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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.

We Have a Lot of Work to Do to Be a Baseball Town

How do you exactly describe what it takes to be a “baseball town?”

After years of finishing in the cellar almost every year in the previous decade, we now can’t even enjoy the fact that there was excitement and a reason to watch come the end of September. That is, to those who were actually watching.

Even if the Rangers season came to a slow, silent end Monday night, the previous Sunday afternoon was everything I could have wanted, being there with friends as the Rangers pulled off what many thought impossible in sweeping a whole seven-game homestand just to make it to that tiebreaker.

But yes, I join in Ian Kinsler’s disappointment that there had to be at least 10 thousand empty seats at the Ballpark for this do-or die game.

Fueled by Josh Hamilton’s claim in April that this is “not a baseball town,” the people in this town seemed to take that as a rallying cry in proving him wrong. The result? Three hundred thousand less in attendance. And TV ratings no better than some of the reality TV garbage on the air now. Way to go.

The Angels, meanwhile, drew nearly the same attendance as the Rangers for a team that finished 18 games out of first place – and had another baseball team in their area that did make the playoffs, to boot.

Let me get this out of the way. One thing I have tried to avoid in my criticism of the support the Rangers get is the behavior of those who actually turn out at the Ballpark. The atmosphere within the Ballpark has indeed improved leaps and bounds from years ago, even though I wouldn’t go so far as to call them “the loudest in baseball.”

And no, I don’t mean to completely wave off the significance of them drawing 3 million in attendance for a second straight year.

But keep in mind, three million in attendance does not mean three million FANS in this area, it means three million tickets sold. And people buy tickets to multiple games. If 10 thousand have full season tickets and another 10 thousand have 27-game mini-plans, that’s a million tickets alone purchased by just 20 thousand people. Really, that three million mark could be accomplished by only six figures of persons.

And there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that. It’s surely the same in all other cities that drew near the same amount as the Rangers. With ticket prices, travel times and other factors, there are several people in any major area that can’t attend games in person. I get that.

That’s why I consider TV ratings to be such a vital aspect in team support, and that is where we have still failed miserably and where it shows there is still a lot of work to do before this “baseball town” clam can be validated.

The numbers for the final game of the regular season spoke volumes in the lack of volume. The entire season on the line – if they don’t win, you don’t get to see another game until April – and last Sunday’s game could not even draw a 6 in the ratings. The Cowboys game, with their season not even a month into it? Drew four times that amount.

Sportsradio 1310 The Ticket, the station I have been berated to listen to under claims that “they do talk about the Rangers?” Monday was almost exclusively about the Cowboys, and BREAKING BAD. Virtually no talk about the previous day’s game or the tiebreaker that was to be played that night.

Which isn’t surprising, since shows like The Hardline supposedly declared the Rangers dead a month earlier.

That in of itself just reinforces how a football mindset continues to negatively influence the attitude toward baseball here. So many people just can’t grasp the unique concepts of the marathon that is a baseball season. They can’t understand that a six-game losing streak or a three-game deficit do not mean the end of a season, because they are too programmed from a sport where winning almost every game is expected and losing three in a row can in fact kill a season.

That is why people like Kinsler, Hamilton and Cliff Lee continue to take jabs at the Rangers fans for a lack of enthusiasm.

And as this year’s finish may have sadly secured that there won’t be another 3 million attendance mark next year, we may have to endure another off-season of free agents spurning the team to show how much they think a “baseball town” this truly is.

Rangers are In No-Win Situation at the Box Office

I don’t think it’s an unfair claim to say that attendance figures will plummet for next year for the Rangers if they fail to make the postseason, given their track record of having among the worst bandwagon fans in all of sports. But unfortunately, there may be other reasons there will likely be fewer at the Ballpark in 2014.

Last night, Derek Holland, Alex Rios and the Rangers kept hope alive for one more day, as Rios hit for the cycle in a 12-0 win over the Astros. But as the players on the field are trying to ward off the sad disaster the season has become, their ticket representatives may be looking at another disaster.

For it was just a few weeks ago that the front offices sent season ticket holders information on next season in addition to this year’s playoff tickets (To think the latter was once a given). This has apparently included a substantial price increase over the next year. According to at least one of my fellow die-hards, ticket prices for the Rangers will undergo a 115 percent increase in two years. As a result, I know of a couple of people already declaring they won’t renew their full plans, opting for mini-plans at best.

To be fair, you cant accuse the Rangers of not reaching out. One of said angry ticket holders got himself a meeting with a front office representative to air out his grievances, which include how the team has neglected to make seat repairs and other small improvements in the Ballpark’s upper levels. I have yet to hear how this meeting went.

As someone who has had to drop and renew season tickets frequently over the years due to various issues, I can understand the plight of those who are finding their wallets pinched by skyrocketing prices. Bit I’m also not naive to reality and don’t understand why this is happening.

It’s clear the Rangers’ ownership is dead set on one thing: This team is going to be profitable and will not see the financial disaster it endured just three years ago. Ray Davis and Bob Simpson will not let this become a franchise relegated to league control and put up for public auction again.

I remember a time when tickets were a bit more affordable. I remember when among the things i was handed at the gate regularly were vouchers for ticket discounts. Sounds like a great thing, right?

Well, that was during the Tom Hicks era. Remember what the play on the field was like back then?

Thus is the list of eternal demands a legitimate contending team must suffer from its fan base every year: Spend more than any franchise out there, don’t let any player get away in free agency and bring in every player that is a free agent from other teams as well. Do absolutely everything it takes to guarantee a championship. Oh, and keep ticket prices affordable while you’re at it.

In other words, the fans pretty much demand that their teams <em>intentionally</em> lose money each year to get them (the fans) a winning team for them to trumpet.

Other teams have had to search for other ways to bring in needed revenue. The St. Louis Cardinals just had to let a college football game take place in Busch Stadium the past weekend due to the fact that the resources in St. Louis are limited despite their recent success and most loyal fan base in the world. As a result, their field is going to be in no good condition for the playoffs thanks to the football players tearing it up.

If these fans are going to expect the Rangers to spend through the nose to not lose in the offseason again (and they’ll have to grossly overspend to get any player to want to come to Football Town), they actually have to find a way to make that money somewhere.

Yes, they’re only another year or so before that gigantic TV deal from Fox Sports Southwest kicks in. I still say it’s not a guarantee that deal’s set in stone, and I wouldn’t be surprised if FSSW uses an out clause in the deal if the Rangers are not WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONS by the time it’s supposed to kick in.

So there is only one proven option for generating revenue, and it looks like no matter what they do, they rangers are going to see ticket sales drop, be it from the team not absolutely dominating on the field or gripes about costlier tickets.

You’ve got a choice, season ticket holders: Endure rising prices, or go back to a team with no chance of contention. Whichever you think is more endurable.

Jon Daniels is Good, But He’s Not Irreplaceable

Say what you want about Randy Galloway. The guy knows how to get people talking.

Mister Wimp Free Sports Talk caused quite the stir last week in the Star-Telegram when he suggested that, above all else, Jon Daniels needs to be the first one held responsible for a Rangers season that has become heartbreaking in a hurry for everyone who wasn’t already wanting it to stop getting in the way of their Cowboys. And that if anyone needed to be fired for this season, it was the general manager.

Thus spurred the outrage toward one of the few in talk radio who has actually covered major league clubhouses regularly in his lifetime, accusing Galloway of outright trolling to saying he shouldn’t wait until year’s end to conclude his radio career.

Galloway certainly has his haters, especially among those who blindly follow a certain AM radio station that might not be in existence had people like him not started sports talk in North Texas. But just because someone says something outlandish to sell papers doesn’t mean there might not be some validity to his words.

Let’s get this out of the way: No one is denying all the good work Jon Daniels has done as general manager of the Rangers, from fleecing the Braves in the Mark Teixeria trade to correctly bidding on Yu Darvish to having patience with Ron Washington (up to this point).

And let’s face it, compared to another team living next door, the Rangers can consider themselves lucky they have a real GM at all.

But let’s be honest. Anyone who would think that Jon Daniels is infallible, or even so much better than any other GM in MLB, is setting themselves up for disappointment in the long run.

With the good has come the bad, like dealing away the likes of John Danks and Adrian Gonzales. I won’t even get into the Chris Davis issue  because that can be argued in so many ways.

And specifically, when you look at this year, I don’t see how you can’t look at the moves Daniels didn’t make. Moves that even I have to admit would have put the Rangers in better position rather than just signing the likes of Lance Berkman and A.J. Pierzynski.

I’m guessing many still agree that letting Josh Hamilton go was the right thing. But how much better would they be if Mike Napoli was still here? How much less complaining about David Murphy’s lack of production be if Daniels had pulled the trigger and traded for Justin Upton?

Anyone who assumes that this winter JD will be Mister Whiz Kid again and make all the right moves to guarantee another World Series run, remember:

It’s clear that any trade during the winter meetings will have to include Perez, Profar or Leonys. Virtually every club out there is demanding one of those, and JD has constantly refused, instead forcing Washington more or less to keep Profar on the roster when there remains no place to put him full time. If he’d been willing to part with one of them, Upton might be wearing a Rangers jersey right now.

Yet he was willing to part with Mike Olt when the Rangers still have no production at first base to get a starting pitcher (an area they haven’t struggled in) who so far has a 4.94 ERA with Texas?

And free agents coming here? Well, I’ve never been big on rebuilding that way anyway, but there haven’t exactly been a lot of those coming here, have there? How much does the GM have to take responsibility for that?

As I’ve said before, Daniels seems to be quickly becoming not well liked among players. A few already in the Rangers clubhouse refuse to talk to him, only to assistant Thad Levine. And once again, hearing the grumblings in other clubhouses from people like Cliff Lee after the Michael Young trade, it looks like more than a few others don’t seem to care for the way the Rangers do things either. And that can’t be good for luring them to Arlington.

Some here continue to brush this off, saying money and the chance to win the World Series will simply lure people here no problem, But the Rangers don’t overpay anymore, the Giants and Cardinals have proven there are other teams you can win on, and oh yeah, how many players has that idea brought in here again? (Aside from Adrian Beltre, who never would have even spoken with the Rangers if the Angels’ Jerry DiPoto hadn’t had a brain fart.)

I’ve been worried for about a year now that Daniels has been getting too much of an ego, starting to believe his own press a bit much. Those promotions he got over the winter may not have helped. Remember, pride always cometh before a fall.

I’m not outright saying JD needs to be fired. But I won’t say getting rid of him would destroy the franchise. Slip Levine into that job, retain the same scouts and player development director, and my feeling is the Rangers wouldn’t miss a beat.

Remember, all the things JD’s supporters are saying about him are pretty similar to what was said about Theo Epstein. Yet the Red Sox were willing to let him go after their debacle of 2011. Two years later, the Red Sox have returned to the top, while Epstein – well, it is still early, but the Cubs haven’t been exactly shaking up the world.

Nor did the Rangers when they lured away the previous golden boy in John Hart, who was supposedly a genius for building Cleveland into a contender. His time in Texas – well, Galloway called him the Empty Golf Shirt for a reason.

Daniels has definitely had a body of work better than Hart’s. But if this season ends the way it’s looking more and more, even he can’t be excused from blame.

And if the Rangers do decide such a change is needed, we may ultimately see he was more expendable than many thought.

Enjoy the Pennant Race? Not Allowed in Ranger Nation

It’s September. Which means the sports populace in North Texas is doing one of two things. They’re strutting around town wearing their Cowboys jerseys and waving their middle fingers at everyone wearing a Rangers/Mavericks shirt and saying “Five time Super Bowl champs! You guys haven’t won jack!” (Yeah, the 2011 Mavericks would like a word with you.) Or, they’re taking to the social media sites posting about how they have the absolute worst team in Major League history that somehow is on pace for another 90-win season.

Jeff Cavanaugh of the G-Bag Nation is once again calling for the “Rangers Panic Room,” which translates to “we’re not gonna win! Give up! Shut yourself up in a hole and don’t let people know you’re a Rangers fan because you should be ashamed to be one!”

Yu Darvish has suddenly been compared to Tony Romo as a guy who will never get the job done in the clutch with less than two years in the bigs.

All because it’s September and the Rangers are not 10 games up in first place, allowing the elitist sports fans of DFW to just sit back and say how boring it is waiting for the playoffs to come.

Richie Whitt recently called out Rangers fans for declaring the season was dead, because their team was currently tied with the Oakland A’s for first place in the American League West with 25 games to play. Naturally, his legion of haters struck back, calling him everything from a racist to a jackass to someone who never deserved to be on the radio. What they couldn’t call him, however, was wrong.

Even I, a longtime supporter of Mr. Whitt, will admit he can come off as not the most supportive of the game of baseball.

And yet he just hit the nail right on the head about the so-called baseball fans in this area. What does that say?

Before getting drilled 11-4 Thursday afternoon in Oakland, the Rangers went 31 straight games holding their opponents to five runs or fewer, tying the 2009 Dodgers for the longest such streak since the Rangers’ inaugural year of 1972. Remember when we only dreamed of consistent pitching and defense like that, saying it would never happen in the blistering heat and jet streams of Rangers Ballpark?

And yet while some do point out that the struggles do in fact lie with the fact that Texas has averaged less than three runs per game since pounding Felix Hernandez and the Mariners for 12, the blame somehow shifts to the pitching, with the target squarely on Yu Darvish’s back.

All because the man on pace to strike out 300 this year can’t win 2-0 games all the time. Darvish is 11-2 when the Rangers score at least 4 runs for him in his starts. But because he game up the tying and go-ahead home runs to Minnesota after throwing a no-hitter for six innings, he’s worse than Edwin Correa.

Twenty-nine other teams would love to have Darvish in their rotation. To Rangers fans, they’re still wishing Cliff Lee was still in a Texas uniform. Even though Lee had a losing record with the Rangers, including two losses in the World Series, and has been only average to good at best since leaving.

But in Lee’s case, it was all no run support. In Darvish’s case, lack of run support doesn’t exist. If they don’t score once for him, he’s still supposed to win. And the fact that he doesn’t proves he’s a worthless bum to these people.

Oh, and let’s not forget that Lee gets a free pass because “they wouldn’t have made the World Series without him.” Well they wouldn’t have made the Series in 2011 without Nelson Cruz. Yet 99 percent of the people here go to bed hoping Cruz gets hit by a car because of that missed fly ball – whether he got suspended for PED use or not.

No mention at all of the positives. No mention of the unbelievable job that rookie Martin Perez has done. In his last four starts, Perez has been matched up against King Feilx twice, Chris Sale and Bartolo Colon – and out pitched and beat them all.

Not good enough. All you hear about is what they do wrong, and how that is guaranteed to ensure this club has absolutely no chance in hell of even getting close to the postseason, just like they fail to make it every single other year of their entire existence (Hello? Anyone remember 2010? 2011?) and we should just look forward to another fall saved by the greatness that is the Dallas Cowboys because they are a stone cold lock to win the Super Bowl every single year without fail (except for, you know, every single year since 1996).

To hear the Twitter posts every time the Rangers lose – which, for the six million people in this town who know absolutely nothing about baseball, happens at least a third of the time to every single baseball team out there – you would think the Rangers are a million times worse than the Houston Astros. As in, the Astros team that reached 90 losses before August even came to an end.

Here’s what the Rangers really are: a really good team that is in a dogfight with another really good team in the same division. It’s anyone’s fight. And that’s not good enough for Dallas-Fort Worth, an area who’s fan base does’t believe in anything being fought for or earned, just coasted to easily.

Once again, a metropolitan area that saw its football team win five Super Bowls by no fewer than 10 points will settle for nothing less than domination; win every single game by multiple points/runs/whatever the hell you call it so we don’t actually have to stay for the entire game. The merry-go-round goes round for the people that drove Michael Young, Pudge Rodriguez and countless others out of town form being something less than absolutely perfect.

I know I’ve said this like a broken record. It’s because I keep hearing that record being played by other people.

Enjoying the fact that North Texas has a baseball team that consistently contends now after years of being a laughingstock? Forbidden in this area.

No matter what the Rangers do the rest of the year, there will be whining. They could go 23-0 the rest of the way and see Nellie Cruz come back for the postseason and this year make that catch to win the World Series. But there will still be nothing but complaining from this fan base.

And then they will spend the winter complaining why no one wants to sign here and how another player dared say this is not a “baseball town.”