If you are a baseball fan in the state of Texas you probably know several Rangers fans. For that matter you may be one. That bandwagon has grown exponentially over the last few years. Three straight playoff teams, World Series appearances and a television contract as accessible statewide as it is lucrative, tends to inflate a fan base.
But those Rangers fans are a tad uneasy and we all know why. If you speak with ANY Texas fan I am can almost guarantee you have heard them say,” I am not at all happy that Nolan Ryan isn’t with the team anymore.”
Then wait a second or two for the inevitable follow up.
“I am also not happy that he is back with the Astros.”
Like your ex-wife marrying your nemesis, it is unsettling and irritating.
Those complaints aren’t just limited to the fan base. Former Ranger Ian Kinsler got loose recently in an ESPN the Magazine article.
“Nolan Ryan put us on the map,” Kinsler was quoted as saying. “He brought respect to the organization.”
Kinsler went on to explain the Rangers lost their swagger when Ryan’s role was diminished with the club.
“Nolan’s s__ts gold here,” he added in the piece. “Once the Rangers fall apart, he’s going to s___ gold even more because they turned on him.”
S______g gold doesn’t sound the least bit fun, but I digress. It is hard to believe the Rangers are going to fall apart any time soon. However clubs do have a shelf life on dominance. Players get older. Expensive free agent signings replace player development in attempts to keep feeding the winning beast. See the Philadelphia Phillies or maybe the Astros of the mid 2000’s. But the Rangers could still have a lot to say about the American League West in the near future and beyond.
After three consecutive 100 plus loss seasons, the remaining question about the Astros is when are they going to take that next step? The climb has been agonizingly slow and many fans are willing to embrace anything that might speed the process along. That brings me right back to a 67-year old, semi-retired pitcher and executive.
Ryan’s role with the Astros is as an advisor rather than CEO & President. He won’t be making decisions, but rather contributing. If asked to contribute I am guessing he will be the first Hall of Famer to raise his hand and volunteer. Here’s hoping that he is asked early and often.
I hear Raleigh, North Carolina is lovely in the spring. If Nolan Ryan doesn’t lay eyes on a certain left-handed pitcher from North Carolina State named Carlos Rodon, it would be a waste. I have never been to Shepherd, Texas but if Tyler Kolek was pitching I wouldn’t need a GPS. I could roll down my window and listen for the 98 mph crack of ball into glove. The Express knows a thing or two about rifle armed Texas pitchers. Here’s hoping another potential number one pick peers over during a high school start and sees a Texas legend watching his every move.
The Astros have scouts, cross checkers and directors with fully described roles. They also have plenty of computers, (even computers with nicknames) and bright folks to input and analyze data. But Ryan might provide a different perspective and be able to offer and opinion or two.
In Ryan’s previous role with the Astros I am sure he was asked about several young players. I am guessing the organization didn’t always listen. A few dreadful player drafts set the club back years. If you enjoy train wrecks, google Max Sapp. Here is the cliff notes version- a former first round pick, who hit seven minor league home runs, none above A ball. I am guessing Sapp didn’t get a Ryan “thumbs up.”
The fan base has paid a terrible price in losing for the reward of three consecutive number one picks. Early returns show that the organization did well with the first two, overall picks. A “hit” on the third could provide bigger returns. I like organizational depth of talent as much as the next guy, but I love star players more.
Make no mistake about it, the future of the organization will be built on the back of five or six players and they won’t be named Grossman or Hoes with no disrespect to Grossman or Hoes. Springer, Cosart, Appel and Rodon will supply the foundation. If Ryan did nothing but visit with that latter trio, it would provide a valuable resource. Almost like an individual Ryan Elite Camp of the past for some elite arms. If you dare to dream, you could even envision a scenario with that three headed pitching monster anchoring a rotation that would more than compete in the A.L. West.
Ryan got agonizingly close to the ultimate prize with the Rangers. But he certainly played a huge role in the baseball resurgence in Arlington. He might just have a few tricks left up his sleeve to assist in that type of turnaround one more time.
If that is indeed the case, you will be hearing a few more of those Rangers fans complaining.
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