Here’s to Nolan Ryan and Jon Daniels, who’ve both been good for the Texas Rangers
Together, they’ve been amazingly good. Nolan Ryan brought the Rangers credibility. His presence made fans trust in the franchise in a way they never had before. To a lot of Rangers’ fans, everything changed the moment he walked in the door on February 6, 2008. If you’re discounting the importance of such a thing, check with the employees of the franchises that don’t have the trust of their fans. It’s a huge, huge deal. I’m not sure Ryan’s value to the Rangers can be quantified, but it’s significant. It impacts tickets sales, franchise value, everything.
Meanwhile, Jon Daniels built a great baseball organization. He’d done a lot of the heavy lifting before Ryan arrived, and that’s the point a lot of people miss. The Rangers were well on their way to the postseason, and Nolan Ryan had almost nothing to do with the building of the baseball team. Again, that’s a point a lot of people miss.
Ryan is such a larger-than-life figure, especially in Texas, that plenty of reporters decided to tell the story the way they thought it should be told. If the facts were otherwise, well, that’s life. I don’t know if Daniels ever felt slighted, but he had every right to be.
Ryan’s shadow is so large than Daniels hasn’t gotten the credit he deserves. I’m not sure whether Andrew Friedman or Billy Beane or Brian Sabean or someone else is baseball’s best general manager, but there’s no way to have that discussion without including Jon Daniels.
Inside the game, he’s respected for his ability to evaluate talent, construct a roster and hire good people. But most fans, especially those outside Dallas-Fort Worth, probably see Nolan Ryan as the architect of the success. Ryan has made plenty of good hires, most notably pitching coach Mike Maddux, but the Rangers’ baseball operation is essentially the work of Daniels.
Who was really in charge? Until last weekend, Ryan was in charge of baseball operations. I’m not sure how the chain of command actually worked. Daniels ran baseball ops and seemed to have great freedom. However, there apparently were times—for instance, the hiring of Tim Purpura as farm director—when Ryan imposed his will.
For the most part, though, Daniels was free to shape the roster. Last weekend, the club announced that Ryan would retain the title of CEO and President, but that he would no longer be “president of baseball operations.”
Now there’s speculation that Ryan will leave the Rangers. Those reports have come from some reporters close to Ryan. Also, that impression has been allowed to gain traction since Ryan has remained silent.
Daniels said that he has discussed the situation with Ryan and hopes he stays. He said that as far as he knows, the two men have a good relationship. But the change of title and reports of Ryan’s impending departure were prompted by something. Otherwise, why fix what’s not broken?
I would hope that these two smart, strong, opinionated men would think long and hard before filing divorce papers. Daniels constructed the team that won back-to-back American League pennants, but Ryan brought plenty to the table too. Ryan can be an valuable resource to Daniels because he knows the game and he knows people.
If his contributions sound mostly symbolic, that’s only somewhat true. He has hired competent, respected people up and down the masthead. And—and this might be the key—the Rangers are seen in a different way because of him. If he were to leave, there’d be a little less trust in management, and what’s that worth to a franchise?
This is a complicated thing because it probably deals with ego more than anything of substance. Ryan may not agree with all Daniels’ decisions, but he almost certain appreciates how good Daniels is. And he does not want the day-to-day duties of general manager.
When he took over in 2008, plenty of us believed he would fire both Daniels and manager Ron Washington. I’m guessing he was inclined to do just that and to bring in his own people. At that time, the Rangers hadn’t had the success that would arrive in 2010.
Instead, he did what good executives are supposed to do. He sat back and watched them do their jobs. He gave them the freedom and resources to be the best they can be, and he came to understand that both of them are very, very good.
The Rangers have a good thing going. They’ve been to the playoffs three years in a row and are widely regarded as one of the five or six best teams in baseball after an offseason of dramatic change.
Here’s hoping that both Nolan Ryan and Jon Daniels understand that, and that they also understand how much each has benefitted from the other.