By Dic Humphrey
This past Friday evening, one of the two major Texas Rangers owners, Bob Simpson, dined with Nolan Ryan at Del Frisco’s in Fort Worth. They discussed Ryan’s role in the organization going forward. Simpson said afterward that the talks were positive and that he was optimistic that Ryan would be staying with the team. Ryan returned to the Rangers’ training camp in Surprise, Arizona on Saturday amid rumors that an announcement would be forthcoming shortly that would end the vigil, now well into the second week since the press release that announced that Jon Daniels was named the team’s President of Baseball Operations and that Ryan was the Chief Executive Officer only.
The anticipated announcement came Sunday afternoon, though it had far less import than anticipated. It essentially said that discussions were ongoing and moving in a positive direction. The entire statement was:
“Over the last week, Ray Davis, Bob Simpson and I have been in discussion and met in person. 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.”
While the suspense continues, it is apparent that Ryan ultimately wants to stay and that the team wants him to stay. It still amazes that the situation has morphed to this point. Certainly Daniels has done an outstanding job to mold the organization into a contending team at the Major League level with a healthy farm system. However, Ryan has been instrumental in the overall direction of the team. With two World Series appearances and the unmet expectations of 2012’s team, fans forget how badly the tandem of Daniels and manager Ron Washington floundered in the beginning, before Ryan joined the Rangers. Daniels authored some embarrassingly bad trades. His hand was forced to trade Alex Rodriguez, but Daniels chose Joaquin Arias over Robinson Cano (a three time All-Star and two time Gold Glove Award winner) from among a list of prospects the Yankees offered in return.
Chris Young and Adrian Gonzalez were sent to San Diego primarily for starting pitcher Adam Eaton. Young and Gonzalez made All-Star teams, while Eaton won seven games in his Ranger career. It was obvious that the Rangers needed to build a pitching presence from within. It’s difficult to trade for impact pitchers and top free agents weren’t interested in pitching half their games in the hitter friendly Rangers’ Ballpark in Arlington. Despite that glaring need, Daniels traded not only Young, but John Danks, Edinson Volquez and Francisco Cordero, all of whom except Danks have made All-Star teams since being traded.
On the field, it was obvious that the Rangers were in a re-building process that would involve developing young players. Daniels told fans that was his goal. His and Washington’s actions said otherwise. Daniels pursued veteran players such as Eaton, as well as Ben Broussard, Jason Jennings and Kris Benson. They apparently hoped they could catch lightning in a bottle with such players and suddenly become a playoff contender. In reality, all this did was retard the development of young players and delayed the return of the team to contention.
It was Ryan who turned the direction of the team. Once he arrived, players like Broussard were gone. Youngsters like Brandon Boggs, Nelson Cruz and Tommy Hunter got a chance. Not all worked out, but that’s the process. Get the kids up to the Majors and see who can play. Ryan also brought in coaches Mike Maddux (pitching) and Jackie Moore (bench). Suddenly, the pitching was better and Washington fields far fewer criticisms of his in-game management.
Both Ryan and Daniels have contributed significantly to making the Rangers an every-year contender, and from the fans perspective, there should be room for both of them to function in the organization. Derek Holland said Monday, “Losing Nolan Ryan would be a big mistake.” The results of Ryan and Daniels working in tandem have been marvelous so far. Hopefully, they will figure out how to function together going forward.
WBC UPDATE: The first round is in the books for Pools C and D. Advancing are The Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico in Pool C as expected. In Pool D, Italy in a surprise and the United States as anticipated advance to second round play in Miami. The U.S. team faced Canada in the final game of pool play last Sunday. The winner advanced to the second round while the loser was eliminated, and the Rangers’ Derek Holland was the starting pitcher in the all-important game for the US team, which the U. S. won 9-4 after blowing it open with a three-run ninth inning.
The second round of play for Pools C and D starts on Tuesday. Italy plays The Dominican Republic while Puerto Rico opens against the United States.
Round Two is a four-team, double-elimination format. In Round Two for the teams advancing from Pools A and B, Chinese Taipei lost their first two games to be the first team eliminated. Cuba was eliminated as they beat Chinese Taipei, but lost twice to The Netherlands. The Netherlands and Japan advance to the finals.
The impact of the WBC results on the Rangers has Elvis Andrus returning to training camp after Venezuela was eliminated. Adrian Beltre considered joining the Dominican team in the second round, after being scratched from the first round with a strained calf, but has decided to stay with the Rangers. Jurickson Profar is re-thinking his position and may leave camp to join The Netherlands in the finals.