King Kaufman's Sports Daily

Texas Rangers hire Nolan Ryan. Either he's joking around or he'll need help finding the stadium.


King Kaufman
February 8, 2008 5:00PM (UTC)

Let's just say for the sake of argument that you're a Texas Rangers fan. I know it's all about the Lansing Lugnuts for you but go with me for a minute.

You heard the news that pitching legend, Advil spokesman and Robin Ventura headlock-of-death administrant Nolan Ryan had been named team president this week. And that sounded great.

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You don't really know what the president does, since the team also has a general manager who's in charge of player personnel decisions, and you never really heard much about the last president. That was Jeff Cogen, who three months ago became the president of the NHL Dallas Stars, like the Rangers owned by Tom Hicks.

But Ryan's a big hero, he's been a part owner of two minor league teams in the Houston organization, he's done some scouting for the Astros and he looks great in a suit. Also, he's 61, general manager Jon Daniels is 30 and Ryan can probably break Daniels in half. So that's pretty neat right there.

But then maybe you saw him being interviewed on ESPN News and you had to wonder the same thing most hitters must have wondered as they dug into the batter's box with the Express on the hill, or what Ventura must have wondered as he was charging Ryan that day in 1993: Is this really such a good idea?

"It's hard for me to say that I understand what we need to do to turn this organization around to the level that we want it at," Ryan said. "Obviously, putting a winner on the field is very important."

Yes, that would be nice. A winner on the field. Hasn't happened since 2004. A playoff appearance hasn't happened since 1999.

But Ryan said the Rangers had first contacted him before Christmas and that discussions had gotten intense over the last two weeks. If you're being courted to run a business, and you want the job, and you have time to do some homework, and the business is as public as a major league baseball team, don't you come up with an answer to that very question before the job interview? Never mind before the media starts asking it.

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It doesn't even have to be the right answer. But if I'm going to hire you to run my organization, I'd like to think you'd put a little thought into it beforehand.

Shoot, there are half a million guys just in Dallas-Fort Worth who understand exactly what the Rangers need to do to turn the organization around. Nolan Ryan couldn't figure it out in two months? Doesn't he have the Internet?

Ryan said in that and other interviews and his press conference that his first job would be familiarizing himself with both the playing and coaching personnel throughout the system, which is fair enough. He's been working in a different organization and there's only so much you can find out without meeting people, talking to them, watching them play or coach, that sort of thing.

But I found myself wondering if Ryan had done even that "so much he could do" when he answered a question about what his hiring does to help the ballclub. It sounded like the book reports I used to write in junior high school.

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When I hadn't read the book.

"What it does is it brings another baseball person into the organization with a different perspective. So I think it gives a broader perspective of the game and we'll have more resources in the organization and different perspectives in the organization."

So, just to be straight: something about perspective in the organization.

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"It's hard for me to predict what impact I might have on the baseball business aspect of it," Ryan said. "I think I probably have a better feel for the playing aspect of it."

Well, that'll come in handy. How's the arm?

That reminded me of what Paul Simon said to interviewer Marv Albert on "Saturday Night Live" right before his one-on-one basketball game against Connie Hawkins: "I've got to stay with my strengths. Basically singing and songwriting."

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Ryan has a laconic manner and a country accent. I have a feeling he's using those to sandbag. Let everybody think the old man just fell off the tractor, then -- zip. Just like the old fastball under the chin. I'm betting Ryan's got the job nailed and has a detailed five-year plan mapped out in his mind, right down to what's for lunch at the predraft meetings in 2011.

I always liked Nolan Ryan and I'm an optimist. Isn't that what being a Lugnuts fan is all about?

Previous column: Shaq to the Suns

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  • King Kaufman

    King Kaufman is a senior writer for Salon. You can e-mail him at king at salon dot com. Facebook / Twitter / Tumblr

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