By Dic Humphrey
It’s now been a week since the Texas Rangers announced new job titles for Jon Daniels and Rick George in a press release that ignited speculation that Nolan Ryan could soon be leaving the Rangers. There have been rampant rumors over the causes of the discord between Ryan and Daniels, but a few facts have surfaced. Reliable sources have the initial cause of the problem last fall being the hiring of Tim Purpura by Ryan. Purpura is a great addition to the Rangers and is well respected in baseball. He was General Manager of the Astros when the team went to the World Series. The position he assumed blocked the promotion of Daniels’ people, and Daniels sought clarification of their roles. There are also reports of conflict in the handling of the negotiations with Josh Hamilton. The two majority owners decided to accommodate Daniels, and Ryan has apparently lost out in his authority within the organization, causing him to re-think whether he wants to continue as part of the management team.
As this week progressed, the optimism has grown that Ryan will in fact stay with the Rangers. Logically, Ryan is making a lot of money in his managerial position with the team and enhancing the value of his ownership position as he contributes to the success of the Rangers. Houston seems like a likely alternative, and for sure, his hiring would be a coup for new owner Jim Crane; but realistically, the Astros are not a good fit. Houston has a new General Manager – Jeff Luhnow – who is essentially a clone of Daniels in his approach to putting together a team. Ryan would be faced with many of the same issues in Houston as he has with Texas, and the Astros are in such poor overall shape – from the Major League team on down through the minor league system – that it will be years before they become competitive again; especially with their move to the American League West, one of the best divisions in baseball.
Daniels has taken to the radio airwaves this week for damage control purposes. He has appeared on at least three sports talk stations telling everyone that essentially nothing has changed with Nolan’s relationship within the organization, and that he wants Ryan to be involved. “I report to Nolan Ryan,” he has stated more than once. Daniels is in a precarious position. He is getting the blame for pushing Ryan out the door if that ultimately happens, and it may not be his fault. Ownership, particularly the two majority owners Bob Simpson and Ray Davis, have handled the situation poorly and really created this upheaval. Ryan is such a fan favorite that the backlash if he does leave the team could actually end up chasing Daniels out of town, too. That’s a stretch, perhaps, but a possibility.
As Daniels and ownership continue to say they want Ryan involved, Ryan continues to not speak with the media at all. Apparently, he is contemplating his options. Surely the drama will come to a close soon.
WBC UPDATE: The first round of the World Baseball Classic is in the books for Pools A & B. The four teams that advance to the second round are Japan, The Netherlands, Cuba, and Chinese Taipei. Their second round games commence this weekend in Tokyo and run through March 12. The surprise team among the four is The Netherlands, which upset Korea 5-0 in their first game to set the stage for advancement. Korea was the most experienced team in the pool and was the surprise loser.
Pools C & D also open play this weekend; Pool C in San Juan, Puerto Rico and Pool D in Phoenix. The U. S. team will play Mexico Friday, Italy Saturday and Canada on Sunday. Second round games for Pools C & D will be in Miami’s Marlins Park beginning March 12.
RANGERS’ ROTATION: Yu Darvish had another astounding outing in his second spring appearance. He went three innings this time, and still has not surrendered a hit in either game. The Rangers are also feeling better about the back end of the rotation as Robbie Ross went four innings on Wednesday, allowing four hits and a run, with one of the hits being a home run to account for the score. Alexi Ogando then followed with three strong innings in which he struck out six batters for his first good outing of the year.
With Martin Perez out for two months, Ross appears to be the definite front runner for the fifth starter position. There have been rumors that the Rangers checked into Detroit’s Rick Porcello for the fifth starter spot, but the team most definitely prefers to find the solution internally. Porcello would represent a payroll increase and, of course, would require giving up talent in a trade. His career took a turn for the worse last season, and he may not be an upgrade from the internal candidates in any event.
Also, the reports on Colby Lewis’s rehabilitation from arm surgery continue to be good. It is now considered a possibility that he could be available to join the rotation in early May. If that comes true, and with off days in the April schedule, it is possible that the fifth starter coming out of Spring Training will be needed for as few as three starts.
Meanwhile, Kyle Lohse still remains unsigned with no strong rumors of any team being interested. With Spring Training well under way, he has to be questioning the strategy of his agent Scott Boras in not getting him signed yet. The Rangers are still showing no interest in pursuing Lohse, whose signing would cause the Rangers to lose their first round draft pick and the associated slot money that goes with it for the team’s signing bonus allocation for top picks in the June draft. A report this week now indicates the Rangers are definitely out on Lohse after earlier reporting that the team was monitoring the situation with Boras.
- Texas signed veteran right-handed pitcher Derek Lowe to a minor league contract this week. If he makes the team, he will be paid $1.25 million plus unspecified incentives. He is expected to contend for a position in the Rangers’ bullpen, though he has mainly been a starting pitcher in his career, which includes 377 starts and 295 relief appearances over 16 seasons