Nolan Ryan's Premium Meat

One thing I learned from the just-concluded media conference introducing Nolan Ryan as the Texas Rangers' new president: The Hall of Fame pitcher has "premium meat." That's what owner Tom Hicks said when asked how the hiring of Ryan would directly translate into wins -- Ryan's a winner, a good businessman, and, dang it, his meat is premium. Dunno about all that -- but it is Guaranteed Tender. A guaranteed winner? Dunno -- though Hicks says he expects a World Series here before the sun goes cold, some time around ... 2011? That can't be right.

But on a more serious note, what precisely will Ryan's role with the Rangers be, besides, like, "president"? Will he be a ceremonial leader who hands out squirrel meat to the kids or a hands-on decision-maker who'll tell tater-tot general manager Jon Daniels who to go and gits right pronto? Said Hicks moments ago out in Arlington: "Nolan's president -- he'll be overseeing all aspects of the club. This isn't the United States Army. Theres not a chain of command like that. We're much more collegial. The general manager's held accountable, it's his final recommendation," along with the owner's input. "But," Hicks insisted, "how you get there's very much a group decision."

With the 30-year-old Daniels and 61-year-old Ryan, Hicks said, he has "the best of both worlds. You've got everything doing well now, and add the wisdom uniquely possessed by a winner like Nolan." And what did Ryan have to say?

Ryan said he's got a difficult task ahead of him -- learning a job he's never before held. Sure, he can throw real fast, but despite his minor-league bidness experience, he's never had any experience in a major league front office -- and, no, having a personal-services goodwill contract with the Rangers and Houston Astros doesn't count.

"It's gonna be a learning curve for me," said Ryan, who will be moving back to the area -- at least, on a part-time basis. "I don't have a game plan on what I'm going to do except learn the organization, from the player development staff to the big-league team to the front office. [I am going to] get my arms around the organization see how we can be better." He'll begin almost immediately: Ryan says he'll be at spring training in Surprise, Arizona, which begins in approximately eight days and 21 hours, when pitchers and catchers have to report.

Contrary to some rumors, Ryan isn't getting a piece of the team -- not yet, anyhow. When asked if he had a piece of the ownership, Ryan said only, "Uh, no, as it stands right now I don't have any ownership in it. Tom is putting his organization together worldwide, and I don't think at this time he's in a position to do that." At this time. Doesn't mean "no," just "not now."

But will he have any total control over both the baseball and business operations? Sounds doubtful for the time being, as Ryan expressed concerns over the "challenging time" that lies ahead surrounding the building of the Glorypark project around the ballpark. From the sound of it, the guy wants to learn one job at a time -- and getting a winning team on the field is more his expertise than dealing with highway infrastructure and construction costs.

"it's gonna come down to me having a better understanding of where we are, and with all the things that ate going on around the stadium here, it's going to be challenging," he said. "And I think it's going to require everybody's resources to meet these challenges. With all the construction and the new roads coming in and us playing several seasons while that's going on, I think it's going to be an exciting time and also a very challenging time. Not holding this position before, it's hard for me to predict what impact I might have on the baseball business aspect of it. I think I probably -- obviously -- have a better feel for the playing end of it."

Now, if only he could suit up ... --Robert Wilonsky