Mac Engel

It’s started: The Curse of Nolan Ryan

Of course the dog’s name is Wrigley. Why not just name Derek Holland’s boxer “Doomed” or, better yet, “Curse”?

Despite all efforts to fight it — trading for Prince Fielder, signing Shin Soo Choo, lowering ticket prices — the Texas Rangers are dealing with a much bigger issue other than deciding the No. 2 starter, which is going to haunt this franchise.

The Curse of Nolan Ryan has shape-shifted into the form of Holland’s boxer, which may as well have been a billy goat. Time to get real. When the Rangers messed with Nolan, they tempted the baseball gods, a palindrome for dogs.

Holland did not just trip on Wrigley by accident. He could have named his dog “Yankee Stadium,” but he went with the ballpark of a team that made losing chic and profitable long before the Cowboys did.

There was something far greater at play here than a two-legged left-handed pitcher and his four-legged best friend. As the quote goes in nearly every horror film ever produced, “It’s started.”

It all begins innocently enough, and before long it turns into The Curse of the Black Sox, The Curse of the Bambino, The Curse of Rocky Colavito, etc.

Ostensibly, when the Rangers and Ryan parted ways in the off-season, the decision was mutual, and all was going to proceed according to plan in Arlington. Renovations at the Ballpark continued, big-time players were added and a return to the playoffs has been deemed a birthright.

Then, Wrigley got in the way, and the Rangers’ second-best starting pitcher is out for the year roughly one month before pitchers and catchers report. Do not buy this couple of months stuff; no one who has microfracture surgery just “comes back.”

Unlike the time Giants second baseman Jeff Kent suffered an off-season injury “washing his truck,” Holland’s my-dog-ruined-my-season sounds just stupid enough to believe.

This is not a coincidence, and there is nothing Rangers GM Jon Daniels or co-owners Bob Simpson and Ray Davis can do about it. Baseball curses are no joke.

Ask Boston. Ask the Cubs. Hell, ask the Rangers.

In an effort to satisfy the geek nerds who define baseball by an equation, here is some research from The Mark Ingel Skool for Kids Who Can’t Do Math Good:

In the 11 seasons Ryan was with the Rangers — 1989-93 as a pitcher, 2008-13 as an executive — the Rangers had a .533 winning percentage with nine winning records, three playoff appearances and two American League titles.

In the 31 seasons Ryan was not associated with the club, the Rangers had a .478 winning percentage, 10 winning records, three playoff appearances, and one playoff game win.

The differences in these records are not all because of Ryan, but it cannot be all a coincidence.

When Davis, Daniels and Simpson cut ties with Ryan, they assumed they could steer a franchise that has won just about zero without this man. Maybe Ryan was actually a control freak who wanted a say, or a sign-off, on every decision down to the price of a beer (BTW — Ray, and Bob, if you want to make friends, lower those prices).

Maybe Daniels and his Ivy League buddies know what they are doing when they gleefully grabbed a pair of massive contracts in Fielder and Choo. Maybe they are the indeed smartest guys in the room. Maybe they are smarter than Oakland Athletics GM Billy Beane, although no one gets more out of a dollar than that man.

In 2012, the Rangers had the sixth-highest payroll and did not win the division. The A’s had the second-lowest payroll in baseball and won the AL West.

In 2013, the Rangers had the 12th-highest payroll and did not win the division. The A’s had the 27th-highest payroll and won the AL West.

Those were on Nolan’s watch, as was Game 6.

The A’s still are the best bet to win the West, and that was before Holland stumbled on his billy goat boxer.

After Ryan’s unceremonious exit to Round Rock, the news of Holland’s injury feels just about right for a franchise that just cannot seem to steer clear of bad breaks.

Technically, the Rangers have the same number of World Series titles with or without Nolan.

Technically, they were never even close without him.

A franchise that already seemed cursed raised its middle finger at one of the most celebrated names in baseball.

And now a young left-handed pitcher, who threw the most impressive postseason performance in franchise history and is a reliable innings-eater, is gone because of a dog named after the home of the biggest pack of losers in sports.

Maybe it’s a coincidence.

But it feels more like a curse.

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