The man who was hired to save the Texas Rangers, the man whose presence in the new ownership group rescued the club from bankruptcy and the man who was the first to hoist the franchise’s initial American League championship trophy is headed out the door.
Nolan Ryan announced Thursday that he will resign as Rangers CEO on Oct. 31, leaving behind the club he helped guide to unprecedented success, as well as a minority ownership stake.
He wanted a clean break from the Rangers, though he will depart amid lingering questions about what pushed him to leave.
Ryan tried to deflect any blame from the restructuring of the front office in March or what appeared to be a deteriorating relationship with general manager Jon Daniels.
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Instead, Ryan said that he wants to look over his businesses and enjoy his grandchildren and that as far as he’s concerned, he’s done with baseball and not interested in joining his son Reid with the Houston Astros.
“Will I be a CEO of another major-league ballclub? No, I won’t,” Ryan said during a news conference at Rangers Ballpark.
“You don’t just wake up one day and make a decision of this magnitude. It was something I’ve been thinking about off and on for a while now, and I just felt like it was probably time for me to move on. It just felt like that’s what I really needed to do.”
The Rangers never finished worse than second in the AL West after Ryan was hired in February 2008 as president by former owner Tom Hicks. In Ryan’s six seasons as president, president/CEO or CEO, they went 536-437, won the West twice, went to the World Series for the first two times in franchise history and made a franchise-first three straight playoff appearances.
He lost the title of president in March as Daniels became president of baseball operations. Principal owners Ray Davis and Bob Simpson have insisted that the front-office shuffle did not strip any of Ryan’s power, though Davis acknowledged Thursday that Ryan had final say on all major financial decisions but not day-to-day baseball decisions.
The two significant decisions that Ryan and Daniels didn’t agree on were Jackie Moore being retained as bench coach this season and the 2011 hiring of Tim Purpura as farm director. Both have long relationships with Ryan, and both were removed from their positions within the past month.
“Major decisions are defined as decisions that have a major long-term economic impact on a club,” Davis said. “There are times when there are going to be disagreements, perhaps. But if they are major decisions, then it has to be a consensus.”
Daniels attended the news conference but didn’t join Davis, Simpson and Ryan on the dais. He quickly left the interview room without stopping for comment, but he did respond to an email request.
He had only pleasant things to say about the 66-year-old Ryan.
“I’ve enjoyed my time working with and learning from Nolan,” Daniels said. “We’ve shared a lot of success together, along with many others here.
“I specifically appreciate his passion for the game and the way he treats people in and out of the organization. We wish him the best in whatever he chooses to do next.”
Davis and Simpson have no immediate plans to replace Ryan and will share his responsibilities.
“Nolan Ryan is not replaceable,” Simpson said.
Ryan recorded the sixth and seventh no-hitters of his career and registered his 5,000th strikeout as a pitcher for the Rangers from 1989 to 1993. He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1999 and is the only inductee to wear a Rangers hat.
He was a special assistant to the president through January 2004 until leaving for the Astros as a special assistant to the GM, a stint that coincided with Purpura’s reign as Astros GM.
Hicks lured Ryan back to the Rangers on Feb. 6, 2008. Hicks’ financial woes pushed him to sell the club to a group led by Chuck Greenberg and Ryan early in 2010, and it was Ryan’s presence that persuaded Simpson to join the group.
But a group of Hicks’ creditors balked at the sale, and Hicks put the Rangers into bankruptcy. The Greenberg-Ryan group emerged from a courthouse auction Aug. 4, 2010, in Fort Worth with the high bid of $593 million, outspending a group headed by Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and current Astros owner Jim Crane.
Greenberg became the club’s CEO but was forced out in March 2011 because of a difficult working relationship with Ryan, who was named CEO and president in addition to having a minority ownership stake.
He kept that title until the shuffling in March, and he acknowledged that he considered retiring then. He finally committed to walking away Thursday, including selling his stake to Simpson and Davis.
“If I was going to step down, it probably made sense to just clean up my whole situation,” Ryan said. “I thought about it [in March], but I had some obligations that I had committed to. I felt like I wanted to see how things worked out. I can’t say that just because we changed titles on some people that it drove me to this decision. That’s not what it is. It’s where I am in life.”