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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.