It’s good to be Jon Daniels these days.
Seemingly, he now has all the power.
But in adding another chapter to Arlington’s “The Young [Jon] and the Restless [Nolan],” Daniels could actually have had more. Much more.
When the shift of power at the Ballpark started in November, sources say Texas Rangers ownership originally offered the club’s entire combo platter to the 36-year-old Daniels. Instead of general manager, he could have become Generalissimo.
Ownership, meaning Bob Simpson and Ray Davis, wanted Daniels to become the CEO in charge of both baseball and business. Isn’t that what Nolan Ryan once was around here?
Daniels, however, wanted to stay strictly with the baseball side, and declined the business-side promotion, which led to his new title of president of baseball operations/GM.
Rick George, an original Chuck Greenberg hire, and already in the front office, was given the title of president of business operations.
Nolan retained the now shaky title of CEO.
I asked Daniels about this on Tuesday night. From spring training in Arizona, he politely declined to make a comment.
But the man is obviously blessed with immense boss love, and there’s not a working stiff out there who doesn’t crave immense boss love. So far, I haven’t heard that Bob and Ray have offered Jon his own center-field statue, alongside Nolan and Mr. Vandergriff, or that Ballpark Way will have a name change to Daniels Drive, but stay tuned. Anything is possible.
Meanwhile, damage control in Arlington is in full spin.
From the corporate side, you can float these changes by the media, and some in the media are now in full support of the moves, but you can never slide it by 90 percent of the club’s large fandom.
Any perception that Ryan has been wronged will be met with fan hostility, and the backlash is now hitting home. This backlash worries the heck out of everyone involved, including Daniels, who really did nothing wrong here, at least as far his promotion goes. Jon didn’t promote himself.
Nolan could save all butts by saying, “all is well,” but it’s now day six since the strange press release about the club corporate moves was announced out of Surprise last Friday. The only public comment Nolan has had was giving me a “no comment” when asked about the press release Friday night.
As has been reported, sources close to Ryan say he’s contemplating a decision that could have him leaving the Rangers by the end of spring training this month. Some of those sources think he will leave, but until Nolan answers one way or the other, it’s a guessing game.
For this morning, however, let’s play the local spin game. And the following is fun and games:
• I’ve had two conversations this week with Mr. Simpson, one with Daniels and also heard Daniels in a long, live radio interview Tuesday on the local ESPN airways.
The constant theme in all these conversations was: “Nothing Has changed. Please believe us. Nothing has changed.”
In other words, Nolan is still going to be Nolan. No demotion, no loss of power, no nothing. Everything is hunky.
OK. But why then has Ryan, one of the most accessible-to-the-media jockdom executives in the United States of America, suddenly stopped taking phone calls for six days?
Buying the “Nothing Has Changed” theme, one local writer on Wednesday detailed a long and wonderful working relationship between Ryan and Daniels, and explained how all baseball moves are done because of a cozy coming-to-a-consensus format.
Bad blood has been spilled at the ballpark for years. There are two camps: Nolan’s camp and Daniels’ camp. The bad blood on baseball decisions is probably more intense within those camps as opposed to Nolan vs. Daniels, but that tainted blood is there, period.
There is absolutely nothing cozy about the relationship.
But I’ve liked it that way. Ryan and Daniels hammer it out, eventually get things done for the most part and the team’s success over the last four years shows us it’s been a good, although interesting, way of doing business.
This way was working. Why in the name of common sense do the owners want to change it?
The Daniels people also deeply resent the fact that Nolan receives ample credit for the team’s success. Of course, Nolan has openly said, “I get too much credit.” Simpson told me Monday that Nolan tells the owners, “I get too much credit.”
But it’s been a heavy sticking point for some of Daniels’ assistants.
And if the relationship is so cozy, why did a writer for the same newspaper say the latest corporate moves came down to “this was not a Ryan power play as much as his seeking clarification whether the big baseball decisions belonged to him or to Daniels. And Daniels was declared the winner.”
The above is true. At some point in November there was a deep divide between Ryan and Daniels over the off-season direction of the club. (I’d love to know what that argument was about, but no one is talking.)
When no agreement could be reached, Ryan asked that question of Simpson and Davis. His title said he had the final say, but did he? A week or so later, at the end of November, there was an answer he didn’t want to hear.
And the silly comment — it’s in print — that Ryan, when he was in charge, has never “big-footed” Daniels is beyond comical. There’s more than one case, but Ryan stuck a big foot right through Daniels’ door when he — I said he — hired Jackie Moore as Ron Washington’s bench coach and Mike Maddux as the pitching coach.
I thought Ryan had gone beyond front-office protocol on that one, but that thought had nothing to do with Daniels. The bench coach is the manager’s No. 1 confidant. The pitching coach is the manager’s most important assistant. The view from here is the manager should be allowed to make those calls.
Washington had no relationship with either guy when they arrived. Five years later, there’s not a tighter threesome in all of baseball. There is manly love involved with those three and also a good track record on the field.
Bottom line: The bad blood has brought good results. But the blood is bad. And the irony is that to take his name off the PR backlash list, Jon Daniels is now praying that Nolan stays, and I don’t blame him.
• “Well, we love Nolan, yes we do, but Nolan really didn’t do all that much. Daniels has made all the moves; he’s been in charge of baseball. If Nolan goes, Daniels is the guy you didn’t want to lose anyway.”
The above is a media opinion you’ve read and heard.
Daniels himself is now saying, even to people who are writing that crap, that there’s not been one decision made that hasn’t come from or gone through Nolan. Daniels is saying Nolan has had a say, even a final say, in every decision. This is Daniels saying Nolan is heavily involved.
Plus, Jon is also telling us that Nolan, if he stays, will still have his same say, or even the final say, which appears to be a stretch, in every decision. But again, Jon wants Nolan here. He’s won a battle, but he will definitely lose the local PR war.
So really, are you going to believe Daniels, or some in the local media, about how much hands-on involvement Ryan has had?
• The Rangers’ off-season was awful. So now comes the scrambling to avoid blame. Let’s see, Nolan knew he was demoted in November, so is he off the hook?
But wait. Jon says he only knew about his promotion in the last week, although parameters were being discussed in November.
Ah, blame ’em both anyway. But the scrambling is funny.
• Daniels is currently the most blessed man in Arlington. But suddenly the most beloved in the Rangers’ family — by owners and even the Daniels’ camp — is, yes, Ryan.
Please stay, Nolan. Gawd knows, we’re sorry. But stay, and get these fans off our butts.