OK, maybe it means nothing, but suspicious minds were at work here Friday.
Nolan Ryan could possibly be on his way out the door in Arlington, and he would probably be the one opening that door.
Remember, I said possibly and probably. One other thing to remember: It would not be an imminent departure, although it could happen at some point this season.
Texas Rangers ownership — and that means Bob Simpson of Fort Worth and Ray Davis of Dallas — has been praised in this space many times for a lot of valid reasons, but mainly the butt pats came down to this: They stay out of the way.
They also spend money on the baseball team when asked. Over a turbulent winter not much money was spent because ownership wasn’t asked.
More than anything, the ownership group allows Ryan and general manager Jon Daniels to do their jobs.
So, why the suspicious minds at work on Friday?
Rangers ownership is having its annual spring training meetings this weekend down the road in Scottsdale. In the late afternoon, the owners announced with a media release that top-level club management promotions had been made by the owners.
Daniels’ new title is president of baseball operations/GM. Rick George, who had been chief operations officer, will be the president of business operations.
And Ryan? He remains as CEO and, in theory, Daniels and George will continue to report to him.
The media release was highlighted with golden comments about Ryan from Simpson and Davis. Nolan himself was quoted in the release showering heavy praise on Daniels and George.
But when I asked Nolan for a comment, he said he didn’t have a comment at this time.
Ownership is giving Daniels and George more power. With the new titles, can Daniels and George now go beyond Ryan and directly to Simpson and Davis?
Ryan had a very quiet winter, despite it being a turbulent winter for baseball moves, or actually lack of moves. Even players’ agents negotiating with the Rangers were privately asking why Ryan wasn’t more involved.
Ryan and Daniels have always had an interesting relationship, one being old-school baseball and the other new school. When disagreements happened, the diverse styles of both have seemingly worked to the club’s advantage.
For the most part, Ryan has allowed Daniels to be the general manager, and take the lead in baseball matters. There have been exceptions, the most notable when Ryan brought in Mike Maddux as pitching coach and Jackie Moore as dugout coach to work with manager Ron Washington, who didn’t have a relationship with either.
Since then, both Moore and Maddux have become Washington’s trusted advisers. The manager also has a strong ally in Ryan, although Ron was Daniels’ hire before Ryan was hired by former owner Tom Hicks.
But this latest move can certainly be perceived as ownership pushing it with Ryan. If that’s the case, ownership would also be pushing it with a vast majority of the club’s massive fan base, a fan base that regards Ryan as a Texas icon who helped transform a rather docile franchise into a viable force that has averaged 93 regular-season wins over the past three seasons.
There were rumblings over the winter that Ryan was considering retirement, and at least one player’s agent has been telling other people in baseball he believed Ryan was leaving the Rangers. It’s unknown if Friday’s announcement ties in with those winter rumblings.
The new titles for Daniels and George certainly cements their long-term status with the club. The same can’t necessarily be said for Ryan.
It would be hard to believe Simpson and Davis, with their roots in DFW, would not understand the impact with fans of Ryan leaving, particularly if a power play is involved in any way.
It would be a huge ownership blunder to have the departure, if it happens, to come down to a power play.
Ownership has been a strength of the Rangers since the ouster of Tom Hicks, and because of the stay-out-of-it approach of the owners, the Rangers enjoy a huge perception advantage in the local market over the Cowboys and the Mavericks.
Jerry Jones and Mark Cuban are not just hands-on, they are stranglehold owners.
Regardless, there were indications here Friday that Nolan Ryan could possibly be out the Rangers’ door, and if he does leave, it won’t be because he was forced out but because ownership has eroded his position within the team.
If this happens, it’s a guarantee that an erosion of fan-base trust in Rangers ownership would follow immediately.