Nolan Ryan hot dogs are coming back to Arlington. Nolan Ryan himself might not be that far behind.
On Thursday afternoon, the hubristic Houston Astros, who seem either tone deaf to public perception or hell-bent on testing its limits, announced unceremoniously that Reid Ryan, Nolan’s eldest son, was no longer the club’s president of baseball operations. Reid, according to a five-paragraph press release, will remain with the club in an advisory role.
The move, according to the release, will allow Reid Ryan to focus on his “other business ventures while remaining an important part of the Astros organization.”
It read almost as if Reid Ryan wanted to separate himself from the day-to-day work with the club.
In light of the way the Astros, during the World Series, tried to smear a reporter (whose story turned out to be 100% accurate), can you blame him?
And, second, can you believe anything labeled a “Houston Astros Press Release” these days?
Only a few moments after that release came something a little more reliable: A text from Nolan Ryan to longtime Houston TV sports reporter Mark Berman. In it, Ryan, who has been an “executive adviser” to Astros owner Jim Crane since 2014, said: “I will not be back with the club and leave it at that.”
That doesn’t sound like Crane was doing anybody any favors with the move.
There is no telling the real motivation behind the move, but it might end up serving three parties well: Reid Ryan, Crane and the Rangers.
If Reid Ryan has bigger aspirations, like, perhaps political office one day, distancing himself from the recent Astros scandal is a smart move. Crane is appointing his son, Jared, to help run the day-to-day Astros business, which, as an owner, is his right and also sets up a line of succession. And then there are the Rangers. In the long run, they might just end up with another relationship with the Ryans.
This is just the way the baseball business seems to work in Texas. After Houston dumped Ryan the pitcher in 1988, he lent the Rangers credibility for four years as a player. After the Rangers decided the Ryan relationship wasn’t necessary, he went back to Houston. And, in 2008, he returned to the Rangers as President.
You know the rest. In 2012, the Rangers changed Nolan Ryan’s title and made the relationship tenuous again. It was a move that seemed to drip with hubris then, regardless of intent. And the public reaction was, well, emotional. Certainly, nobody would make that mistake again.
Enter the Astros.
Crane hired Reid Ryan, took control of the state’s most precious resource (Nolan Ryan’s loyalty) and also eventually got a prime Triple-A affiliation in Round Rock out of it. Now, with three consecutive 100-win seasons and a World Series title, who needs to worry themselves with such minor details as credibility.
It’s almost like this: Anytime one of the MLB teams in Texas faces a crisis, they call on Nolan Ryan to, at the very least, assuage fans who just feel more comfortable knowing he’s attached to the product.
All of which leads to this: So, when exactly is Nolan coming back to the Rangers?
Hold, your Nolan Ryan hat there, one minute, partner.
The first question to answer is why would Ryan want to? He’s soon to turn 73 and has now had 12 years of exposure to the dirty business of running a baseball team. It demands cunning and a willingness to abandon allegiance. That most definitely is not how Ryan lives his life. He’s probably got better things to do. There wasn’t a spot for him at the decision-making table in Houston. There wouldn’t be in Arlington either.
He certainly doesn’t want to be a glorified mascot, which is often what it looked like he was relegated to, sitting front-and-center at big Astros games. But it came with Reid getting his shot at being a Major League executive. It could be argued, he was just supporting his kid.
The Rangers are the team that could use a Ryan hug right now. And the Astros moves Thursday improve the chances of another embrace.
The Rangers have been slowly healing the old wounds. He agreed to show up for the final game at Globe Life Park to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. The Rangers negotiated a business deal with him regarding his beef products. The next step will come later this winter or next year — no real rush at the moment — when the sides might consider patching things up, once and for all.
And if not, at least you’ll have the hot dogs.