Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Curse of Nolan Ryan is real


Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The irony that occurred this past winter, when Nolan Ryan stepped down as CEO of the Texas Rangers before joining the Houston Astros front office in the spring, is quite uncanny.

Turn the clock back to 2010 when Nolan and Chuck Greenberg entered a bidding war with Mark Cuban and Jim Crane for ownership rights of the Rangers franchise, then fast-forward back to the way things currently stand.

Plain and simple, Ryan was pushed out the door by majority owners Ray Davis and Bob Simpson and he now serves as a special assistant in the Astros organization to none other than Crane.

Like sands through the hourglass …

After Nolan’s departure, general manager Jon Daniels immediately started pulling the trigger on deals that would send Ian Kinsler to Detroit for Prince Fielder and bring Shin-Soo Choo to Texas. Both players are signed for seven seasons.

Would Ryan have approved of such deals if he were still CEO? Only he knows, but one thing is for certain: Since Ryan left the organization this past October, it appears a proverbial jinx or curse has been placed on the Rangers.

It started almost immediately.

Derek Holland suffered a freak knee injury within the comfortable confines of his own home thanks to his dog and – just like a set of dominoes – many, many of his teammates have followed him to the disabled list.

It’s also fitting how the Rangers are now under .500 about a quarter of the way through the 2014 season, a feat the team had not fallen down to this deep into a year since – you guessed it – right around the time Nolan was hired to rescue the franchise.

A lot of positive vibes flowed out of Arlington even without Nolan this offseason. I’ll admit it: Jon Daniels showed so much growth as a GM while Ryan was here, but he quickly reverted back to his wheeling-and-dealing self the instant Nolan was shown the door.

You don’t have to look much further than the deal for Fielder. While Nolan was here, you didn’t see the Rangers take a whole lot of uncalculated risks.

The front office was in love with Fielder two years ago when he tested free agency and ultimately agreed to a nine-year, $214 million contract with Detroit. The reason the Rangers didn’t sign him wasn’t necessarily about the money as it was the length of the deal.

Nine years is a long time, and the Rangers were always concerned about the length of deals they gave to free agents, whether they were someone else’s or their own. A perfect example was the unwillingness to give Josh Hamilton five years to return last season.

Choo, 31, got seven years this past offseason, a number that was quite surprising considering his age. It just isn’t realistic to imagine a guy playing at a very high level until he is 38.

For a perfect example, take a look at the New York Yankees.

The Rangers were in Hell, going bankrupt and without a sense of direction when Ryan, one of the most respected baseball men in the game and a Texas legend, graced the confines of what is now Globe Life Park with his presence.

It is no accident how the success of the team took an almost immediate uptick when he arrived. Nolan brought credibility and a plan to Arlington, both of which had been lacking since their last playoff appearance in 1999.

A lot of fans praised ownership’s decision to give Daniels all the power and dismiss Ryan from his post, and I want to see those people stand by that praise all the way through.

I hated the move. The old saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Well, the willingness to hand the franchise over to Daniels involved a whole lot of egos clashing in order to fix something that wasn’t broke and trying to find solutions to problems that didn’t exist.

People seem to forget that Tom Hicks gave Nolan all the control in the world to make wholesale changes when he hired him as team president in 2008.

The move put everyone on watch for Ryan to pull the plug on Daniels, a young GM who, at the time, had made bonehead move after bonehead move, but Ryan was patient and he worked with Daniels and assistant GM Thad Levine.

He was also patient with manager Ron Washington, who had proven absolutely nothing as a manager and who was very, very close to being fired.

It ended up being a perfect recipe and a relationship that promised success not only in the World Series seasons of 2010 and 2011, but for much, much longer afterward.

But the egos couldn’t co-exist and, in this situation, there ended up being too many cooks in the kitchen and not enough credit available to stroke all those egos for the delicious filet mignon that was being served.

So Davis and Simpson decided to simplify things by handing the keys to Daniels and asking Ryan to take his leave, a decision everyone involved with the Rangers may certainly end of paying dearly for in the long run.

It’s very, very early in the post-Nolan era, but it appears as if the omen has been placed.

The curse of Nolan Ryan certainly may exist, and it’s been incredibly vicious so far.

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Tags: Nolan Ryan Texas Rangers

  • lmhw24

    I don’t want it to make sense, but we all know it does. :’(

  • Lee Stitzel

    Y’all realize JD is the best GM in baseball right?

    • CJ Berryman

      How is that, Lee? If he was the best GM in baseball, the Rangers wouldn’t be winless in the ring column.

      • CJ Berryman

        And the best GMs in baseball are Billy Beane and Andrew Friedman, two guys who are forced to operate with very little money to spend, but who consistently win.

        • Lee Stitzel

          You realize that neither Beane or Friedman have rings right? Neither does Nolan Ryan the executive.

          • CJ Berryman

            Lee, simply because we have a difference of opinion doesn’t mean either one of us are uneducated baseball fans.

          • CJ Berryman

            And I understand neither Beane nor Friedman have a ring, but if they had the financial flexibility the Rangers now have, they would certainly have rings. They haven’t had that luxury, though.

            As for J.D. and Levine, of course they deserve credit. Once the plan of growing the organization through the farm system was put in place, they both have done great jobs of building, but that plan was not in place until 2008.

          • Lee Stitzel

            It doesn’t work like that. You cannot really believe that it is necessarily the case that they would win a title with more money. You must believe that Brian Cashman is the best.

            It appears one of your main objections to JD is his trade history. I agree that the Garza trade went poorly and the Fielder trade isn’t shaping up nicely but you need to give him credit for the trades that have gone well. JD set the bar for trade returns with the Mark Texeria trade. JD landed Andrus, Harrison, Saltalamacchia and Feliz in the trade. JD pulled off the Cliff Lee trade which got the team to their first World Series.

            JD is the one who signed Leonys Martin, Jurickson Profar and all of the best players in the farm system. Ryan deserves credit for stretching out pitchers and protecting JD and Levine while they rebuilt the franchise from the ground up. Nolan Ryan didn’t make decisions for this team.

            It blows my mind that JD has been making all the decisions for this team and somehow Nolan Ryan gets the credit for the good outcomes while JD gets blame for the bad ones. JD acquired Hamilton, Cruz, Andrus, Harrison, Feliz, and Murphy all before Ryan came on board. The other key pieces (Kinsler, Young, Holland, Moreland, Wilson and Lewis) of the back to back World Series teams are all home grown. Napoli came to Texas via trade which is another JD gem. JD has built a team that has one of the best collections of talents on the field and one of the best farm systems.

            I love Ryan, I really do but Daniels built this team, not Ryan. Ryan was an important figurehead for a rebuilding team. We don’t need him now, we just need a good rehab program.

          • CJ Berryman

            Lee, that is where you and I can agree. They all deserve the same amount of credit for the success, because they were all on the same page. It’s when the clashes of ego began that sides were taken and Nolan was forced out.

            I guess the point in my article was to point out how much J.D. was flailing as a GM initially. Trades such as Adrian Gonzalez, Chris Young and Terrmel Sledge to San Diego for Akinori Otsuka and Adam Eaton, and Alfonso Soriano to the Nationals for Brad Wilkerson, Sledge and Armando Galaragga.

            It’s just funny to me how it all lined up right when he got here and it’s gone downhill quickly since he departed.

            I certainly hope it can get turned around. I’m certainly not getting my hopes up for this year, but it’s just one year. The Nolan Ryan/J.D. topic is just a fun one to discuss, no matter which side you are one.

            And when I say turned around, I’m meaning health-wise. The team would likely be much closer if they were healthy.

          • TexasBBTown

            Of course, another way of putting that first paragraph is that Nolan bought in right as the fruits of the rebuilding program were starting to show, and was forced out when he repeatedly interfered with the efforts made to keep the team in contention after it’s first serious World Series run was over.

            Also keep in mind that until and unless Daniels, Nolan or someone else involved speaks up, we don’t really know who was responsible for which moves and trades. It has been speculated that Ryan was primarily responsible for Berkman and Oswalt, but we don’t really know.

            However, considering the success of the rebuilding program and taking the good trades and acquisitions with the bad, I really don’t see how you can make the claim that Jon Daniels was “flailing” before Nolan Ryan arrived. Daniels and Ryan have both stated that the biggest problem is that their respective roles relative to each other were never clearly defined by Tom Hicks, and attempts to to clarify responsibilities under Simpson and Davis resulted in Ryan behind stripped of decision-making power.

            You may be right that marginalizing Ryan’s position was the worst mistake that could be made. But we *don’t actually* know what Ryan did, and we don’t know for sure what Daniels did or didn’t do in relation to Nolan. Every now and then we get a little tidbit of info concerning who pushed which trades, and who opposed which ideas. It will probably be decades before we know for sure why Simpson and Davis thought it best to push Ryan out, but I personally am pretty secure in my belief that it wouldn’t have been done without a pretty good reason.

          • CJ Berryman

            You are correct in everything you say except the “flailing” part on J.D. He was flailing because he and the rest of the organization was talking up and clutching to DVD — Danks, Volquez and Diamond — in the minors, but they failed in continuing to scout. The massive international signings didn’t really start until Nolan got here. That’s the whole point of the article and my argument: None of that growth began until 2008. None of it.

          • TexasBBTown

            The Rangers rebuilding program, including several significant trades for younger players, began between the 2006 and 2007 seasons, as did more aggressive signings in Latin America (e.g. Martin Perez). Ryan became team president in 2008, and by his own words if I remember correctly didn’t act as president until 2009, when he spent a lot of the year working on buying the team.

          • CJ Berryman

            Those trades between 2006 and 2007 you speak of, Texas BBTown, which ones were they exactly?

          • TexasBBTown

            Trades specifically between the 2006 and 2007 seasons? None. My point was that the rebuilding program, which included trades for and the scouting and acquisition of young players began before the 2007 season. Not every trade or signing happened then, but I think what did happen reinforces the idea that the Rangers were rebuilding.

      • Lee Stitzel

        We are supposed to be educated baseball fans here. The Texas Rangers golden era has occurred under JD. Yes Ryan deserves credit but he was a figure head. JD and Levine built this team. This mini-dynasty is JD’s baby. Nolan is a proud uncle at best. JD hasn’t done anything wrong here. Freakish injuries are to blame.

      • TexasBBTown

        Correlation does not equal causation is not only the fundamental counter-argument to over-reaction, it happens to be absolutely true. The Rangers are playing poorly right now, and Daniels is 100% in charge and responsible. However, there is no accuracy or even relevance to the claim that because Nolan Ryan was removed from direct oversight last year and essentially fired this year, he *must* have done everything that was good and right. If the Rangers finish out this year badly the owners will have to decide if bad acquisitions and trades and poorly-timed call-ups were indeed responsible, but there is no logical foundation to ascribing any number of wins per year to having a legendary figurehead in the front office.

        • CJ Berryman

          Thus, the fun of calling it a curse. It’s a fun topic to discuss and one that breeds a whole, whole bunch of opinions.

  • NoStinkingBadges

    I am more on the line of the Kinsler’s Kurse. Since he gave us the last whammy.

    • CJ Berryman

      I won’t lie — I thought the trade would work out evenly for both teams.

  • whyme4

    As a life long A’s fan all I can say is “Great move Rangers!”