Tablet Sports

Gil LeBreton: There’s no Jerry in Rangers’ Ray Davis

Among the many scarlet days in local sports history, the evening when Jerry Jones introduced himself as owner of the Dallas Cowboys has to rank among the most notorious.

Earlier in the day, Jones had flown to Austin and fired Tom Landry. That night, an obviously sleepless Jones promised he would be involved in everything about the Cowboys, clear down to “socks and jocks.”

We all know how that’s turned out.

For contrast, consider the scene Thursday in Orlando, Fla. Major league baseball owners had just approved Ray Davis as the new man in control of the Texas Rangers.

There was no press conference. Instead, general manager Jon Daniels helped to steer Davis to a side door, where only one national writer and our paper’s Jeff Wilson were waiting with questions.

Davis’ far-from-chatty responses can be found in Jeff’s story elsewhere on these pages.

As our man Wilson observed, however, “There was no Jerry there today.”

The vote was a formality. Somebody has to take the commissioner’s calls, it seems, when Bud Selig phones to ask what really is inside the ballpark’s $26 hot dog.

For the past three, post-Tom Hicks years, that designated and approved “control person” had been Nolan Ryan. But when Nolan resigned Oct. 31, cashing in his ownership shares, co-owner Davis made the somewhat surprising announcement that he planned to represent the ballclub at future MLB meetings.

Surprising, because it was rare even to see Davis sitting at a microphone in Arlington again. Brow-raising, because even Forbes, which ranks him No. 296 on its list of 400 richest Americans, described Davis as a “low-profile pipeline mogul.”

So why the worry? Why the concern that Davis — or co-majority owner Bob Simpson — plan to start trading away pitchers and washing the socks and jocks?

Davis made it clear again Thursday. Daniels is in charge of the baseball side of the ballclub, and newly promoted Rob Matwick will run the business end. (Matwick’s promotion is richly deserved, by the way.)

There are two types of owners in professional sports, it seems. One does stupid pizza commercials or wears T-shirts to games and keeps a scorecard on bad officials. The other surfaces only when a CEO with seven no-hitters retires.

Unless Nolan himself is going around and rattling chains to the contrary, we have no reason to think Davis is planning to interfere with the product on the baseball field.

Of course, he and Simpson should have final say on matters that affect the club’s payroll or bottom line. But I’m not sure Davis could tell a Kendrys Morales from a Shin-Soo Choo, or would he want to.

The Forbes list estimated Davis’ net worth as $1.9 billion. If his fellow MLB owners want to ignore his business résumé and rashly label him as The Guy Who Ran Off Nolan Ryan, low-profile Davis, I suspect, can deal with that.

His and Simpson’s faith in Daniels will be put to the test. As Davis himself said Thursday, there is much to do in this off-season. The club needs a catcher, a first baseman, a left fielder and a DH, or some combination thereof.

Daniels has said that the Rangers may have to be creative in filling those voids. Davis stands by his baseball man.

But there was no wide-eyed Jerry Jones, pledging to meddle, Thursday in Orlando.

So why the worry that Ray Davis will suddenly start washing — or trading away — the socks and jocks?