What goes around comes around, I guess. Talk is goin around the Big D that Nolan Ryan’s power is eroding, thanks to a promotion to Jon Daniels (who was already GM when Nolie got there) and Business Operations person Rick George (I think he’s the male version of Pam Gardner.) You see, both guys are now calling themselves President of GM and President of Business Operations and Nolan, who is President of CEO, is supposedly Not Happy about all that extra titling of the other 2 guys. And all this happened back in November and it is just NOW getting out, not sure how it got out, or by whom, or why.
Check this quote from Jon Daniels about Nolan Ryan: “So who has the final say regarding the personnel on the field? “He has the ability to veto something, I think,” Daniels said of Ryan…”
Yes, this DOES sound like a bunch of middle school girls talking about who looked at who.
But what surprised me the very most about the story is not that Nolan didn’t like it when the money gave anyone but himself power to say who would get what title, but that Nolan, who is the (public) face of the Texas Rangers ownership, is not the majority owner. No, those guys are named Bob Simpson and Ray Davis – Nolie only owns a tiny bit of the team. You wouldn’ta thunk it, seeing as how during the bidding for the team sale was won by the “Nolan-Greenberg” group AND Nolan is listed as “principal owner” in the Wikipedia (yes, not exactly infallible). You wouldn’ta thunk it seeing as how the TV cameras focused only on Nolan’s sour puss as the Rangers lost 2 WS in a row.
But I’m getting a little ahead of myself in the Nolan Ryan Power Craving story.
Nolan Ryan started his career with the Mets in 68 was used as a starter and long reliever, posted ERA+ for his 4 years of 98, 104, 118 and 86, was traded to the Angels after the 71 season. At that time, he was hardly a STAH!!! and hadn’t yet thrown any of his famous nonos. According to People Who Know, Nolan was very bitter and angry about the trade and carried a grudge, which, by the way, is a Nolan Tradition.
When with the Angels, he became known for throwing very hard, throwing lots of innings, giving up very few hits, giving up a lot of walks and getting a lot of strikeouts. Over his 8 years, he started 288 games and finished 156 of them over 2178 innings. That works out to almost 7.2 IP/GS. As well as approximately 5.2 IP in the games he didn’t finish. He averaged 6.3 H/9, FIVE.4 walks/9 and 10 K/9. In spite of all those no hitters and Ks, and winning 21 and 22 games in 73 and 74, he never won a Cy Young, mostly because he lost almost as many games as he won, but he came in second and third in 73 and 74.
According to my Mama, who was around Back Then, Ryan wasn’t even close to being regarded as a great pitcher, but a guy obsessed with strikeouts who Didn’t Have What It Takes To Win (unlike, say Jack Morris. But I digress..)
He signed for what was then a lot of money with his (almost) hometown Houston Astros – the first of very few splashy FA signings, in 1980. He wasn’t any Roger Clemens though, and there wasn’t the media EXCITEMENT!!! that there was 23 years later. Ryan did get the Astros pub with all those strikeouts and his race with Steve Carleton in 1983 to break Big Train’s Sacred All Time Strikeout Record. According to my Mama, who was there at the time, it certainly didn’t get near the EXCITEMENT!!!!! that the Mantle/Maris or Hank Aaron chase of The Sacred All Time Home Run Record. Or Cal Ripken’s chase of The Sacred All Time Games Played In A Row Record.
Nolan spent 9 years in Houston. Over those 9 years, he started 288 games, had a 106-94 record ( won 53% of his games) with a 110 ERA+ and two no hitters. He played on 3 really good teams in 80, 81 and 86. Check his win/loss records: 11-10 over 35 GS, 4 CG and 2 shutouts in 1980. In the strike shortened year of 1981, a 110 game season: 11-5 in 21 GS with 5 CG and 2 SO; In 1986, 12-8 in 30 GS with 1 CG and no shutouts.
In the playoffs: 1980 NLCS, he pitched 2 games.
- First game, he threw 6.1 innings, gave up 2 runs/2 ER in the 4th, was pulled with men on second and third, 1 out, but they were stranded. That is 27 batters faced, 8 H, 1 BB, 6 K. So no Win there.
- Second game, first playoff gave EVER at the Astrodome (Game 5, which was THE deciding game, as the NLCS was 5 games back then) it’s Nolan Ryan and the Dome isn’t even filled to capacity, drawing only 44 K, same as the previous 2 games. So Nolan wasn’t exactly a drawing card. And he didn’t win this one neither. Gave up 2 runs in the second, then in the 8th, gave up 3 straight singles, then a RBI walk, and got pulled. Relievers let all his runs score and there went the ballgame. Now I’m not sure who many pitches had been thrown, or if Nolan was tired and should have been done at the end of 7, but you know How Things Were Back Then, and TLR hadn’t started The Reliever Parade thingy. So out he went and there went the games.
In the 81 playoffs: He FINALLY went all the way, winning his first game. In the 5th and, again, deciding game, he gave up 3 runs in the 6th (1 unearned) and didn’t get no run support, so for the second year in a row, he was the guy who couldn’t Win when it was All On The Line.
In the 86 playoffs, in Game 2, he lasted 5 innings, giving up 2 in the second and 3 in the 5th and losing. In the 5th game, which COULD have been the deciding game, he threw 9 innings but gave up 1 run and left with the score tied. If he had been a True Gamer like Jack Morris, he wouldn’t have given up that homer and would have Won. We won’t even talk about Game 6, which is the first playoff game I even remember, and the memory of Kevin Bass striking out to end with the winning run on second – it still hurts.
Anyway, his reputation as the guy who prefers strikeouts to Winning was absolutely cemented in 87 when he went 8-16, got 270 K in his race to see how many Ks he could get. The fact that he won the ERA title too, with 2.76 (142 ERA+) was dismissed. And after his contract expired in 88, when he was 41, when he went 12-11 with a 3.52 ERA (a 94 ERA+ back then), the Astros owner let him go, figuring that he was basically done and wasn’t a Winner anyway. That and the fact that it was right about then that he was thinking of getting rid of the team and didn’t want to spend more money than he had to and Nolan was gonna demand big bucks, which, Back Then, was a million bucks a year. Nolan was NOT happy, and held a grudge. A BIG time grudge.
The Texas Rangers, an afterthought which garnered maybe 3 lines a day in Dallas amidst the 20 pages of Cowboy/ high school football stories 24/7/365, decided to sign The Strikeout King. The 88 Rangers went 70-91 and were 11th of 14 in the AL in attendence. Only 11th??? From the stories I heard, it was 15th – guess the AL was already counting tickets sold and not butts in seats.
It was a GREAT idea – the attendance increased 25% and the team under Bobby Valentine, not yet INfamous, actually posted a winning record going 83-79 as Nolan went 16-10 (learned How To Win) and piled up 301 K over 32 games. Nolan was given all the credit for the turnaround in the Dallas media, which actually had a reporter go to games and actually printed game summaries when Nolan pitched. Yassuh, Nolan, The Real Texan, Texas Strong and Texas Tough at age 41, outthrowin the youngsters and keeping himself fireballing strong by his incredible after game workout routines. Yep, just Nolan and intensive weight lifting and bicycling and Advil and that ol Texas Tough kept him throwin that 98+ MPH FB at age 42, yassuh.
Nolan kept the team winning in 90 and 91, although still not yet enough to Go All The Way, and attendance increased with the emergence of Pudge Rodriguez and Juan Gonzalez the Sluggahs!!! He started breaking down and needing more rest in 91 (imagine that) but continued to be able to throw the ball at 98 MPH and strikeout 200+ hitters. Should I mention that Jose “Steroid Mary” Canseco didn’t join the team until mid-92, when Ryan was almost finished. But that Nolan had no problem getting into violent altercations at age 46? He tore his shoulder to shreds at the end of 93, so he hed to keep his promise to retire. That 93 season, by the way, saw record breaking crowds come to Arlington.
Nolan’s last 4 years did for him what his first 23 didn’t – cement his reputation as a Hall of Fame First Ballot pitcher, one of the 10 greatest of the 20th century. I promise you nobody talked about Nolan Ryan that way even his last year with the Astros – he was a guy who threw a lot of strikeouts but was uncoachable and cared more about strikeouts than Winning. A 500 guy, at best. Longevity, yes, greatness, no.
But it wasn’t exactly the end of Nolan Ryan’s long on/off relation with the Astros. Not by a LONG shot, grudge or no grudge.