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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.

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.

Nolan Ryan’s Value Can’t be Measured by Jon Daniels’ Calculator

The past season, many a Rangers fan directed a lot of frustration at Derek Holland. Cut the hair, shave the mustache, and cut out the Harry Caray impersonations.

Well, the hair is still long, but the mustache is gone (for now) and Holland seems to be focused enough to post a 2.40 ERA in his first two starts, despite not winning a game yet. And if this sounds familiar, it is. Just like CJ Wilson before him, Holland took the advice of a certain Hall of Famer during the offseason to put more focus on his on-mound ability.

That’s what Nolan Ryan brings to the Rangers. And it’s invaluable.

Which is why I finally exhaled with relief last week upon learning that Ryan, for now, is staying on as the Rangers CEO despite supposedly being “neutered” by the ownership to allow Jon Daniels and his people free reign to run the team’s operations as he sees fit.

Let me say this up front: The Rangers need both JD AND Nolan to keep this ship going in the right direction.

But if you have to make me choose, I have to go with the guy with more than 5300 innings pitched in the big leagues – or in other words, the guy the current players look up to.

Daniels has a great eye for talent, no one is denying that. Some early hiccups in his first days as a general manager (remember trading away John Danks and Adrian Gonzales?) were made up big time with moves that seem to indicate he has the Midas Touch. Getting Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz and Matt Harrison alone for malcontent Mark Teixeria has cemented his legacy.

But what Daniels has in the ability to locate talent, he lacks in the ability to relate to it. And that can be an issue in an organization where chemistry is practically everything.

There were reportedly grumblings in the clubhouse last year that Rangers players were getting weary of Daniels’ appearing to micro-manage the team on the field, getting into daily shouting matches with Ron Washington over not putting in his talented but unproven rookies in the lineup during a playoff push. Rumors are that a player or two had so little respect for JD that he would only discuss contract terms with assistant GM Thad Levine.

Then came the departure of Michael Young, the rock of the Texas clubhouse, which JD supposedly did without consulting Nolan or Wash because he didn’t want them to convince him Young’s at-bats would be limited and then recant.

My Twitter feed last year was loaded with hate toward the Rangers’ all-time hits leader over his average dropping from .338 to .277 in a year (I’m not even discussing the complaints about what his “WAR” was).

The fans and media can go on all they want about how Young was washed up and a malcontent. But it’s clear those that actually wear the uniforms see him as a respected professional who did what the team asked and was there to answer any questions. When people like Cliff Lee speak up and say the Rangers did Young wrong, that’s a problem, and I can’t help but think it’s a reason no big free agent signed on the dotted line to play in Arlington this year.

Former Rangers and current Angels Wilson and Josh Hamilton have both stated the Rangers have a problem making players feel wanted and making them come begging to them. That doesn’t make for good relations, and just because the words come from a couple of D-bags doesn’t mean they’re necessarily untrue (But the recent signing of Andrus to a contract extension might assuage those fears).

Daniels comes off as a guy treating the Rangers like a fantasy team, seeing his players as nothing but cogs in a machine he can toss out and replace at his whim. He is rigid in following that Moneyball philosophy, even though the architects of it in Oakland have no choice but to adhere to it since they don’t have the finances, and still have yet to see a World Series from it.

Nolan, on the other hand, sees the players as people from my observation. He knows what they go through, having been through those wars for 27 years. It’s a calming presence that gives them confidence.

Detractors pointed out last year that Nolan originally didn’t want Yu Darvish, and Roy Oswalt was his decision. Fair enough. But on the flip side, do you think the Rangers would have a few more wins so far if JD had acquiesced and Justin Upton was in center field over Craig Gentry?

Give JD credit for bringing in most of the pitchers that have the American League’s second-best ERA. But give Nolan credit for brining in the right coach for them in Mike Maddux and telling them to stop worrying about the heat or pitch counts. A guy who once threw more than 600 innings in two years can do that.

For now, all this is moot. Nolan is here still, and he can take players like Holland under his wing while JD can sit and try to find out what other talent he can get for him. And that’s a good thing.

Because the Rangers need those who know that real baseball is about people and not like MLB 2K13.

DFW radio host suggests Nolan Ryan WON’T be leaving

Nolan Ryan is leaving the Rangers?

Hold the phone on that, at least one prominent sports host is now saying.

Chris Arnold, co-host of the “G-Bag Nation” 105.3 The Fan is going against the guesses of many others in the DFW media – including many at his own station – and stated Wednesday night that Ryan departing as Rangers CEO is not likely.

Arnold told the masses over the airwaves that a source within the Rangers ownership group, who was brought in via Ryan, told him that Ryan would have too much to lose financially from leaving over what ultimately amounts to hurt pride.

Since the Rangers announced that they were giving Jon Daniels the title of President of Basketball Operations in addition to his current title of General Manager, talk radio in North Texas has been abuzz with reports that baseball’s all-time strikeout king would part ways with the club he helped pull out of bankruptcy over the thought of getting “stripped of power.” Baseball insider Mike Basick told 105.3’s morning show, “New School,” that he feels it’s 90 percent sure that Ryan is gone, going by what appeared to be going on in the front office.

Hours later, Arnold went on the air to dispute that claim. Not even co-host Gavin Dawson knew what was coming, as Arnold said he had only contacted his own source to verify the information they the station had been broadcasting up to that point.

According to Arnold’s source:

1. Yes, any tension between Ryan and Daniels started back in November 2011, when Ryan appointed former Astros GM Tim Purpura to replace Scott Servais as the Rangers’ farm system director rather than someone Daniels had promised the job to.

2. Despite any disagreements, however, Ryan and Daniels continue to have a good working relationship. That can’t be said for the people within the front office who are “Nolan guys” versus “JD guys. ” Any claims that Ryan is hurt enough to leave has been relayed by them, not by Ryan or anyone in the ownership group.

3. Yes, Ryan’s pride has been hurt from the decision to officially give autonomy to Daniels in personnel decisions.

4. But no, Arnold’s source firmly believes Ryan will not leave his position, and he has not spoken publicly since the weekend because of what he would have to lose.

Basically, according to Arnold’s theory, those who assume Ryan will leave over this, and especially those thinking he’d end up with the Astros, aren’t taking Ryan’s ownership stake into account – which is something he wouldn’t get anywhere else.

He definitely wouldn’t get it in Houston, considering Astros owner Jim Crane tried to buy the Rangers in 2010 over Ryan and Chuck Greenberg’s group. And Ryan wouldn’t go anywhere else because of his desire to live in Texas.

Ryan would basically stand to lose hundreds of millions of dollars if he left the Rangers. And the thought of taking that potential money away from his family should convince him to stay, while talk within Rangers ownership has been to find ways to make Ryan happy again.

So it may be too early indeed to declare that everything the Rangers have built in the last few years is coming apart. Those asking the fans who would they choose between Ryan and Daniels may find out they still don’t have to make that decision.

It’s entirely possible that Ryan will come out of this with anything from a higher salary to a bigger stake in the club. But the chances of him still being in the stands come Opening Day may be much better than the doomsayers are suggesting.