his seat at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. But it never felt the same with Daniels clearly in charge of the franchise, which makes Thursday's announcement of Ryan's retirement hardly surprising.