Making sense of Nolan Ryan's silence
March, 12, 2013
By Buster Olney | ESPN Insider
AP Photo/LM OteroNolan Ryan is apparently upset about the Rangers' front office changes, but he hasn't explained why.The Texas Rangers put out a statement on behalf of Nolan Ryan the other day, words issued to say that words had been issued, to address the impasse that has developed between the club's owners and Ryan over the last two weeks.
"Over the last week, Ray Davis, Bob Simpson and I have been in discussion and met in person," Ryan said [in the statement]. "The conversations have been productive and we have discussed my role as CEO of the organization. We agreed these discussions will continue as we go forward.
"I am very proud of what the Rangers have accomplished over the last several years and I believe our preparations for the upcoming season are what is important."
It was really a "no comment" drawn up as a comment. The baseball world is watching this situation with some fascination, because Nolan Ryan is who he is -- a Hall of Fame pitcher whose participation in the ownership drive for Ray Davis and Bob Simpson was pivotal. And because Rangers GM Jon Daniels is regarded as one of the best at what he does, at the top of a front office that is viewed as being one of the most progressive and aggressive.
Until Ryan speaks and answers questions, none of us will know for sure what is at the root of the conflict. Rival officials have been hearing rumblings for many weeks. But there is a lot of current speculation -- which may be right -- that Ryan is not comfortable with the new title recently given to Daniels, president of baseball operations, which conveys an autonomy that wasn't necessarily there before. Under the prior titles, Daniels theoretically answered to Ryan, who answered to the owners, in a chain of command. With the new titles, Ryan may or may not be out of the loop; we're not sure, because Ryan isn't talking and the others are being careful to describe the current chain of command out of respect for Ryan because, well, he's Nolan Ryan.
The part I don't quite understand is: What does Ryan want?
I don't think he wants to run the day-to-day baseball operations. It's no secret that the heavy lifting has been done by Daniels and his staff, in the shaping of options, external and internal.
Maybe he wants ultimate veto power -- the ability to reject a proposed deal brought to him by Daniels. If so, this seems a little odd, because there's very little evidence that Ryan has done this sort of thing in the past. Yes, he probably wanted to try Roy Oswalt more than a lot of the other folks in the baseball operations last season, and he may be an advocate for coach Jackie Moore. But it's not as if he has constantly cut off Daniels and crushed his work. It's not as if he thinks Daniels is overmatched. Heck, it was Daniels and his staff who made the extraordinary Mark Teixeira trade, built a superlative farm system, and then pushed for Yu Darvish, who appears to be a good signing. Under the stewardship of Daniels and Ryan, the Rangers have been one of baseball's most successful organization's in recent seasons.
Does Ryan want the power to step in, even though he never steps in?
This almost seems like a power struggle from the Kennedy White House. Vice President Lyndon Johnson preferred that the chain of command go through him -- and he resented that JFK and his brother (then the attorney general) conferred constantly, essentially setting policy. Johnson seemingly wanted the symbolism maintained, in spite of the reality.
Ryan is the CEO of the Rangers, and nobody is going to make him go away; he's bigger than Daniels or Davis or Simpson. Only Nolan Ryan is big enough to take out Nolan Ryan in Texas.
The ongoing conversations must be incredibly awkward. Ryan is a smart guy and he's been a star for decades, and he knows when he's being pandered to, and I can't imagine the Rangers' owners doing anything but pandering, short of resetting the title conveyed to Daniels. I can't imagine Ryan demanding that Daniels be demoted.
Maybe Ryan just wants to be told he'll have an important voice at the table when baseball decisions are made. If so, then the Texas-sized drama of this far outweighs the substance of the conflict. This is Day 12, and counting.
Nolan Ryan may still walk away, writes Randy Galloway. You can't mess with a Texas legend, writes Mac Engel.
Gerry Fraley blames ownership for this situation.
Jean-Jacques Taylor says Ryan is still searching for his role.
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"I thought he looked great for five innings, his fastball at 94-97 mph, with a ridiculous changeup 89-91 and hammer curveball 78-81 mph. He tired in the sixth and got hurt by an error that wasn't called an error and some walks, but he was the best pitcher I have seen this spring. His final pitching line didn't look superb (5 1/3 innings, four hits, four runs, two walks) -- and I am still not sure why he was pitching the sixth inning this early in the spring -- but he was really good."