When Reid Ryan signed on as the CEO for the Astros last year, it seemed a foregone conclusion his father, Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan, who had held the same job as his son but for division rival Texas Rangers, would join the Houston ball club eventually. That day came on Tuesday as the elder Ryan agreed to come work for the 'Stros as a special assistant to Jim Crane. Though the job sounds like that of an errand boy, we're guessing the Ryan Express won't be toting coffee for his boss.
Instead, it would appear Ryan will spend some time on the business side with his son, but much more of it on the baseball side with GM Jeff Luhnow. Having one of the greatest pitchers ever step on the mound to work alongside some young pitching talent certainly can't hurt, and, given his age and ties to the city, it is the kind of move that won't leave Luhnow looking over his shoulder.
It's a win-win for the Astros, a team not only mired in the worst period of on-the-field squalor the franchise has ever witnessed, but also dead in the water with fans thanks to a TV deal that leaves them off the majority of televisions in the greater Houston area.
While Ryan can help evaluate pitching talent and lend credibility to the front office, there isn't much he can do to help Crane and the Astros wade through the court proceedings and bad PR that come with the Comcast Sports Net debacle. Nor can he suddenly wave his famous pitching arm and turn this from a 100-loss club into a contender.
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But it's a start.
There is a sense that since the end of last season, the team has finally managed to reach the bottom. With 107 losses and fans angered over the TV blackout, it would seem there isn't a greater depth the Astros could reach anyway. But when they brought in the younger Ryan and continued Luhnow's approach to stocking the minor leagues with young talent -- a stable recently praised by ESPN as the best in baseball -- things began to feel as if they'd turned a corner.
Adding Nolan Ryan to the crew is one more example of righting the ship. Unfortunately, it's not like they were propping up a listing row boat. This team is more like the Titanic, split in half and sinking quickly, or at least it has felt that way the last three years. As draft picks mature and youngsters begin their climb from the minors to the majors, it appears, as one baseball writer recently put it, the light at the end of the tunnel, for once, isn't an oncoming train.
Ryan may have ended his pitching career with the Rangers -- and even went into the Hall with an R on his ball cap -- the Astros may have reversed their fortunes for once bringing him back into the fold. And while it may not be enough to bring the fans back in droves -- that will require winning and games on TV -- it is something after years of what amounted to nothing. We'll take it.