Nolan Ryan Leaves Position As Team Figurehead


You know that scene in The Wizard of Oz where all the characters rejoice in singing “Ding dong, the witch is dead, the wicked witch is dead”?

Well, Nolan Ryan is neither a witch — nor is he dead — but that’s kinda how I feel right now. And when I say “kinda,” I mean I’ve wishfully hoped for his retirement for the last 3 years. It’s Time, finally.

Among the things Ryan has wrongfully been given credit for in his 6-year tenure in the Rangers organization include all of the following:

  • A change in the team’s culture; i.e. the Rangers becoming good
  • The starting pitchers getting “tough,” pitching deeper into games
  • Three playoff appearances
  • Two World Series appearances

628x471-1It is impossible to know where the franchise would be today had Nolan Ryan never teamed up with Bob Simpson, Ray Davis and Chuck Greenberg to buy the Rangers back in 2008, but one thing is certain: It could not possibly be any worse.

That’s really to say that Nolan Ryan never tangibly did anything to improve the club, perhaps other than using the organization as a means to sell his brand of beef at the ballpark, or by swaying the casual Texan to follow the Rangers instead of the Astros, which coincidentally — and conveniently — came at a time when the Texas Rangers had their best stretch of baseball in the history of the franchise.

The only sad byproducts of his leaving the organization are the fact that his name actually does hold some value, still, and there are sure to be some casual fans who will indeed like the Rangers less after his departure. Secondly, and of significantly more importance, is the spotlight no longer shines on the man given near-universal credit for the transmogrification of the franchise, but now, rather, it descends upon the club’s general manager and president of baseball operations — Jon Daniels — whose job just got monumentally more difficult.

The truth is, no matter how much success the Rangers continue to accumulate in coming years, it will be almost impossible for Daniels to ever truly win. See, he isn’t only one of the youngest, brightest minds in the game, he also now has a new title: The Man Who Used His Silly Computer Programs And Fancy Math To Force Out The Legend, Nolan Ryan.

Of course, in reality we all know that’s a bunch of bullshit. But to the casual observer, and the media, whose job is to appeal to the casual observer, this will be a running motif in almost every aspect of the team moving forward. If the Rangers don’t acquire any big names this offseason, blame Jon Daniels; when the team goes in a slump next season, blame Jon Daniels;

But when the club flourishes — which it will — then it will very clearly be due to the “culture,” and “toughness,” instilled in them by Nolan Ryan, who has never, doesn’t, and will never do any wrong as far as the D-FW media is concerned.

Typically when a person dies, we tend to reminisce on all the good they did. We neglect their shortcomings, pretend to see them for their most positive attributes. But in Nolan’s case, the perception is that there were no shortcomings, that his presence was nothing but positive. He will be remembered for leading the team to the World Series two years in a row, for the pitching staff finally realizing it is possible to be effective in a hitter’s paradise.

We’ll leave out his power struggle with Jon Daniels, and his silent — but very public — threat to leave the organization in February. That doesn’t mesh too well in his impeccable narrative. And all over some stupid title as President Of Baseball Operations that was never rightfully his in the first place.

Through his retirement, we now officially know what most of us have known to be true for quite a long time: This is Jon Daniels’s team. It was in 2007 before Nolan Ryan boarded the ship, it was for the acquisitions of Elvis Andrus, Matt Harrison, Neftali Feliz, Adrian Beltre, and Yu Darvish, and it will be when the Rangers finally do bring home that mythical World Series trophy.

When I think of Nolan Ryan I’ll think about 2008, at a time where my life was budding with nothing but the purest form of optimism, for the Rangers, for my first love, and for my dream college 3,000 miles away from where I lived in Southern California. It was a magical frame of my history, and although — of the three — only the Rangers worked out for me, I still look back on it as a wrinkle in time where existing was a wonderful thing. I have only love for that.

But as I sit here, and while I think about his actual contributions to the franchise, all I can say is this:

Thanks for nothing, Nolan. Thanks for trying to ruin what could have been something beautiful.

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  • Joe_Coco

    Wow just wow?!? Nolan did nothing except put his name on it? WOW!?! If you recall at the time Nolan came to the team Hicks had demanded they cut the payroll and keep it there, they were playing to crowds that would embarrass a little league team, the Angels ruled the west and the lovable Rangers finished last or second to last in our division. Hicks kept JD because he was young and cheap not because he was a great baseball guy! Nolan understood JD just needed time and guidance to be the GM he is today. Maybe you don’t remember this but JD was a JOKE before Nolan! Hell before the ATL trade everything he did was AWEFUL!!! Most guys in Nolan’s shoes would have fired JD before lunch and found a “baseball guy” instead of letting some snot nosed kid run the team. And yes Nolan did change the way the Rangers treated the pitching staff it was an entire organizational change that started in the Majors and then went to the minors and because of that we got Maddox! YES! we changed then we got Maddox not the other way around.
    Yes JD is a great GM NOW but without Nolan we never would have found that out.
    It’s JD’s team and it was time for Nolan to go that much I agree with, but to act like all Nolan did was sell Hotdogs and throw out the first pitch is wrong! It’s a sad day in Ranger land and you should respect that…

  • Andy

    Seems a bit harsh to say “thanks for nothing”, unless you were being kind of facetious, especially when you just listed some things we should be thinking him for. Especially Maddux, whom we have every reason to believe has been instrumental in our pitchers’ success of late.

    That said, you’re spot on about the weight of the world (or at least of Baseball Town, Texas) being on JD’s shoulders. Also, while it’s easy for traditionalists to lump him in with those newfangled GMs with their spreadsheets and calculators that are doing wrong by baseball, almost everything we’ve read suggests that JD and his team are as much about scouting as they are about number crunching. Just because he and Nolan didn’t see eye-to-eye on every decision doesn’t mean they didn’t ever take the same approach and get different results.

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  • primi_timpano

    Nolan was hired to be the team’s new George Bush but why would anyone think that would work?

    The Bush Rangers needed a political frontman; the Nolan Rangers needed a marketing boost. It seems a lot of baseball codgers believe a person cannot contribute to the game unless they played pro ball. Until baseball players get math PhDs this will be wrong.

  • gofuhcureself

    Eric – what an absolute embarrassment you are to all of Rangers’ fandom. Just because you have a pulpit at Bleacher Report Jr.does not make your delusional narrative true. It’s an absolute abomination that this site even exploits Nolan’s name in its title. Out of respect to Nolan, change this site’s name. ASAP.

    • Eric Reining

      You know what they say: Truth hurts.

      What has Nolan ever done to make the Rangers a better team on the field?

      • gofuhcureself

        Truth? Hardly. YOU ARE AN EMBARRASSMENT. Do you think something becomes true just because you write it? Sorry, but you are delusional.

        • Eric Reining

          I asked you a simple question. You’ve yet to answer it.

          • gofuhcureself

            I typed a long reply on your follow up post to this one. Disqus ate it. I did not feel like retyping the whole response. Probably not worth my time anyway.

            How about you answer my questions above and then I’ll see about retyping my reply again.

          • Eric Reining

            Okay, deal.

            (1) Truth?

            I’ve yet to see evidence from you to suggest the Rangers became a better franchise because of moves Nolan Ryan made. If they did, I’m all ears. Go.

            (2) Do you think something becomes true just because you write it?

            No. I write based on tangible evidence. I don’t write just to write, and certainly not because I have a vendetta opposing the team’s former minority owner. That would be senseless.

            My stance has remained pretty clear from the beginning: Jon Daniels built the team, created its success, and Nolan Ryan was along for the ride.

          • gofuhcureself

            I’ve already replied. See your ‘seeking the truth’ follow up post.

      • gofuhcureself

        WHY are you a Rangers’ fan? You live in Southern California. Are you from Texas? Who are you a fan of in other sports?

        • Eric Reining

          (3) WHY are you a Rangers’ fan?

          The Rangers were the first team I played for in little league, and I liked their colors. That was in 1996.

          (4) Are you from Texas?

          I am not from Texas. I was born and raised in Southern California. One time, though, on my way to school in Virginia I made a pit stop in Dallas. So there’s that, I suppose.

          (5) Who are you a fan of in other sports?

          I’m a fan of Virginia Tech in college football — which is where I went to school — because Michael Vick was my favorite player as a little kid.

          In the the NFL, I’m a Chiefs fan (7-0 woo hoo!), because I played for the Kansas City Royals once upon a time, and the KC association must’ve stuck with me. I don’t really care about the NBA.

          Okay, so I answered 5 of your questions. All I’m asking of you is to answer one:

          What did Nolan Ryan ever do, like ever ever ever, to improve the Rangers on the field?

  • Eric Reining

    No need. It’s still sitting comfortably on Nolan Ryan’s.