Nolan Ryan is synonymous with the Texas Rangers.
Yet, suddenly there seem to be some questions about Ryan’s future with the team. Primarily, how has his role changed and is he going to stay?
The Hall of Fame pitcher spent the last five seasons of his playing days in a Rangers uniform, getting his 300th victory, throwing the last two of his record seven no-hitters and getting his 5,000th strikeout.
Since Ryan became the team’s president five years ago, the Rangers have made their only two World Series appearances. Those AL pennants came after he helped lead the team through a bankruptcy and was a primary figure in the ownership group that bought the team.
Speculation about Ryan’s future with the Rangers has been growing since some seemingly routine promotions. Team ownership last week gave general manager Jon Daniels and chief operating officer Rick George new presidential titles.
The team’s announcement that Daniels would be president of baseball operations/general manager and George president of business operations said that the two will continue to oversee the day-to-day baseball and business operations of the team under the leadership of Ryan, who remains chief executive officer but gave up the title of president.
Included in that announcement was a statement from Ryan in which he said he was “proud of what we have accomplished as an organization over the last several years. … That has been due in large part to the efforts of a lot of talented and dedicated individuals who work in all areas of the ballclub.”
Ryan congratulated Daniels and George on their promotions and said the organization was moving forward “to achieve an even greater level of excellence in 2013 and in the years to come.”
That statement remains the only public comment by the wildly popular Ryan since the moves that have raised questions about if the new titles for Daniels and George diminish his role.
The Rangers on Tuesday had their first day off since the start of spring training.
After getting to Arizona last month, Ryan was asked about his role leading the Rangers organization and how it had altered since he was hired by former owner Tom Hicks as president in February 2008.
“Obviously things have changed with the organization and the organization is more stable now than it has been since I’ve been here,” Ryan said then. “So obviously some of the things that we used to focus on, we don’t have to anymore, because it’s changed with the ownership and with the success of the ballclub. It’s been a growing process and I think with experience you have a comfort level and more feel for things.”
But there were no indications then that any changes had been made in the team’s organizational structure, or were forthcoming.
After the promotions were announced Friday, Daniels said there “won’t be any dramatic difference” in his role on a day-to-day basis and that he still reported to Ryan, who wasn’t on that conference call.
Daniels has since repeated that “I report to Nolan,” and said they have talked daily as usual since the announcements.
Bob Simpson, a co-chairman of the ownership group, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram this week that Ryan leaving the Rangers “would be a tragedy” and is not something the group wants to happen.
“We absolutely do not want Nolan to leave. The moves we announced were to preserve Nolan, not to remove him, or remove his power,” Simpson said. “We want Nolan to be with the Rangers forever, and in charge of the team as long as he wants to be.”
The 66-year-old Ryan, who has a minority ownership stake, has three years left in his front-office contract.
When Ryan became the Rangers president, Daniels already had been the general manager for more than two years. Daniels was the youngest GM in major league history at 28 years old when he was promoted from being an assistant in October 2005.
In March 2011, Ryan added the title of CEO after Chuck Greenberg left the organization only seven months following the sale following a dramatic bankruptcy court auction.
Ryan’s No. 34 is the only jersey worn by a Rangers player to be retired, and there is a statue of the pitcher at Rangers Ballpark. He is the only player in the Hall of Fame whose bust is topped by a Texas cap.
“I don’t know what’s going on, to be honest with you. Nolan obviously brings credibility on both sides of the ball,” Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler. “He had a successful career, he’s a successful businessmen and he brings respect in a lot of different ways. To have a guy like that in the organization is important.”