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.