Few sports figures, whether they are players, managers, coaches or general managers, get to exit the stage on their own terms. Rarer still are the figures that actually deserve to leave on their own terms.
Nolan Ryan most assuredly has earned the right to determine his own exit. Yet that may not be what’s happening within the Texas Rangers organization right now.
The much-buzzed about promotions of Jon Daniels to president of baseball operations/general manager, and Rick George to president of business operations, have everyone in the Dallas area wondering if Ryan is on his way out.
If the organization is trying to squeeze out Ryan, it should be prepared for a public relations backlash on a level the Rangers have never seen.
Fort Worth Star-Telegram columnist Randy Galloway lit the match on Monday. His column cited sources who believed Ryan might leave the organization by the end of March due to the shakeup (which reportedly happened in November but wasn’t announced until Friday).
It didn’t take long for that match to ignite a forest fire of speculation that fell into two categories.
On one side, there were the talk radio hosts that quickly latched onto Galloway’s column and speculated it might be a power play — or at least a power squeeze. On the other were those that didn’t see as much hubbub, such as the Dallas Morning News’ Evan Grant, who wrote on Monday that he had two sources that said Ryan would likely stay through at least 2013.
No one really knows what lies in Ryan’s heart at the moment. He’s not talking. For Ryan, that’s not altogether unusual.
This could all be much ado about nothing. The structure of every team changes from time to time. Five years ago, I couldn’t see Daniels as a team president. Now, I could. If you’re a good organization, you reward that with a promotion.
Remember, Ryan is still the CEO after all; Daniels, theoretically, still reports to him. Daniels said as much on Monday. In fact, Ryan’s managerial style — pragmatic and firm —played a role in Daniels’ growth as a general manager.
But if this is the organization trying to squeeze out Ryan, they should be prepared for the consequences, namely a public relations backlash on a level the Rangers have never seen. Saying Ryan is beloved in Texas is a gross understatement. Pity the poor fool who runs against Ryan in a gubernatorial race, if Ryan ever had a desire to enter politics.
Everything the 66-year-old has ever touched has been successful, whether it’s baseball or business. When he joined the Rangers in 2008, the organization needed leadership, and Ryan provided it in everything from baseball operations to business operations. Long story short, the team thrived.
It would be an overreach to say Ryan single-handedly saved the organization. But his credibility and leadership acumen allowed the Rangers to accelerate their resurrection from its post-Alex Rodriguez haze to back-to-back World Series appearances.
If you do squeeze out Ryan, you do so at your own peril. Fans will be unhappy. The organization will lose the goodwill it has built the past several years. Daniels, George and even co-chairmen Ray Davis and Bob Simpson will look like the bad guys.
Ryan will come out smelling like a rose, no matter what. That’s just how it will be.
I’m not saying that’s what happening. No one knows for sure. But if this reorganization does lead to Ryan’s departure, one thing is certain: It better be worth it.