Nolan Ryan Leaving the Rangers: At Least We Have a Reason to Talk Baseball in October
Well, looks like we get another fun off-season in Arlington! Yay!
Nolan Ryan has resigned/retired from the Rangers effective October 31, and everyone has their thoughts on why this happened and what it means. I am one of those people.
Why did it happen? One, some, all, or none of these reasons:
- Ryan felt he'd become just a figurehead as his power slowly got stripped away with the advancement of General Manager/President of Baseball Operations Jon Daniels.
- He was pissed off that his longtime buddy, now former bench coach Jackie Moore, was fired.
- He was pissed off that his longtime buddy, Tim Purpura, was reassigned from farm director to the business side of the organization.
- Ryan was just ready to retire and spend time on his ranch with his family, occasionally selling mediocre meat.
- He and Randy Galloway had a career suicide pact. (This is the most unlikely.)
- Some other reason(s) we don't know about because all of the dirty laundry hasn't been aired yet.
It's tough to put into words just how big a deal Ryan is to Rangers fans. We admired him as a pitcher, one of the best of all time. We admired him as a member of the front office who helped bring credibility to an organization desperately in need of it. We admired him as, well, Nolan FREAKING Ryan. He's a huge part of the history of this franchise, despite only pitching here for five years and being a member of the front office for about the same amount of time.
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But as the organization got more of that credibility thanks to Ryan's presence, Jon Daniels and the rest of the front office were the people actually building that credibility through trades, signings (most notably internationally, a previously barren market for the team) and drafts.
Ryan helped the pitchers build strength and learn the craft, but he wasn't the only one. When you have two Maddux brothers on staff, there's a lot of pitching knowledge to tap into.
By many accounts, Ryan's biggest contribution as CEO likely was on the off-the-field side of things. He expanded announcer Chuck Morgan's role, made sure to listen to any suggestions from employees to improve the fans' experience and just looked into any possible way to make the Ballpark the best possible setting for a baseball game.
It's unfortunate Ryan is leaving, but it's not the end of the world. Daniels isn't perfect and very well could miss the buffer Ryan provided, but J.D. has a track record and will only keep learning. This move could also help in keeping Thad Levine and A.J. Preller around longer as other teams continually try to poach these well-regarded baseball minds.
Ryan's departure, to some, could signal that in the "baseball lifer versus nerdy stat guy" battle, the nerdy stat guys won. That's just silly. Daniels and his staff use advanced stats, sure, but they have fortified the scouting department as they realized how important it is. For any team to win, all information must be reviewed, not just stats and not just the "human element." In my last article, I discussed manager Ron Washington's use of the "gut." Wash has forgotten more baseball than I'll ever know, but I believe he's hamstringing himself by not using all the information available. This is where Jackie Moore failed Wash.
Wash doesn't need a "yes man," nor does he need someone disagreeing with his every move. He needs someone who will provide him all the information available to make the move that will provide the likeliest success. The players tasked with these moves are human and success is never guaranteed. But Ian Kinsler sac bunting Alex Rios to second is a bad move when you not only give up an out, but then give the opposing pitcher the option to intentionally walk Adrian Beltre. Those are the moves that Wash needs someone to help him think through.
Sorry for the Wash rant. This is about Ryan. My point is that while this is unfortunate and likely could have been avoided, this shouldn't mean the end for the Texas Rangers as a competitive team. Ryan hasn't contributed anything on the field in 20 years. If the players on the field kick ass, the fans will come. Ryan's contributions to the team will never be forgotten, but his departure isn't the end of the world.