For the first time in a week, Bob Simpson sounded upbeat and positive Friday night in his ongoing attempt to assure Nolan Ryan was remaining long-term with the Texas Rangers.
Ryan and Simpson, the co-chairman of the Rangers ownership group, were having dinner at Del Frisco’s in downtown Fort Worth when Simpson returned a phone call.
Asked about what had been a lengthy meeting with Ryan, Simpson said, “its been positive. We are working through it, and so far the results are positive. I wouldn’t say it’s been resolved, but hopefully we can get there.”
This is the first step in the last week toward a possible breakthrough after Ryan had serious reservations about his redefined role with the team, which reportedly left general manager Jon Daniels in a final-say position on all baseball issues.
Ryan was on an airplane that left Arizona at some point Friday, and while his return to the Rangers’ spring training complex in Surprise was not confirmed, he remained in Fort Worth on Friday night for continued discussions with Simpson.
Based on conversations with at least one member of the team’s ownership group, Ryan had had no contact with either Simpson or Davis in almost a week, despite attempts by both to reach him.
What prompted Ryan’s return to Texas for a meeting remained uncertain, but speculation obviously centered on a final attempt by both sides to reach an agreement or at least a truce in this dispute.
On Thursday night, one source said if there’s anyone who could reach an agreement with Ryan, it would be Simpson, the Fort Worth resident who is considered Ryan’s No. 1 ally in the ownership group.
Obviously, Simpson was finally able to make contact with Ryan, although I talked to him early Thursday night and he didn’t indicate any contact had happened at that time.
Another thing that maybe pushed along the face-to-face discussions on Friday was a report that Ryan would have a decision on staying with the team by next week.
The original timetable a week ago was for Nolan to decide if he will stay or go by the end of the month, or at least the first weekend of the regular season.
But because of the turmoil swirling around the team concerning Ryan’s possible departure, he apparently decided to move up the decision.
As of Saturday, it will be Day Nine without a public comment from Ryan on any of this, but dinner with Simpson at Del Frisco’s on Friday night was a positive development.
And how these two work through the issues could be another adventure. On local ESPN radio this week, Daniels was asked the question about who has the final say on baseball issues, him or Ryan. His answer: “Essentially, I do. But Nolan has some veto power, I think.”
What had resulted, however, was an immense disconnect with Ryan and the owners that surfaced in the last week. Simpson had said earlier this week the disconnect has been a major regret for him.
But at least Ryan and one member of the ownership group reconnected on Friday. What happens next, who knows.
If nothing else, Simpson reported positive early returns.