Texas Rangers: Nolan Ryan
There were some ties to Ryan around the ballpark until Sept. 5, when manager Ron Washington stepped away for personal reasons.
With Jeff Banister taking over as Rangers manager Friday, it signaled a new beginning for the organization.
Others affiliated with Ryan are also gone from the coaching staff. Outfield/third base coach Gary Pettis appears headed to Houston.
Pitching coach Mike Maddux's status with the club wasn’t solidified during Banister’s talk with reporters Friday. It would be a surprise if Maddux didn’t return, but the pitching coach is his own man, much like Banister.
GM Jon Daniels stressed during the nearly 40-minute news conference at the ballpark that Banister is his own man.
But this is Daniels’ organization to run. Yes, he’s got Thad Levine and others helping him make decisions, but nobody can point to rifts between Daniels and Ryan anymore.
“We don’t have two camps now,” Davis said.
Nadel's enshrinement, along with that of The New Yorker writer Roger Angell, helped kick off a weekend full of Hall of Fame events. Former players Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and Frank Thomas, along with former managers Tony La Russa, Joe Torre and Bobby Cox, will be enshrined Sunday.
"It's surreal," Nadel said Saturday. "It still seems like an out-of-body experience, like I'm dreaming the whole thing or observing this thing for somewhere else. Going into the Hall of Fame and seeing my picture up there next to all of the guys who I idolized, it's mind-blowing. I'm on cloud nine. That's the best way to put it."
Perhaps most satisfying of all for Nadel is that former Rangers pitcher and team CEO Nolan Ryan is on hand in Cooperstown to give his support.
"He hasn't been back since he was inducted in 1999," Nadel said. "This is the first time he's come back. The fact that I'm being honored is one of the reasons, and that's kind of mind-blowing. I know this sort of thing isn't really his deal, but he's here, and I'm tremendously flattered that I am part of it."
You can't walk a block in this quaint little town this weekend without running into a Hall of Famer, and those who were previously honored have welcomed Nadel with open arms.
"A number of Hall of Famers have made a point of coming up to me," he said. "Wade Boggs was the first guy that did it. Wade Boggs was a guy I used to interview every year. He was such a good talker. I got to know him. He sought me out to come over and say congratulations."
And to think, Nadel's life in baseball almost never happened. He admitted to reading any book about baseball he could get his hands on when he was young, but after a unique chance to see a baseball broadcast up close, he committed himself to hockey instead.
"When I was in high school, I got to sit with the Chicago announcers, Bob Elson and Red Rush," Nadel said. "I went to a program at Northwestern University, after my junior year in high school, for kids interested in broadcasting. They arranged for me to sit with those guys during a doubleheader in August of 1967."
The circumstances painted a troubling scene for Nadel.
"The White Sox were terrible, and these guys [Elson and Rush] weren't terribly interested in the game," Nadel said. "And it was a long doubleheader, it was hot. They were all suited up because they were going on the road after the game. It didn't seem like they were into it, and it seemed really hard do. I kept thinking 'How do you do this?'"
Hockey began to call to the New York native, until fate intervened.
"I always loved Marv Albert doing the [New York] Rangers games, and I thought that is what I wanted to do," Nadel said. "Then as it turned out, I got offered a Major League Baseball job while I was still doing minor league hockey, and I had to take it. I'm glad it worked out the way it did."
Through no fault of his own, Ryan's recent break from the Texas Rangers isn't entirely in the past tense. Two weeks ago, before Torii Hunter puckered up to an alligator and Barry Bonds rolled into Giants camp, Detroit second baseman Ian Kinsler added some spice to spring training with some words he later appeared to regret. In a provocative ESPN The Magazine story, Kinsler called Texas general manager Jon Daniels a disparaging name, expressed hope that the Rangers would go 0-162 and blamed Daniels for running the beloved Ryan out of town.
Ryan, for his part, heard Kinsler's remarks and immediately looked past their harshness into the heart of a fellow ballplayer. He suspects that Kinsler was still smarting from the news that the Rangers had traded him to Detroit for Prince Fielder.
"I told my wife, Ruth, 'People are going to miss the point of that article,'" Ryan said. "The real point of the article was that Ian was hurt by the trade. He was mad, and he just vented, but he was truly in his heart a Texas Ranger and he wanted to retire as a Ranger. I understand reactions like that because I played for the Astros and I wanted to retire in Houston and wasn't looking to leave. You say things when you're mad that you regret later."
And what about the highly publicized power struggle with Daniels? Ryan refuses to paint Daniels as a villain in what was clearly an uncomfortable arrangement. Instead, he suggests they were part of a dynamic that was set up to fail.
"I haven't really commented on that," Ryan said. "But when I came into that situation, I was dropped in J.D.'s sandbox. He had his organization and his group of people, and all of a sudden -- boom! -- Nolan Ryan was there. It was a dimension they didn't anticipate. It probably wasn't handled properly with my coming in."
As much as Ryan might prefer to change some things and invent a more gratifying conclusion to his run as Rangers president and CEO, it's all about looking forward to the salvage job that awaits in Houston. The Astros have their share of problems, but sandbox turf wars won't be one of them.
Ryan is in more of a consultant's role now than a prime decision-making spot. When he's not serving as a sounding board for Crane, he'll be dispensing advice to his son Reid, the Astros' president of business operations.
It's an understatement to say the Ryans, general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager Bo Porter have a big challenge in front of them. Last year the Astros became the first team since the 2004-2006 Kansas City Royals to lose 100 or more games in three straight seasons. They ranked 27th in the majors in attendance with 1.65 million fans (compared to the franchise record of 3.1 million set in 2004), and their efforts to reach a broader audience have been stymied by their TV deal with Comcast, which limits them to about 40 percent of their potential market and is now hung up in the court system. If you're an Astros fan in Louisiana, feel free to enjoy the radio broadcasts.
Nevertheless, this is an exciting time for Houston baseball fans with long-term horizons. The Astros' farm system is the best in baseball according to ESPN.com, and is ranked No. 5 in the game by Baseball America. Six of the organization's minor league affiliates made the playoffs last season, and the Astros have a chance to add another elite prospect in the Mark Appel-Carlos Correa mode with the top pick in the June first-year player draft.
The Ryans, father and son, sat down for a 30-minute interview with ESPN.com on Tuesday at the Floridian, the private golf course that Crane bought from former Miami Marlins owner Wayne Huizenga in 2010. They shared their mutual passion for baseball, their distaste for losing and their vision for the franchise with typical down-home candor. Reid Ryan readily concedes the team has work to do to regain the trust of the fan base.
"Sometimes you don't know what you're getting into until you get there," Reid said. "I took the job last May and as I started going around town, I saw there's a pride with the Astros. People are tired of losing. We had a stretch where we swept the Angels last year and you would have thought we won the World Series. As this group of young guys comes up, there will be a lot of folks who come out of the woodwork and bust out the orange and blue and start following the Astros. It can't get here soon enough for the fans."
“Reid Ryan, 43, pitched for Texas Christian University before running the family's minor league teams in Corpus Christi and Round Rock, Texas. During his 10 months with the Astros, he has won high marks for his attention to detail, lack of ego and communications skills. He has fostered a more inclusive, upbeat environment than his predecessor, George Postolos, who was known more for his business acumen than his people skills.
He has such a breadth of knowledge, he asks really good questions and tells us ways he's seen it done in the past. It's not, 'This is the way you should do it.' It's more. 'Have you guys thought about this or that?' It's been very eye-opening and beneficial to us.” -- Jeff Luhnow, Astros
GM, on Nolan Ryan
Nolan Ryan, 67, is a man of fewer words, but approaches baseball with a curiosity and a sharp intellect that allow him to see the big picture. While stories abound about him scaring the bejeezus out of opposing hitters during his playing days, he's about as approachable as a man who received 98.79 percent of the Hall of Fame vote can get.
For those who wonder if Ryan and Luhnow can find a harmony that eluded Ryan and Daniels, the two men talked everything through with Crane before the Astros brought The Express on board. "I was very comfortable with the value added that Nolan could provide and he was very comfortable with the approach that we were taking," Luhnow said. "So far it's been a wonderful fit. I can't see any downside to it, to be honest."
Since Ryan joined the team in spring training, he has sat in on meetings and received primers on the way Luhnow's regime approaches everything from amateur scouting to player development to salary arbitration. "He has such a breadth of knowledge, he asks really good questions and tells us ways he's seen it done in the past," Luhnow said. "It's not, 'This is the way you should do it.' It's more. 'Have you guys thought about this or that?' It's been very eye-opening and beneficial to us."
If Ryan feels ill at ease with some of the more novel ideas expressed by Luhnow, Astros director of decision sciences Sig Mejdal or anyone else in the team's hierarchy, he hasn't shown it. As he points out, he was open-minded enough to embrace the innovative methods of pitching coach Tom House before they came fashionable. It helped him reach the Hall of Fame.
"I'm open to suggestions," Ryan said. “"If something can help us, I'm all for it."
Mentoring the kids
Like a utility infielder, Ryan will fill any number of roles with the Astros. If they want him to have dinner with a potential sponsor or speak to season-ticket holders, he's game. And if they'd like his opinion on a potential No. 1 pick, he'll be happy to provide it.
In Kissimmee, Ryan watches the big league team at Osceola County Stadium and checks out the minor leaguers when the big leaguers are on the road. The Astros expect him to gravitate toward some of the younger pitchers who he thinks he can help. Two of them -- former first-round pick Mike Foltynewicz and 2013 second-round pick Andrew Thurman -- already have caught his eye.
The Astros are making a conscientious effort to stress tradition and continuity these days. Roger Clemens and Craig Biggio, both special assistants to Luhnow, have spent time in camp this spring. While Clemens is more comfortable speaking to large groups of players, Ryan prefers the more personal, one-on-one approach. For such a tough old cuss, he has a natural human touch that can put a young player at ease almost instantly.
Reliever Matt Albers, a Houston native who broke into pro ball with the Astros in 2001, remembers Ryan giving a talk to the minor leaguers 10 years ago and telling them how the addition of a changeup late in his career helped prolong his shelf life. It was a revelation to Albers at the time, and stuck with him in the six years he spent with other organizations before rejoining the Astros as a free agent in December.
"It's really priceless for young guys when he talks to you and watches your bullpen and he cares," said Albers, who adds that Ryan "is pretty much a god in Texas."
A full 15 years after his induction to Cooperstown, Nolan Ryan has reached the point where he'd rather spend time at his ranch or playing with his grandchildren than being involved in every single organizational decision. He'll help give the vehicle a push when it gets stuck, but someone else will be driving.
"As his son, I know he doesn't want to work every day," Reid said. "Having this job now, I have a lot more respect and appreciation for what he did with the Rangers. There's somebody that wants something all the time, and it pulls at your time. I talked to him and said, 'We want you to come here in any capacity you want. You can have fun, enjoy the game of baseball and contribute. That's all any of us want, is to feel valued and feel like we're contributing."
A few more wins would be nice, but it took a while for the Astros to get into this mess, and it will take a while to get out of it. Note to Houston baseball fans: The Ryans don't enjoy losing any more than you do. Rest assured they're working on it.
Daniels did not want to get caught up in name-calling, something he said in ESPNDallas.com's story earlier today. But he does hope his team can use the comments -- Kinsler said he hopes the Rangers go 0-162 -- as motivation.
Daniels did attempt to clarify a few things from the story, namely Kinsler's assertion that Daniels' ego drove Nolan Ryan out of town.
"On the Nolan stuff, what he said there, and again I haven’t read it verbatim, but I get the gist of it," Daniels said. "That’s just not accurate. I’m not going to get into it any more than that, other than that it’s simply not accurate."
Daniels did explain what happened when the Prince Fielder-Kinsler trade happened and why he wasn't able to reach Kinsler sooner. He noted that on a conference call with reporters that night that the organization apologized that it couldn't reach Kinsler before word got out.
"I was actually on a flight at the time," Daniels said. "Dave and I had finalized the deal probably about an hour or two before the deal. But with the cash involvement, we needed the commissioner’s office’s approval. It was $30 million they were sending our way. And then, Prince had a no-trade, so he had to sign off on it. So we had to wait for everything.
The younger Ryan, the Houston Astros' president of business operations, has worked with Hall of Famer and dad Nolan Ryan at various points in his life -- starting out in the banking world after graduating from TCU, helping to run Ryan's minor league operation and now, as members of the Astros' front office.
"It's exciting for me," Reid Ryan said Tuesday night, taking a brief break from a sports forum in Dallas. "We have a good, working relationship and it's a lot of fun. He's going to be an asset for us to use. I've been picking his brain since I went into business coming out of TCU and he's been a tremendous resource for me."
Reid said his father, who turned 67 at the end of last month, was ready to give up working daily in baseball but still wanted to be around the game. His role will be to help Reid, owner Jim Crane and general manager Jeff Luhnow when they need him.
Ryan will not have an office and will get the chance to roam around to various parts of the organization's operations.
"The thing that's unique about my dad is you combine the rancher's mentality, which is about patience and watching things mature over a period of time, with the baseball and it's somebody that's full of common sense and sees the nuances of life and the game," Ryan said.
Reid says he believes his dad can't get the Astros or Rangers "out of his system."
"He's invested in baseball in Texas," Reid said. "My dad loves the state of Texas and loves baseball and has been a family man all his life. It's a chance to put all of that into one."
Reid already has a list of things he thinks his father can help the club handle, including the draft, helping the team with public relations and sponsorship deals, weighing in on the issues with the club's TV deal and visiting some of the minor league clubs. He expects Nolan to be at spring training at some point and to attend most of the home games.
FORMER AND CURRENT PLAYERS
Tanner Scheppers: Seattle 28, Denver 24
Comment: "Cuz Wilson is a Ranger. And cuz Sherman is the best corner in the game."
Colby Lewis: Broncos by 10
Mike Napoli: Denver 27, Seattle 21
Comment: "Peyton MVP."
Joe Nathan: Seattle 27, Denver 24
Comment: "Just think Seattle's D is going to do just enough to hold off Peyton."
Mark McLemore: Denver 28, Seattle 17
Comment: "Peyton Manning is on a mission and won't stop until he wins this Super Bowl!!"
Kevin Mench: Denver 28, Seattle 20
Comment: "Tamme has huge day. Peyton goes out on top."
Derek Holland: Denver 34, Seattle 31
Comment: "Game-winning drive by Peyton Manning and also MVP. Should be a good game all the way."
Jason Frasor: Seattle 27, Denver 23
Scott Feldman: Denver 31, Seattle 28
Comment: "Beast mode will go off cuz he's from Bay Area, but in the end Peyton will prevail."
Michael Choice: Denver 14, Seattle 10
Comment: "Broncos win a defensive game."
FRONT OFFICE, BROADCASTERS
Jon Daniels, president of baseball operations, GM: Seattle 24, Denver 20
Comment: "Russell Wilson is the MVP. Does commercial: 'I'm going to Surprise, Arizona!'"
Ron Washington, manager: Denver 35, Seattle 21
Comment: "I think Denver with have a ton of weapons. If Peyton's receivers can get any separation, he will hit them. Even though it is against the best defense! Seattle offense is not very high flying."
Jamie Reed, senior director of medical operations: Seattle 31, Denver 27
Comment: "Love the whole Peyton thing, but Russell Wilson might be one of the best people that has ever put on a sports uniform. And the best D usually wins these games. Besides that, I grew up a huge Baltimore Colts fan, so I can never root for Elway."
Alex Vispoli, play-by-play voice for Frisco RoughRiders: Seattle 31, Denver 23
Comment: "Under-the-radar Russell Wilson hasn't said much of note the last few weeks. No one will be able to stop talking about him come Sunday night."
Greg Smith, special assistant, major league scout: Denver 35, Seattle 21
Comment: "Who can stop Mr. Manning?"
Don Welke, senior special assistant to GM and scouting: Seattle 20, Denver 14
Comment: "Excellent defense wins it."
Josh Boyd, director, professional scouting: Seattle 31, Denver 17
Comment: "I have to go with DangerRuss and the Seahawks defense finding a way to contain Denver's weapons in an easy Seattle win. I got Percy Harvin coming up big. John Schneider trade of the year!"
Mike Maddux, pitching coach: Denver 24, Seattle 20
Comment: "Peyton Manning's experience will lead the way to victory."
Nolan Ryan, Hall of Famer: Seattle 24, Denver 23
Comment: "That's not who I want to win. Go Denver!!"
Matt Hicks, radio broadcaster: Denver 24, Seattle 20
Comment: "Manning and destiny meet on the big stage. Plus, my wife is a huge Manning fan and I'm all for family harmony at the Super Bowl." (Smart man)
Emily Jones, TV broadcaster: Denver 34, Seattle 27
Comment: "Led by a stable of Red Raiders, the Broncos take advantage of ideal New York weather conditions and a lethargic Super Bowl crowd to deliver the Lombardi Trophy back to the Mile High City. The vaunted Denver O Line -- two-fifths of which played at Texas Tech -- doesn't give up a single sack, and Peyton Manning and Wes Welker -- another Red Raider -- team up for a new Super Bowl record. Guns up Broncos!!!"
Jake Krug, special assignment crosschecker: Seattle 27, Denver 24
Kevin Harmon, head athletic trainer: Denver 33, Seattle 24
John Blake, Executive VP communications: Denver 27, Seattle 20
Comment: "Broncos have slightly better passing game."
Mike Grouse, professional scout: Seattle 23, Denver 16
Comment: "I will be the worst. Spending every weekend with my daughter, I was only able to catch a few Chiefs games. Big Peyton Manning fan, but Seattle defense looks unbeatable if they score enough."
Brad Holman, pitching coach Triple-A Round Rock: Denver 28, Seattle 10
Comment: "Peyton Manning goes out with a Super Bowl win and retires."
Chuck Morgan, Public Address announcer: Denver 31, Seattle 29
Comment: "Moreno, Welker and Thomas led my Hillbillies to their second straight scoreboard league title, so I have to go with the Broncos."
Karin Morris, VP community outreach and foundation director: Seattle 24, Denver 21
Comment: "Not sure it will happen, but have to go with former Badgers QB (and current member of Rangers organization)."
Dennis Klein, head groundskeeper: Seattle 24, Denver 21
Comment: "Manning is not going to be able to sit in the pocket and survey his targets like he did in the New England game. Seattle controls the click and Hauschka nails one at the buzzer for the W."
Jay Miller, executive VP, Rangers enterprises, customer service and sales: Seattle 21, Denver 17
Comment: "I am a Peyton Manning fan, but I like the Seahawks to win it."
Neil Leibman, chairman, ownership committee: Seattle 24, Denver 14
Comment: "Russell Wilson a Texas Rangers MVP."
Matt Klotsche, manager, amateur scouting: Seattle 24, Denver 21
Comment: "Seattle D stops Peyton in the chilly weather."
Matt Vinnola director, baseball operations: Denver 31, Seattle 27
Comment: "With Elway, it would have been 56-27."
Tom Grieve, broadcaster: Denver 23, Seattle 13
Jim Colburn, senior adviser, Pacific Rim operations: Seattle 31, Denver 28
Comment: "A surprise score. Seattle pick-6 wins it."
Kellie Fischer, executive VP and CFO: Seattle 24, Denver 21
Comment: "I predict Ranger Russell Wilson's Seahawks win it."
Kurt Deichert, TV production: Seattle 27, Denver 24
Comment: "Everyone wants sentimental favorite Peyton Manning to beat bad boys Richard Sherman and Marshawn Lynch, but it's young Rangers farmhand Russell Wilson who steals the day."
Josh Frasier, bullpen catcher: Denver 27, Seattle 13
Comment: "Manning is too good this year."
Kip Fagg, director, amateur scouting: Seattle 42, Denver 10
Comment: "Big Seahawk fan. No question Seahawks win."
Steve Busby, TV announcer: Denver 27, Seattle 24
Comment: "Turnovers could flip the score, but Manning will make fewer mistakes than Seattle -- I think."
Mike Peasley, radio pre- and post-game host: Denver 24, Seattle 17
Comment: "Give Peyton two weeks to prepare and he'll exploit any defense. This is his year."
Todd Walther, advance scout: Seattle 24, Denver 20
Comment: "Coin flip, but I'll go with the elite defense. Most compelling matchup in years."
John Rhadigan, TV broadcaster: Seattle 24, Denver 22
Comment: "I am rooting for Peyton and the Broncos, but believe that Seattle defense will prevail."
Adam Lewkowicz, advance scout: Seattle 28, Denver 21
Comment: "Ball control and defense wins championships."
Joey Prebynski, assistant, advance scout: Seattle 20, Denver 17
Comment: "Physical play of Seattle secondary and aggressive pass rush slows down Denver offense and Russell Wilson leads fourth-quarter drive to win the game late."
Chris Lyngos, travel director: Denver 30, Seattle 23
Mike Daly, senior director, minor league operations: Seattle 24, Denver 17
Comment: "Texas Ranger infielder Russell Wilson takes the Lombardi Trophy over from former New York Yankee outfielder John Elway."
Bobby Crook, amateur scout: Seattle 27, Denver 24
Comment: "It's hard to pick against Peyton Manning, but Seattle's defense is that good."
Thad Levine, assistant GM: Denver 27, Seattle 23
Dr. Keith Meister, team physician: Seattle 28, Denver 24
Comment: "As much as I'd like to see Peyton win another Super Bowl, defense wins championships."
Todd Slavinsky, director of baseball information services: Seattle 24, Denver 21
Comment: "Marshawn Lynch runs for more than 100 yards and a pair of TDs."
Gil Kim, director international scouting: Denver 21, Seattle 17
Comment: "Solid Seattle defense trumped by a vintage Manning performance. Post-game interviews reveal Manning's reluctant, but honest prediction of a decade's worth of Vanderbilt-over-Tennessee dominance."
"I congratulate my friend Eric Nadel on winning the 2014 Ford C. Frick Award. For more than 30 years, Eric has brought the Texas Rangers and the great game of baseball to fans all over the Southwest," Bush said in a statement. "His passion for the sport is evident in every broadcast. Any announcer can call a game, but Eric brings his listeners into the stadium. He is a wonderful ambassador for our national pastime."
Nadel called Ryan's 5,000th strikeout in 1989 as it happened during his innings to call play-by-play as he teamed up with the late Mark Holtz on the radio broadcasts during that time.
"I am so pleased for Eric Nadel on his selection as the 2014 Ford C. Frick Award recipient," Ryan said. "Eric’s description and analysis of thousands of Texas Rangers games over the last 35 years have been a joy for the fans. He has always made the games entertaining and informative. He is a Hall of Famer in every sense of the word and is very deserving of the honor."
"I have talked to Nolan," Crane told the Chronicle on Thursday. "We haven’t really discussed anything about him joining the team yet. But that certainly could be a possibility down the road. It depends what Nolan wants. ... As far as an offer of us talking about a position, we haven’t done that."
Ryan's joining the Astros could certainly make some sense with his history in the organization and with one of his sons there. But Ryan indicated last month when he announced his resignation from the Rangers that he wanted to take some time away and wasn't sure what he wanted to do.
Ryan is also mulling a run for Texas Agriculture Commissioner, as he confirmed to ESPN Dallas earlier this month.
He has been through a couple with Don Nelson and Avery Johnson. In both cases, the Mavs reached greater heights after the bitter breakups.
Cuban, who bid against Nolan Ryan’s group when the bankrupt Texas Rangers were being auctioned, doesn’t know the details of the Nolan Ryan-Jon Daniels relationship. As a result, Cuban was cautious with his comments on the situation, but he did offer a vote of confidence in Daniels’ ability to run a ballclub.
"All I can say is Jon Daniels is smart, and Jon Daniels isn't out for Jon Daniels," Cuban said. "I talked to Jon a few times, and the sense I always get is that he's dedicated, he's focused, he's committed, and it's not ego driven.
"He just wants to win, and I think if you've got somebody like that, then he'll adjust to do whatever is best for the organization. I'm sure he's upset that Nolan's leaving, too. But again, I don't know any of the specifics. But I'm a Rangers fan, and I think they're in good hands with Jon."
And for parts of the past five seasons, he's had the end seat closest to the Rangers' dugout in the owner's box when he's come to games, watching with Hall of Famer and CEO Nolan Ryan.
Bush, who has retired to the Dallas area, said Ryan "brought a lot" to the Rangers during his tenure, praising him as a pitcher and a person.
"The Rangers will miss his presence -- and I will miss sitting next to my pal at the ballpark," Bush said in a statement sent by his office. "Laura and I wish Nolan and Ruth all the very best."
You might think that a guy that has littered the Major League Baseball record books and was a nearly unanimous first-ballot Hall of Famer wouldn't be accessible. That he might not have the time to talk about not only the team, but the game itself. But that wasn't Nolan Ryan.
Former Rangers owner Tom Hicks knew he needed someone who could not only excite fans, but put a jolt into his baseball team. Ryan provided just what he needed. The Texas legend joined the club in February 2008 and did more listening and observing than anything else. Rather than come in and make a bunch of changes, Ryan evaluated. He didn't know general manager Jon Daniels or manager Ron Washington, but he got to know them. He learned to respect them. And he went about remaking the image of the organization.
The Rangers were a bunch of mashers. Daniels and Ryan set out to change that. Ryan's attitude was a huge part of that. He stressed throughout the organization that it was time to push the starting pitchers. It was time to quit allowing rigid pitch counts to determine what a player can do. One spring training, he said it like this (and I'm paraphrasing): "Get one more out, one more inning. Push yourself just a little more than you think you can. Figure out where exactly that line is."
It made a difference. Pitching helped catapult this team to the World Series in 2010 and 2011. And all the while, Ryan would praise the players and coaches. All he wanted was a title. He never got it in Texas, though he came a strike away twice.
But in dealing with the media, Ryan was refreshing. He called a spade a spade. His honestly only added to his credibility. He rarely dodged a question, and if you really needed a quote from him on a particular subject, he'd give it to you. Few people could tell better stories than Ryan, who would remember details of pitch sequences and various parts of games that were four decades in the rearview mirror.
That kind of accessibility to the media allowed Ryan to be an important and valuable voice to the fans. That's going to be missed.
The reality is that the club benefited greatly from the various opinions and backgrounds of the decision-makers on the baseball side. Ryan, with his years as a Hall of Fame pitcher, had his philosophies, and Daniels and his crew had theirs. That combination resulted in disagreements, to be sure. That’s to be expected. But it also provided a more complete picture for all parties involved, forcing both sides to make impassioned and reasoned cases before a decision was made.
However, there comes a time when one person has to make a call. For years, that was Ryan. But after titles were altered last offseason, that became a lot more murky. "President of baseball operations" was added to Daniels' business card, leaving Ryan uncertain of his role.
Then all this talk of “camps” started coming out, with some in the “Ryan camp” and others in the “Daniels camp.” It made it seem like two vastly different factions trying to get along on a wilderness adventure. I don’t think that imagery was entirely accurate, either.
When former owner Tom Hicks took a chance on Daniels – and it was a risk in that Daniels was 28 years old and had never run a team – he wanted someone who was creative and willing to do what it took to get the team to the next level. Daniels did that.
He and his staff were the architects who engineered a turnaround that resulted in two consecutive World Series appearances and a team that’s become an annual contender. The Mark Teixeira trade. The acquisition of Josh Hamilton. The signing of Yu Darvish. Those were huge moves that put the club on an upward trajectory.
Daniels and his staff have made mistakes, too. Last offseason is an example. They lost out on some big fish, and the decision to pay Lance Berkman $11 million didn’t pay off.
But that group has a lot more doubles, triples and homers than strikeouts.
Don’t misunderstand. Ryan deserves credit for the successes, too. But the club is still in some of the big hands that helped guide it from the lean years to the best period in franchise history. Ryan’s departure means Daniels moves even more into the pressure cooker. He becomes more of a public face for the franchise. He’ll likely have to answer more questions and come under greater scrutiny. That’s part of the job.
It’s a job that he’ll now have to do without Ryan in the office down the hall.
So how will Ryan's departure impact things on the field?
He'll be missed by some of the players, including pitcher Derek Holland, who had the best season of his career in 2013 after seeking counsel from Ryan.
"He was a mentor and a friend," Holland said Thursday. "He helped me on and off the field. I'm devastated to hear the news that he's retiring. I'm going to miss him."
But as far as the structure of the roster, don't expect much of an impact. When general manager Jon Daniels took over as president of baseball operations before the season, Ryan's role in on-field baseball decisions was reduced.
Daniels makes the baseball decisions. He, along with trusted assistant Thad Levine and others, will decide if the Rangers should trade for David Price. Or get involved in the bidding for Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka. Or free agent catcher Brian McCann. Daniels and Co. will make the decision on whether Nelson Cruz returns to the ball club.
Daniels will oversee a slight rebuilding project after a 91-win season, which will focus on the scouting and development department.
Ryan will be missed in Arlington for sure. He's an institution.
But when it comes to the product the Rangers put on the field, don't expect much too change. This still appears to be a franchise with a lot of winning to do.
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.
The Texas Rangers head into Monday's action one game ahead in the AL West despite a rash of injuries and the suspension of Nelson Cruz. The fact that manager Ron Washington has managed to keep his team together and in contention with everything going on around him is one of the top jobs done by anyone this season and should have him in contention for AL manager of the year.
But is it the best job he's done since becoming skipper prior to the 2007 season? Let's look at some of the choices:
2010: In the middle of spring training, Washington had to get up and apologize to his team once news of a failed drug test became public. Washington then held a news conference and his entire team showed up in support. The skipper handled that situation as well as he could have, and his team rallied behind him. But that wasn't the only obstacle he dealt with that season. The team was facing financial troubles once former owner Tom Hicks was forced to sell, and the future of the Rangers ended up in court. Washington would not allow his club to lose focus from what it could control on the field, even when he had to make an appearance in bankruptcy court himself. While the team went through an auction that eventually resulted in an ownership group of Ray Davis, Bob Simpson, Nolan Ryan and Chuck Greenberg -- who is no longer with the organization -- the Rangers just kept winning. Washington navigated his squad through the AL in the playoffs, too, resulting in the first World Series appearance for the franchise.
|ESPN Dallas' Todd Wills joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to react to the Rangers' trade for Alex Rios and discuss how it impacts the team down the stretch.
To me, this is Washington's best season, considering everything that's gone on. This was a team many didn't expect to stay as competitive as it has. What do you think? Which season of the three above is Washington's best?