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
It 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.