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Daniels Got Rid of Nolan; Now He Has No Excuses

I do find myself wondering just why I have such issues against Jon Daniels lately.

I mean, under Daniels, the Rangers have been operating exactly as I’ve wanted them to for years. They don’t overspend on free agents that end up mailing in their performances, and they actually trust in their prospects, especially pitchers.

So why do I have this uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach now that Nolan Ryan has officially left the Rangers as co-owner/CEO (effective Oct. 31) that the good times are now dead and gone and things are going to get worse before they get better?

Is it because of how JD seems to act more and more like he’s operating a real MLB club like a fantasy league team – just plug stats and sabers here and there and bam, success? Is it how he constantly treats players worse than Nolan does the cattle on his ranch, sullying the reputations of the likes of Michael Young while shipping them off for a song so he can look for his next shiny new toy?

Is it that his Billy Beane tactics seem to be turning the Rangers into the Oakland A’s, devolving from a World Series team into one that could just make the playoffs and little else?

Maybe. But it goes deeper than that.

Daniels’ entire reputation as this absolute perfect genius has been built on that one time he committed grand larceny on the Atlanta Braves in 2007, getting Neftali Feliz, Elvis Andrus, Matt Harrison and more for Mark Teixeria. Lost in that has been getting Josh Hamilton for Edison Volquez later that same year. But since then, what has Daniels himself really done?

For example, many of the moves since that did work were luck more than anything else. You want to say Cliff Lee was a good move even though he had a losing record here? Well, unless JD knew Jesus Montero was injured, that was luck. If Montero had been healthy, Great God Cliff would have been in Yankee pinstripes.

And Adrian Beltre? He was looking forward to returning to SoCal playing with the Angels. It was only because Jerry DiPoto balked at the chance to sign him that Beltre had to settle for the Rangers’ offer. Granted that worked out in so many ways from Beltre playing with a chip on his shoulder to the Angels wrecking themselves in making sure they miss out on no more free agents. But again, more luck than skill.

So the only big move remaining has been Yu Darvish. And so far, while the ace potential has clearly been there, all Darvish has done is split the fan base among those who say he’s an ace and those frustrated with his supposed inability to get the “shutdown inning” and tendency to blow leads. The fact that such a rift exists is enough to say it hasn’t completely worked – yet.

But for me, the move that may define Daniels the most was getting Matt Garza. I still don’t get that move in hindsight. Daniels parted with another first base prospect to get a supposed top level pitcher, but he didn’t actually expect that pitcher to play for the Rangers; he only wanted another bargaining chip to use with Joe Nathan to get Justin Upton. Again, the Rangers had their shot at Upton in January and balked because Daniels still refused to part ways with Jurickson Profar or some other top prospect. But then he expected the team that did get him to give him up six months later while in a playoff race in exchange for two more players set to be free agents?

That’s over-thinking, and it backfired, and the Rangers were left with a pitcher that faded down the stretch.

But despite all that, Daniels has been absolute Teflon to criticisms. If it was under John Hart, Doug Melvin or Tom Grieve that the likes of Adrian Gonzales, Chris Davis and Prince Fielder continued to put up the numbers they have while the Rangers continued to stick with Mitch Moreland, they would be roasted. Yet North Texas continues to stand by their golden boy and agree with him that the solution lies in forcing Ron Washington to move Ian Kinsler to first base or the outfield, which hasn’t happened yet and Wash still seems unwilling to budge on.

Nolan, meanwhile gets all the blame for the signings that didn’t work, like Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman – even though reporter Mike Young says it was only after Nolan stepped away from the negotiating table that Berkman agreed to sign. Therein lies the double standard: Nolan can’t get credit for any of the good moves since about 2011 because Daniels has been the one really making all the decisions and having the final say. Yet Nolan DID have the final say on moves – just the ones that didn’t work?

He gets all the blame and Daniels gets all the credit. What’s more, absolutely no credit goes to the likes of player development Tim Purpura or pitching coach Mike Maddux, both of which were Nolan hires, Or no blame to the revolving door of hitting coaches since the departure of Clint Hurdle – another Nolan hire.

JD can find all the talent he wants. But it ultimately comes down to whether that talent produces. That’s why the intangibles of Nolan doing things like installing a mindset that pitchers don’t need to worry about pitch counts or the Ballpark’s “blast furnace” and jetstream were so important. Where is it on JD’s iPad to replace that?

One comment I frequently heard since the news of Nolan’s departure came out was, “Now the Rangers will finally start spending some money.” Within hours after the announcement, word has been that the Rangers have lost Cuban defector Jose Abreu to the White Sox, because they weren’t comfortable with his six-year, $68 million asking price. And this was after Daniels himself said weeks ago that the team expected to have a smaller payroll.

Not even I will pin that on Daniels completely. Ray Davis and Bob Simpson deserve most of the responsibility for being so tight-fisted, which won’t sit well for a fan base frustrated at a 115 percent increase in ticket prices over the past two years.

If they aren’t going to give 68 million to fill a position they need, what do you think the chances are they’ll be okay with 300 million to add another middle infielder in Robbie Cano?

It’s anyone’s guess which owner is more behind these money-grubbing tactics, but the one responsible for driving out Nolan is pretty clear. According to Randy Galloway, Davis is the one joined at Daniels’ hip and responsible for all this. Simpson had tried and tried to keep Nolan around and still called him “irreplaceable” to the point where the team won’t appoint a new CEO.

With that, the members of “Team JD” won and got rid of the supposed old man which the game had passed by. But they also just lost their scapegoat.

Ultimately, it comes down to winning on the field. And if the Rangers find a way to gat back to the World Series in 2014, all will supposedly be right.

But if they do throw nine figures at a Brian McCann only to see him play worse than Geovany Soto, or if they stand pat for another off season and the likes of Profar and Leonys Martin don’t take the next step toward being the next big pieces of the puzzle, and this gradual slide in the American League continues, Daniels’ fanboys may find themselves less and less able to not blame him.

And Nolan Ryan can chuckle at that from either his Alvin ranch or the Astros front office, whichever he’ll be in at this time next year.

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