Of Nolan Ryan: Searching For Truth

May 31, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Rangers chief executive officer Nolan Ryan during the game against the Kansas City Royals at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Texas won 7-2. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

May 31, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Rangers chief executive officer Nolan Ryan during the game against the Kansas City Royals at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Texas won 7-2. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

With Nolan Ryan‘s resignation from the Texas Rangers, it has certainly stirred the pot within the fan base, certainly ruffled its fair share of feathers. With all this talk of “camps” — whether it be in favor of Nolan or Jon Daniels — we know those camps no longer exist. At least not in the front office. Instead, they’ve bled into the fan base.

A couple mornings ago I wrote a radical article about the now former CEO, and being removed I still feel the same in my stance, if not stronger.

My reasoning remains simple in nature. All I ask is: What did Nolan Ryan ever tangibly do to improve the on-field product? If you are a firm supporter of the former CEO, my challenge for you is to answer this question. It’s a simple question.

In Texas, the paradigm shift began in 2007, propelled by three trades. The first was sending Mark Teixeira to the Braves for a massive return including Elvis Andrus, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Matt Harrison, Neftali Feliz and Beau Jones; the second was trading Eric Gagñe to the Red Sox for Kason Gabbard, David Murphy and 17 year-old outfielder, Engel Beltre; the third was of less significance, but still worth mentioning, shipping Kenny Loften to the Indians for catcher Max Ramirez.

Again, this was in 2007. Nolan Ryan didn’t arrive in Arlington until 2008, where ownership was still led by the fledgling Tom Hicks, and where baseball operations were still handled by Jon Daniels.

A consistent defense of Nolan is given in the vein of Jon Daniels wouldn’t even be here if Nolan Ryan had fired him, which might be the most ludicrous of all defenses. If you think the Rangers would be worse off had Ryan fired Daniels, you would be correct, so why should we be giving him credit since he didn’t? That’s like saying a person deserves credit for not throwing away a winning lottery ticket. Nolan Ryan did nothing to better the on-field success of the Rangers in his 6 years under the umbrella of two separate ownership groups, but as far as doing nothing when it came to not removing Jon Daniels as GM, I suppose we can consider that as something.

One of my consistent readers, and one of my old pals from the now defunct Baseball Time in Arlington blog — Andy — wrote this in response to my previous Nolan piece:

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 [thanking] him for. Especially Maddux, whom we have every reason to believe has been instrumental in our pitchers’ success of late.

First, I wasn’t being facetious. That was honesty. Second, after his work with the Brewers, Mike Maddux was pretty clearly one of the premier pitching coaches in Major League Baseball. Being a smart man, I find it hard to believe that — had Nolan Ryan not been a member of the front office — Jon Daniels wouldn’t have noticed Maddux as a serious candidate to be the team’s next pitching coach. Daniels is generally two steps ahead of the baseball curve, so you’d be suspending disbelief quite aggressively to assume he wouldn’t have noticed a candidate so obvious that he might as well have been slapping him right in his face.

But, if we are to submit that it was Nolan who singlehandedly brought Maddux in, then fine. We can step off into the deep end for a second. However, if we do that, then we also have to give Ryan credit for bringing in two of “his” guys — former Astros (and buddies) Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman — who essentially provided nothing to the franchise over the last two seasons. That wasn’t Jon Daniels. That was Nolan Ryan making a vague attempt at showing his prowess as a “baseball guy”. At $15 million, Oswalt and Berkman combined to produce +0.7 wins for the Rangers.

I’m trying to give Nolan the benefit of the doubt here. I really am.

And if the Maddux-Ryan marriage is as strong as some make it out to be, then it should be expected that Mike Maddux will either (a) be fired from his position as pitching coach, since he’s not a “Daniels guy,” or, perhaps, (b) that he will leave the organization for a different job. Right?

The thing is, as much as people want to either give Nolan Ryan credit for ascertaining Mike Maddux, or give credit to Mike Maddux for turning around the Rangers pitching staff (which I think is a completely valid outlook to have), you would still be missing the point:

It was Jon Daniels who provided the pitchers. And it’s the pitchers who have physically had to go out and help the Rangers win baseball games.

This is the case in making Scott Feldman a starter, C.J. Wilson a starter, in acquiring Cliff Lee from the Mariners, in getting Colby Lewis on a ridiculously cheap two-year, $5 million deal, in bringing Yu Darvish in as the most expensive international important in major league history — a move, mind you, that was strongly opposed by Nolan Ryan and his “camp.”

All those moves were made by Jon Daniels and his elite group of personnel.

So, still, my challenge stands. This is not a matter of whether or not I like Nolan Ryan, or whether or not I’m a Jon Daniels supporter. Those two sentiments should be fairly self-evident by now. This is about where credit is due, and for too long it’s gone to the wrong man.

Jon Daniels is the orchestrator of the trades. It’s his staff that evaluates talent. Nolan Ryan has been the one to sit back, getting fat on the accolades, when in reality nothing would be different had he not been here in the first place. The Rangers would have the same pitchers, the same position players, and they would still be a winning franchise.

People don’t come to the ballpark to watch Nolan Ryan sit in the first row. They just don’t. They comes in droves — north of $3 million for two consecutive seasons — to watch a winning product on the field. And that’s had nothing to do with Nolan, everything to do with Jon Daniels.

 

 

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  • primi_timpano

    Excellent article. Nolan’s era is a generation gone. Pitchers don’t throw 300 innings or complete games. You don’t sac bunt in early innings unless you are facing great stuff, expect a low scoring game, and have no expectation of hitting the ball or working a walk. The game has changed and is not changing back. Nolan has not changed and continues to cling to a game of chaw, meth, grit and body language, that is now infected with stats, nerds, and San Jose technology, STDs of old school ball.

    Discerning JD vs Ryan moves–what were the relative preferences and influences among Ryan and JD?–is a tough bit of tea leaf reading. The moves intriguing me are: the busted Upton trade, retaining and extending Elvis and Kinsler, and the Garza rental.

    I never bought into Ryan. He was a raw Met when he played his only WS; in CAL he was a number 2 to Tanana until Tanana lost his stuff to arm problems; his walks cancelled out his Ks.

    Ryan’s talent was durability. He put up ridiculous innings and seasons. This longevity talent has run its course, at least in Arlington.

    JD is in a terrible position. The Yu window is open 4 more years. That means replacing 3b when Beltre needs to move to 1b or DH, signing a COF, C, and 1b, hold the bullpen together and staying in budget.

    Ranger fans should be counting their lucky charms JD is around to deal with this.

  • Joe_Coco

    TO your points yes JD made the trade in 2007 but in 2008 when Nolan took over no one knew how that would turn out. Looking at all of JD’s trades up to that point there was good reason to believe that this could be a bust also! So acting like it was a given that JD should have kept his job at the time is a stretch. AND had he been fired by the rangers I doubt he’s still in baseball, because what he had done to that point was awful. And then to throw in Oswalt and Berkman without talking about Chan ho and Eaton or McCarthy or the countless other bad trades is just revisionist history. I agree Oswalt was a bad pick up and a Nolan guy but he was the only thing out there, and JD had already replaced Nolan by the time he signed Berkman so he had final say on this deal not Nolan
    Next Maddux
    Maddux is both a Nolan and JD guy but if Nolan weren’t here and already changing the way the pitching staff was handled Maddux wouldn’t have come.
    Again I love what JD has done for the Rangers and in no way would I have rather had Nolan stay and JD leave, but to discount what Nolan has done for this franchise is short sighted.

    • Eric Reining

      Chan Ho Park was well before the Jon Daniels era.

      • Joe_Coco

        actually JD was hired and in charge of baseball operations in 2002 same year Chan ho was signed but that was a John Hart tom Hicks deal. sorry

        • Eric Reining

          JD became GM in 2005.

          • Joe_Coco

            know that’s what I said. he was hired in 2002 and his title was head of baseball operations under John hart. then in 2005 he was hired to be the GM

  • gofuhcureself

    JD does NOT get credit for Mike Maddux. Period. It doesn’t work like that. Maddux agreed to come to Texas BECAUSE of Nolan. The Maddux hire was INSTRUMENTAL in the Rangers making the WS two years in a row. FULL credit to NOLAN RYAN.

    Also, before running your mouth, get your facts straight. Quit stating your opinions as facts. JD has had final say in baseball decisions since November 2012. Lance Berkman is a 100% JD signing. Again, Berkman is on JD.

    Here are some facts for you:

    Person with final say over baseball decisions:

    2006 – JD
    2007 – JD
    2008 – NR
    2009 – NR
    2010 – NR
    2011 – NR
    2012 – NR
    2013 – JD

    So, with JD having final say over baseball decisions, the Rangers are 0 for 3 for making the post season.

    With Nolan having final say over baseball decisions, the Rangers are 3 for 5 for making the post season.

    Those are the FACTS.

    Did Nolan receive too much of the credit from the National media? Of course he did. JD was and is awesome and deserves the majority of the credit. Nolan even said so himself. HOWEVER, you have no idea how much influence or of the dynamics behind the scenes in the Rangers front office. For you to think that NR contributed nothing is asinine For you to state it as fact WHEN YOU HAVE NO CLUE really is delusional.

    I was a big fan of JD. I still hope he’s successful. However, if he did indeed go behind Nolan’s back as reported to fulfill his power grab, then I’ve lost an enormous amount of respect for the guy.

    Out of respect for Nolan, you really need to remove his name from the title of this ridiculous site.

    • Eric Reining

      The thing is, you are accusing me of being delusional when, in fact, you and I know the same amount. Which is very little.

      To that end, see, you have to understand the article you are reading. This is a blog. A fan blog, at that. If you would prefer reading the Gerry Fraley’s and Randy Galloway’s of the world whom agree with your pro-Nolan, anti-JD agenda, that is up to you. But if you are telling me what I’m saying isn’t a fact because I DON’T KNOW and because I’M DELUSIONAL, well, all I asked was for you to support that, and you failed miserably.

      I have the strangest feeling like you’ve never read any anti-Nolan sentiment, ever. Like I’m the first person who’s ever presented opposition to your precious Nolan Ryan.

      Your main thesis is that Nolan — as president of baseball operations — was responsible for the Rangers reaching the postseason in ’10, ’11, and ’12. If you believe that, like, truly believe that, then I don’t know why I’ve wasted so many words having a dialogue with you. Because THAT is delusional.

      It doesn’t take into account that Jon Daniels was the one who made the Mark Teixeira trade. It suggests, somehow, that since Nolan Ryan was the prez in 2010 that he was the one who made the Cliff Lee trade, that he signed Adrian Beltre in 2011, and that Jon Daniels gets ZERO credit for anything that happened between 2008 and 2012 when Nolan Ryan was his (technical) superior.

      By your reasoning, what was the purpose of Jon Daniels in Texas between 2008-2012? What is the point of any general manager if all that matter is the president of baseball ops?

      Your questions to me were quite personal. Mine to you are simple, and you have still yet to tell me what Nolan Ryan did — himself — to make the Rangers a better on-field team.

      C’mon, Lil Nubber.

      • gofuhcureself

        You stated “The thing is, you are accusing me of being delusional when, in fact, you and I know the same amount. Which is very little.”

        Well, howdy do. We’ve made progress. Now to work on your writing style – if you will quit stating your opinion as fact, it might be possible to work in a positive direction.

        Now, on to your interpretations of what I believe. You are completely missing the boat of the point I’m trying to make with you.

        Here is what you must understand:

        - I AM a fan of JD.

        - I AM a fan of Nolan.
        - I believe that JD deserves the majority, but CERTAINLY NOT ALL, of the credit for the Rangers’ recent run of success.
        - I believe that Nolan Ryan also deserves significant credit for the Rangers’ recent run of success.
        - I’ve already told you what I believe to be Nolan’s most significant contribution.
        - It is impossible for either of us to quantify Nolan’s behind the scenes contributions. You are entitled to your opinion. I am equally entitled to my opinion. Don’t state opinion as fact.
        - I believe that the combination of JD and Nolan in the organization dynamics present during the WS years are responsible for the team’s success. In other words, minus one or the other, I don’t believe the team achieves the same level of success minus JD or Nolan.

        - If JD did indeed go behind Nolan’s back in a power grab, then I have lost respect for JD.
        - I am pissed beyond belief that these two men could not make this work.

        • Eric Reining

          It is impossible for either of us to quantify Nolan’s behind the scenes contributions.

          This is why your argument makes no sense. There is no outward knowledge of anything Nolan ever did. That is, he never signed free agents, he never scouted potential Rangers, and he never made any trades. It’s a huge leap of faith to assume he made on-field contributions when, in fact, there is no evidence to support such a claim.

          With me, it’s not an opinion that Jon Daniels made the Mark Teixeira trade. It’s not an opinion that he made the Cliff Lee trade. It’s not an opinion that he has one of the better farm systems in all of baseball.

          You’ve accused me of stating opinions as fact, but above are not opinions. Those are facts, and they had absolutely nothing to do with Nolan Ryan.

          Even the whole “JD went behind Nolan’s back thing” is something that may not even be true, but I can guarantee — based on your incessant usage of it — that it’s a claim you desperately want to believe. The people who have mentioned it: (1) Randy Galloway and (2) Jackie Moore, two of Nolan Ryan’s boys.

          I think your love for Nolan is seriously skewing reality. The Rangers aren’t going to miss a step without him.

          • gofuhcureself

            You stated, “It’s not an opinion that he made the Cliff Lee trade.”

            You have no idea what Nolan might have contributed to this trade. This is an example of you stating opinion as fact. The trade wasn’t made until the Rangers – at the last minute – decided to include Smoak in the deal. Nolan had to approve the trade. What makes you think he had no input?

            You stated. “There is no outward knowledge of anything Nolan ever did.”

            Absolutely untrue. Again – Maddux agreed to come to Texas BECAUSE of Nolan. The Maddux hire was
            INSTRUMENTAL in the Rangers making the WS two years in a row. FULL credit to NOLAN RYAN.

            You are what? 23 or 24 years old? I’m double your age. You have very limited exposure to Randy Galloway. I’ve been reading Galloway since the 70′s and listened to him on the radio for years. I don’t always agree with him, but he has ALWAYS had the best inside knowledge on the Rangers on many things. He is also frequently misunderstood by the younger generations. He is also not the sole provider of my thirst for Rangers / sports news, opinions, and knowledge. Twitter is a wonderful thing for keeping up with the latest happenings.

          • Eric Reining

            Mmkay.

            You love Nolan, you love Randy Galloway. I get it. You choose to give Nolan the benefit of the doubt without any evidence to support yourself, while I stay grounded in reality.

            It’s cool, bro. Enjoy your weekend.

          • gofuhcureself

            LOL.

            YOU stay grounded in reality? Hahahaha. I know you probably don’t care. You’re young. I get it. You think you have it all figured out. Ten foot tall and bullet proof. Here is a little “bro” tip for you…. You are just barely scratchin’ the surface. Don’t be an asshole.

            Hey – one thing we can agree on – go Rangers! Right?

            Here is something pretty cool you might like:

            A program from a game I went to in 1976:

          • gofuhcureself

            Eric – pop quiz – who is that on the cover?

  • Andy

    I’m famous again!

    Seriously though, whether or not JD noticed him, I think you have to give Nolan credit for Maddux, as GFY said. But of course, as eric said, we also have to mention the Nolan deals that didn’t work out. His record wasn’t nearly spotless. And, yes, Maddux probably couldn’t have made the Astros’ pitching staff into the Rangers’ very good one, and it’s probably difficult to apportion credit for players’ success to their coach, but you can’t argue with the results. Whatever the fraction is, Maddux deserves some credit for the excellent staff, and Nolan deserves credit for bringing in Maddux.

    The interesting thing, I think, will be how the fanbase responds next year depending on whether or not the Rangers exceed or disappoint expectations. No, I don’t think the vast majority of Rangers fans hopped on the bandwagon because of Nolan. But some did. And most of them have hopped back off now that he’s gone. If the Rangers make the playoffs next year, these “fans” will realize their mistake. If the Rangers disappoint next year, they will feel vindicated and claim that Nolan leaving was the reason why. They’ll be wrong, but it won’t matter. In their minds, Nolan was the only reason we went to the World Series twice.

  • Terry Cordray

    Adrian Gonzalez, Chris Davis….Lance Berkman…Matt Garza

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