So What If Nolan Leaves?

I’m going to assume that all the reports and sources and rumors have some measure of truth to them. Jon Daniels and Rick George got promoted, and Nolan Ryan feels squeezed. That’s understandable; that’s human. After all he is no longer the president and CEO. Now, reportedly he is just the CEO, without the final say in the baseball or business operations, which I suppose makes him something like a CEO Emeritus. His name is still attached to the organization, but his influence carries much more weight outside of it than in it. It is being reported that he isn’t ready to take that role reduction, and may step away from the franchise. So what? 
Almost every piece of reporting done on this fiasco has focused on how valuable Nolan Ryan is to the Texas Rangers franchise.

He brought credibility to the Rangers when he joined the organization, at a time when they needed it badly. True. But now the Rangers have credibility apart from Nolan, too.

Ryan helped woo Joe Nathan, had an impact on Yu Darvish’s excitement to sign with the Rangers, and is immensely respected by every player in Major League Baseball. True. But the Rangers also gave Joe Nathan a hefty contract after major surgery and the worst year of his career to join a contending team, outbid every other MLB team for exclusive negotiating rights with Darvish, and the players don’t need to have Nolan around as a security blanket in order to do their jobs.

I am not saying Nolan has had no impact on this franchise as its leader. Quite the opposite, his impact has been expansive. But if Ryan chooses to reject this next phase of his career and life, and leaves the Rangers before the season starts, or after its end, I don’t think the Rangers will miss a beat.

Strip out the emotion of Nolan Ryan stepping down from the Rangers, or accepting a reduced role. This is a business decision.

Ray Davis and Bob Simpson have chosen to split the decision authority for the baseball and business side of the house. I like specialization. They have also chosen to appoint the ambitious and focused Daniels and George to lead the way. Ryan is still very capable, but he also has multiple business interests that require his attention, his health is becoming more of a concern, and is at his core a ballplayer, not a business executive.

Beyond just the impact to Ryan, Daniels, and George, there is a chain reaction to these moves as well. It’s not a secret that this opens the door for Daniels to one day drop the “GM” from his title, and pass that along to Thad Levine, or AJ Preller. When it comes to player acquisitions and development, Levine and Preller have had a far greater (though less public) impact than Nolan Ryan. They are on the path to a GM job one day very soon, and it is a win for the Rangers if they assume that title with this organization, instead of in Seattle.

Nolan Ryan shifted the organization’s focus around pitching. His philosophy on pitching has become a part of the standard mode of operations in Texas. That won’t go away if Nolan does, and perhaps that is the biggest credit to Nolan Ryan’s name – his legacy will endure in Texas longer than he will.

There is still absolutely a place for Ryan to be a part of the Texas Rangers going forward. Yes, he’ll have to accept that there will be some changes to how business gets done. However, I get the feeling that when Nolan Ryan is in the conference room, his presence is felt and his voice will be heard, regardless of who has the final say in the decision. I still want that. But if the choice is between letting Daniels/George take over and keeping Levine and Preller around a little longer versus Nolan sticking behind the helm, I’ll choose the former.

It would be a shame if Ryan decided he doesn’t want to stick on with the Rangers in this new regime. Everyone, including myself, badly wants him to be a part of the organization. If he were to leave, it would mean that his and other’s personal interests were put above the greater good. By all appearances, Daniels wants to continue to work with and for Nolan. It’s Nolan’s choice if he wants to keep working with Daniels. I wonder if there is an underlying message here for Ron Washington, too, but that is for another day.

I am not unappreciative of Nolan Ryan. I respect him, admire him, and love what he has done for Texas as a player and as an owner, president and CEO. He has been and is extremely valuable. He’s just not invaluable.

The Rangers are bigger than any one man, and that includes Jon Daniels. This is a move that is a step forward, not a step back. An ever-changing MLB landscape requires an ever-changing approach. Placing Daniels and George in as co-presidents is a link on a necessary evolutionary process. The ideal outcome would be that Nolan will stay on. He should still be an employee of the Texas Rangers when they win their first World Series championship, whenever that will be. With or without Nolan, however, this most recent move should only put the Rangers closer to that ultimate prize.

Peter Ellwood is a Senior Staff Writer for Shutdown Inning. You can email him at or reach him on Twitter @FutureGM

Peter Ellwood

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