April 10, 2013

Maybe Ryan is staying because he hates not to finish a start

After weeks of drama, Nolan remains on board as Texas Rangers CEO, saying he wants to “bring a championship to Arlington.”

Quietly and without fanfare, Nolan Ryan made public peace with Texas Rangers, Inc., Wednesday afternoon.

The official announcement came by email in the form of two statements, one issued jointly by co-chairmen Bob Simpson and Ray Davis and the other by Ryan himself.

“After productive discussions the last several weeks with Ray Davis and Bob Simpson about the structure of our organization, together we are moving forward,” Ryan’s statement read.

“In my role as CEO, I am focused on working closely with ownership and with Jon Daniels and Rick George to build on the success of the past five years and to bring a championship to Arlington.”

The co-chairmen, meanwhile, talked about re-centering the club’s focus upon the playing field.

“We’ve had meaningful conversations with Nolan Ryan over the past several weeks and are pleased that our focus is now on working together to win a championship for our fans,” their joint statement read.

“Over the years Nolan has made extraordinary contributions to the Texas Rangers organization, both on and off the field, including providing valuable guidance to Jon Daniels and Rick George.  His leadership as our chief executive — with both baseball and business operations reporting to him — has been vital to our success and offers us a bright future.”

Neither the co-owners nor Ryan were made available for comment, which came minutes after the Rangers’ 2-0 loss Wednesday to the Tampa Bay Rays.

Ryan’s future with the club abruptly became a thorny issue last month, after general manager Daniels and chief operating office George were given the titles of president of baseball operations and president of business operations, respectively. Ryan was to remain as chief executive officer.

Nolan, however, reportedly was not on board with what appeared to be a diminishing of his responsibilities. A long, self-imposed Ryan silence ensued, while some in the media speculated and fans fretted over what loomed as Nolan’s imminent departure.

But hints of Ryan’s remaining with the team began to circulate a few days ago. The two principal owners, Simpson and Davis, met with Ryan on Sunday to discuss his situation.

They were apparently able to convince him that the business of winning a World Series remains unfinished, and that Ryan should remain a key component in that.

What Nolan really thought during those nearly six weeks, though, likely will remain a mystery. If he had anything to say about his amended role and his decision to stay, the Rangers surely would have had CEO Ryan appear at a news conference.

This shuffling of titles and responsibilities, however, has been messy from the start. Sources indicate that the idea of giving Daniels and George the authority to make final decisions in their respective departments was broached last fall, and that both Simpson and Davis believed that Ryan had no problem with the new organization structure.

They had to be surprised in March, therefore, when Ryan confidants suddenly were saying that Nolan was unhappy and didn’t want to be reduced to the role of “team mascot.”

When he was hired by then-owner Tom Hicks and became the club’s president in February 2008, Ryan appeared to inherit a task — getting the Rangers to a World Series — for which there was no real job description.

Thus, let me suggest, he started doing almost everything — choosing the new uniforms, remodeling the ballpark, reordering the concessions, etc. Ryan’s name quickly became synonymous with the franchise.

And because it did, I think Ryan felt compelled to be the final authority on all decisions. That became an increasingly difficult task, which the co-chairmen hoped to alleviate by promoting Daniels and George.

Maybe I’m being naïve, but I don’t sense that at any time were the co-chairmen trying to force Ryan into leaving the Rangers.

Yet, the daily drama ensued, underscored by Ryan’s public silence and heightened by Rangers fans’ anxieties, real and imagined.

All’s well that ends well?

Rangers fans likely will cheer Wednesday’s announcement and heave a heavy sigh of relief. Nolan’s name on the Rangers’ company masthead has been a reassuring one since he first donned the team uniform in 1989.

As for Ryan’s true feelings, we have no choice but to take him at his words, sparse as they may be.

There is work to be done at Texas Rangers, Inc., and a championship still to be won.

The CEO should have plenty to do.

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