By Cliff Corcoran
Nolan Ryan’s influence on the Texas Rangers has been drastically reduced and could result in his leaving the team altogether before Opening Day, reports Randy Galloway of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Per Galloway, the promotions for general manager Jon Daniels and chief operating officer Rick George, which were announced on Friday and sounded like mere title changes, were actually enacted in November and designed to siphon power away from Ryan, who retains his chief executive officer title but little of the power associated with it. Daniels is now also the president of baseball operations and George becomes president of business operations, and, per Galloway, each will now have final say over all decisions pertaining to baseball and business, respectively.
Galloway quotes co-owner Bob Simpson protesting the idea that Ryan, who has three years left on his contract, is being pushed aside, but Simpson did concede that “we wanted to remove some of the day-to-day stuff from Nolan,” leaving Ryan the “significant decisions” which he can then “bring . . . to the owners for approval.” Exactly what might constitute a “significant decision” once all baseball and business decisions are eliminated, Simpson didn’t say.
Ryan has not commented on the situation and did not return Galloway’s phone calls on Sunday.
Any move that could be seen as pushing Ryan away (and perhaps into the waiting arms of the Astros, who, Galloway points out, could use Ryan’s credibility and inspirational presence) would be an unpopular one in the Metroplex, but it's hard to object to the Rangers’ new power dynamic, if it even is all that new (Galloway concedes that “Ryan’s management style has basically been to allow his GM to do the GM work”). I can’t comment much on the business side of things, but since recovering from the early disasters that shipped Alfonso Soriano, Adrian Gonzalez and John Danks out of Texas, Daniels has proven himself one of the best general managers in baseball.
When Daniels took over as GM in October 2005, the Rangers had managed just one winning season in the last six but it took Daniels just three years to turn them into a perennial contender. Not only did the Rangers win consecutive American League pennants under Daniels, the first in their history, but they did so while maintaining what remains one of the strongest farm systems in baseball. The only players on the Rangers’ current 40-man roster who weren’t acquired under Daniels are Ian Kinsler, whom Daniels signed to an extension last year, and lefty reliever Michael Kirkman. Meanwhile, the since-departed players that Daniels brought to Texas include Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli, Cliff Lee and the prospect that landed Lee, Justin Smoak. F rom a baseball perspective, any move that increases Daniels’ authority and autonomy with regard to player personnel decisions would seem to be a positive one for the Rangers as it's Daniels, not Ryan, who is the most valuable member of their front office.