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Thursday, October 17, 2013
Nolan Ryan makes an expected exit

By Jean-Jacques Taylor
ESPNDallas.com

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Together Nolan Ryan and Jon Daniels turned the Texas Rangers from an irrelevant franchise into one of the best in Major League Baseball.

The Rangers won a couple of AL West titles, made World Series appearances in 2010 and 2011 and participated in the wild-card game last season. They won at least 90 games in each of the past four seasons, something only Tampa Bay can match in the American League.

Nolan Ryan
Nolan Ryan has been the face of the franchise since returning to the Rangers in 2008. On his watch, Texas made its first two World Series appearances and eclipsed the 3 million mark in attendance twice.

Still, there wasn't quite enough credit to go around for Ryan and Daniels to figure out how to work with each other and continue the success that has made the Rangers a yearly contender.

Ryan said he resigned Thursday. A news release issued by the club said he retired.

Either way, he's gone. Ryan even sold his interest in the club.

As you would expect, Ryan said all of the right things at a news conference at Rangers Ballpark. He praised the fans, the organization and owners Ray Davis and Bob Simpson. He talked about wanting to spend more time with his grandchildren and working on his ranch.

Whatever.

This was a power struggle between Ryan, the man who was the boss, and Daniels, the new boss.

A new CEO will not be named. Daniels wields all of the power.

"I'm not going to sit here today and tell you what a year from now might bring," Ryan said. "This may be the final chapter of my baseball career. If there was something else I did, it certainly wouldn't be in the role that I've played here with the Rangers."

There's no need to blame Ryan for leaving or to castigate Daniels for winning this power struggle. He didn't name himself club president.

Besides, there simply aren't many men who could subjugate their ego enough to go from being the boss to second in command at the same company. Especially not a Texas icon such as Ryan.

He might be 66, but inside his chest beats the heart of a competitor. He was an athlete before he was a husband, a father, a baseball icon and a baseball executive.

Those like Ryan who competed at the highest level of pro sports don't like losing. Ryan has always been considered a gentleman, but he's also same the guy who would throw a fastball high and tight to his grandmother, if she crowded the plate. We've seen these front-office struggles before in Dallas-Fort Worth. After winning consecutive Super Bowls, Jerry Jones and Jimmy Johnson let ego destroy a partnership and wreck what could've been the NFL's greatest dynasty after the 1993 season.

The Jerry-Jimmy divorce was a disaster. Neither man was ever as successful apart as they were together. Jerry won Super Bowl XXX two years later but won only one more playoff game with Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin on the roster.

Shameful.

Since then, the Cowboys have only one playoff win since the 1996 season.

It wasn't much better for Jimmy, who was fired from the Miami Dolphins with a 36-28 record and a 62-7 loss to Jacksonville in his final game. We can only hope the Rangers fare better than the Cowboys have without Jerry and Jimmy together.

Jon Daniels
With Jon Daniels clearly in charge now, the key question will be whether his decisions going forward will keep the Rangers as a perennial contender.

Ryan was hired as president by former owner Tom Hicks in February 2008 and promoted to CEO in March 2011 by the current ownership group. None of us should be surprised he left.

Not after his power was usurped in March, when the club made Daniels president in charge of all baseball decisions and hired Rick George to handle the business side.

It left Ryan as a figurehead, a CEO with no power. A proud man such as Ryan wasn't interested in that.

Ryan considered leaving then but ultimately decided to stay after several meetings to define his role.

A week before the season ended, senior director of player development Tim Purpura, a close associate of Ryan's, was informed he would be reassigned within the organization. When the season ended, the Rangers fired bench coach Jackie Moore, another member of the organization with close ties to Ryan.

When Ryan couldn't save Moore's job, it became apparent he no longer had the juice to veto any of Daniels' decisions concerning the team on the field.

So it was time to leave.

Davis and Simpson want you to believe Ryan's power had not changed within the organization. They're playing the semantics game -- and that's OK because they own the team.

Ryan left the organization far better than he found it, but his work here is done.

Now, we'll see whether the Rangers remain an elite franchise under Daniels' leadership. Or if they slip into the muck of mediocrity like the Cowboys have since Jerry and Jimmy split.