SBD/October 18, 2013/Franchises

Nolan Ryan Steps Down As Rangers CEO, Leaving Jon Daniels As Face Of Franchise

Ryan's exit package, including ownership plus incentives, is expected to exceed $10M
MLB Rangers CEO Nolan Ryan on Thursday "announced his resignation, effective at the end of the month," according to Richard Durrett of ESPN DALLAS. He also "sold his ownership stake in the club" to co-Chairs Bob Simpson and Ray Davis. Ryan "left the door open for getting back in the game of baseball, but said he hasn't decided what he will do with his future yet." Ryan said, "Will I be the CEO of another major league ballclub? No, I won't. But I'm not going to sit here today and tell you that I don't know what a year from now might bring." Ryan said that for now he "wants to spend time with his grandkids and work on his Texas ranch." Ryan: "You don't just wake up one day and make a decision of this magnitude. It was something I'd been thinking about off and on for a while now." Durrett noted there are "no plans to name a new CEO," but Rangers Exec VP/Ballpark Operations Rob Matwick "will have added responsibilities to help." Davis said that he "will represent the club at MLB meetings and that he and Simpson will rotate that job every two or three years." Ryan "contemplated stepping down in March after ownership restructured the front office" and gave GM Jon Daniels the added title of President of Baseball Operations. Ryan said his relationship with Daniels is "good" and it "didn't come into play on this" decision. Simpson said that he "spent much of the past few days trying to get Ryan to change his mind but was unsuccessful" (ESPNDALLAS.com, 10/17).

EXIT STAGE LEFT: In Dallas, Townsend & Grant cite a source as saying that Ryan’s "interest dwindled to less than 1 percent as the club ownership committee, chaired by Neil Leibman, recently consolidated shares." The source said that the "value of Ryan’s exit package -- ownership percentage, plus incentives -- is expected to exceed" $10M. The "quiet cleanup and Thursday’s rather unceremonious news conference didn’t seem like a proper goodbye for a man who is as synonymous with the Rangers as Tom Landry, Roger Staubach and Bob Lilly are with the Cowboys." Fans now are "left to wonder whether the face of the Rangers franchise is truly, as he said, stepping down for more time with his family and ranching -- or whether Thursday was the outcome of a well-documented power struggle" between Ryan and Daniels. Ryan said, “I think you could use either word. Retiring, resigning, I don’t know.” Rangers Exec VP/Communications John Blake said, “As you might expect, we had some calls from fans after the announcement, but nothing that I know about concerning tickets” (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 10/18).

TOUGH TO REPLACE: Simpson said that there "could be some backlash over the departure of one of the most popular players in club history." Simpson: "There will be be some backlash because of who the man is. I would ask that it's not lasting. We'll work hard to continue to bring a quality product to the field that fans have become accustomed to" (MLB.com, 10/17). Simpson added, “It sounds a little trite, but frankly Nolan Ryan is not replaceable. What he brought to the team I don’t think is on the market.” In Dallas, Gerry Fraley notes the Rangers will be "one of only nine teams that do not have a president or CEO from outside the ownership majority." Matwick "will take on more responsibility," as will other execs "whom Ryan nurtured" including Blake, Exec VP & CFO Kellie Fischer, Exec VP/Business Partnerships & Development Joe Januszewski, Exec VP/Rangers Enterprises, Customer Service & Sales Jay Miller and Exec VP/Ballpark Entertainment & Productions Chuck Morgan. Former Senior Player Development Dir Tim Purpura also has "moved to the business side." Davis said, "We are well-staffed with a lot of great people, many of whom Nolan brought here" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 10/18).

POWER STRUGGLE: In Ft. Worth, Randy Galloway writes, "Give it up for Jon Daniels, the general manager who successfully hijacked the Texas Rangers, and as of Thursday officially, became the baseball god of Arlington. But give it up a little louder for Ray Davis. ... Daniels could not have pulled off his Nolan kill-shot without the backing of a rich man from Dallas." Galloway: "Take Bob Simpson ... out of this Daniels coup, because I don’t think in any way he wanted this kind of ending with Nolan Ryan." Fan backlash "will be substantial, particularly from the rank-and-file, while the geek element of fandom will cheer on Daniels." But if the "product on the field goes into decline, look out Daniels and look out ownership," as the "financial bottom line will take a massive hit" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 10/18). ESPN DALLAS' Jean-Jacques Taylor wrote Ryan and Daniels turned the Rangers "from an irrelevant franchise into one of the best" in MLB. Still, there "wasn't quite enough credit to go around for Ryan and Daniels to figure out how to work with each other and continue the success that has made the Rangers a yearly contender." Ryan "said all of the right things" at his retirement press conference. But this was a "power struggle between Ryan, the man who was the boss, and Daniels, the new boss." There "simply aren't many men who could subjugate their ego enough to go from being the boss to second in command at the same company." Davis and Simpson "want you to believe Ryan's power had not changed within the organization." They are "playing the semantics game -- and that's OK because they own the team." Ryan left the organization "far better than he found it, but his work here is done" (ESPNDALLAS.com, 10/17).

WHO'S IN CHARGE? In Dallas, Tim Cowlishaw writes, "Whatever the case, wherever the hidden truth may lie, there will be no fundamental disagreements at the top of the Rangers’ management chart moving forward." Daniels "may be unfairly viewed by some as the man who ran Ryan out of town, but there’s no question who’s in charge." That is why Thursday "could hardly be viewed as a bad day for the Rangers organization." Clarity "is a good thing." Ryan’s departure "was puzzling, but not because no one saw it coming." It was "surprising how quickly he must have wanted to exit without saying any meaningful goodbyes." Ryan's "pursuit of the high road was unsteady at best." Cowlishaw: "For the first time since 2008, no one else above the GM needs to be involved. I don’t see how Daniels unplugged can be viewed as a bad thing" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 10/18). Also in Dallas, Kevin Sherrington writes, "For all his qualities as a GM, Daniels doesn’t have Ryan’s strengths, and he knows it. ... You could say Daniels’ side won, but there are no winners here. Even those left standing would tell you that" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 10/18). ESPN DALLAS' Durrett wrote the Rangers "don’t have to contemplate who’s in charge of the baseball decisions" with Daniels, and there is "nothing wrong with that." There "comes a time when one person has to make a call." However, the club is "still in some of the big hands that helped guide it from the lean years to the best period in franchise history." Ryan’s departure means Daniels "becomes more of a public face for the franchise." He will "likely have to answer more questions and come under great scrutiny. That’s part of the job" (ESPNDALLAS.com, 10/17).

MAN OF THE PEOPLE: MLB.com's Richard Justice wrote Ryan was "admired for things that had nothing to do with baseball." Rangers fans "trusted that a franchise that had never had much success was going to be as well run as any on earth." His personality was "so woven into the franchise, first as the team's most popular player ever and then as the executive in charge when it had the most success, that it'll take some time to grasp that he's no longer there." Justice: "Here's hoping Daniels and Ryan exhausted every possibility to try and make the marriage work" (MLB.com, 10/17). ESPN DALLAS' Durrett wrote, "It won't be just Texas Rangers fans and employees that will miss Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan. The media will, too." Fans "might think that a guy that has littered the Major League Baseball record books and was a nearly unanimous first-ballot Hall of Famer wouldn't be accessible." But in dealing with the media, Ryan "was refreshing." He "called a spade a spade," and his honesty "only added to his credibility." He "rarely dodged a question, and if you really needed a quote from him on a particular subject, he'd give it to you." That kind of accessibility to the media "allowed Ryan to be an important and valuable voice to the fans" (ESPNDALLAS.com, 10/17).

ALL IN THE FAMILY? In Houston, Jose de Jesus Ortiz wrote Ryan's retirement gives the Astros "an opportunity to correct one of the biggest misses in Houston sports history." Astros Owner Jim Crane and President Reid Ryan, the eldest son of Nolan, "have not talked to the Texas icon about returning to the Astros." But the "door is clearly open." Crane said, "To me, Nolan Ryan’s it. He’s one of the best pitchers ever. He’s from our neighborhood. He grew up here. He’s probably the biggest name in baseball in Texas. He means a lot." But Crane added, "I haven't talked to him about anything. There's been no discussion whatsoever" (CHRON.com, 10/17).
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