Nolan Ryan met with Astros owner Jim Crane, Astros GM Jeff Luhnow, and his son, Astros president of business operations Reid Ryan, earlier this week. The parties, looking for a way to bring the Baseball Hall of Famer into the organization, announced the meeting as a success. Ryan, stating he wants to get back into baseball, promised to give the Astros a decision by the start of spring training.
I'm a Nolan Ryan fanboy, dating back to my days as a wee youngster and he was tossing no-hitters for the California Angels. I thrilled in his years with the Astros -- one of the first Astros games I ever worked involved Ryan taking a no-hitter into the ninth inning against the Phillies. I was upset when John McMullen let him go -- though I could understand McMullen's thinking -- but still cheered for Ryan with the Rangers though I did get pissed that he tossed two no-hitters and got his 300th win with the Rangers, and I still think it's wrong that Ryan's wearing a Rangers cap on his Hall of Fame plaque.
I would like very much for Ryan to return to the Astros. But frankly, from what we've learned over the years, this move makes zero sense. Nolan Ryan is a man who's not really happy just being a community relations figurehead. And it was not long ago that Ryan was a part-owner of the Rangers and the guy calling the shots. So it just seems strange that he'd be willing to take a consulting job where he reports to his son, to Jim Crain, and to Jeff Luhnow.
There was a story out yesterday from Maury Brown on Forbes.com that tries to figure out what's going on. And yes, hiring Ryan would be a PR win for a team that's been awful short of PR wins the past several years. But it also positions Ryan to study the farm system and player development of the Astros along with all of the business operations such that, in a few short years local hero Nolan Ryan is named as President/General Manager of the Astros.
Brown's been spot on with a lot of his Astros analysis the past several years. But I think he's a bit off with this analysis. If Crane is true to his word on how he wants to build the franchise, giving Ryan such power and forcing out Jeff Luhnow makes no sense because Luhnow's approach is supposedly what Crane wants. Of course, it's possible that if the Astros still suck in a couple of years that Crane could replace Luhnow with Ryan, though that would probably result in the club starting totally over with the rebuild (one of the issues in Texas was that Ryan and GM Jon Daniels didn't see eye-to-eye and Luhnow's approach is similar to that of Daniels). This probably doesn't matter to most Astros fans, especially what few remaining casual fans there are. These same fans probably thought Carlos Lee was a good player and would've been happy with Ed Wade if the team would've played somewhat better. These fans aren't following the ins-and-outs of every Astros move, mainly cause they can't see the team on TV, and all they know is this team sucks. They don't care about how well-regarded the farm system is, they only care about the major league product, and that major league product stinks.
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So it would be quite the PR move for Crane to push out Luhnow for Ryan in a few years if the team's not yet winning. And who knows, maybe Ryan would inherit the situation he inherited with the Rangers, a team ready to win because of a stat-heavy GM who repaired the damage caused by a big-spending owner with no money who didn't really understand baseball. But while it would be quite the PR move, the question is: would it be a good baseball move?
But there's no guarantee of any of that. The discussions have centered on Ryan being a consultant. And maybe that'll be good with Ryan, but this is a guy who has had some real power and it's hard to see him taking a job with no power.
This would be a coup for Crane if he pulls it off. And I don't blame him for trying. Nolan Ryan's like a god in Houston, and if that will get some fan interest for the team, then good. But there really needs to be a good plan in place because based on what happened with the Rangers, roving consultant Nolan Ryan might not be content for long.
Then again, I'm just tired of bad baseball, so anything that detracts from bad baseball has to be a good thing. Right?