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Nolan Ryan says he was “dropped into Jon Daniels’ sandbox” in Texas

Mar 19, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT


Jerry Crasnick of has an interview with Nolan Ryan and his son Reid, both of whom are helping run the Astros now. Most of the article is about Nolan’s return to Houston and his role with the Astros. But there was the obligatory question about why his time in Texas came to an end. An end with no small amount of acrimony between Ryan and GM Jon Daniels.

Ryan plays the diplomat to some degree, saying that he was brought in as Rangers president after Daniels’ team was already in place:

I haven’t really commented on that,” Ryan said. “But when I came into that situation, I was dropped in J.D.’s sandbox. He had his organization and his group of people, and all of a sudden — boom! — Nolan Ryan was there. It was a dimension they didn’t anticipate. It probably wasn’t handled properly with my coming in.”

At the risk of seeing something that Ryan didn’t intend to communicate, I will note that I’ve rarely heard the word “sandbox” used in a business context by the person whose area of responsibilities is being described. Usually it’s someone else referring to someone else’s domain mildly derisively with some hint of “they don’t play nice and share” and some implication that said domain is narrowly and arbitrarily drawn. A businesspeak version of “I wasn’t the problem, they and their little games were.”

Maybe that’s not what Ryan is saying. But I also don’t feel like Ryan — based on what some of his media surrogates in Dallas said after he left the Rangers — believes that he was the problem in Texas.

  1. beefytrout - Mar 19, 2014 at 2:11 PM

    Nolan Ryan referring to himself in the 3rd person may illustrate part of the problem.

    • chacochicken - Mar 19, 2014 at 2:16 PM

      “They weren’t sufficiently intimidated by Nolan Ryan. I couldn’t throw baseballs at them either.”

    • gothapotamus90210 - Mar 19, 2014 at 2:27 PM

      This is Nolan calling on behalf of Nolan. Nolan wants to own a team.

      • Old Gator - Mar 19, 2014 at 4:09 PM

        Nolan is just lucky that the cats didn’t cover him up.

      • stlouis1baseball - Mar 19, 2014 at 4:53 PM

        Well played potamus. Well played.
        Not that it matters…but I promise I didn’t see your post until AFTER my post.
        Nevertheless, once again…well played.

    • chinahand11 - Mar 19, 2014 at 3:03 PM

      Where’s Rickey? Only he can do that.

    • apkyletexas - Mar 19, 2014 at 8:03 PM

      I still love Jim Rome’s question to Nolan – “Did Robin Ventura ever apologize for bloodying your fist with his face”?

  2. Bob - Mar 19, 2014 at 2:28 PM

    “Sandbox” can be used to define an area, either of a particular project or a particular person. It’s not always meant to be derisive. For example, in a computer sense, a sandbox is a testing environment for potential new products, software, operating system, etc.

    Reading Ryan’s comment, I think he was getting in a dig, but I don’t think he meant it in the literal sense that Daniels was acting like a 5-year-old who wouldn’t share. He just meant that Daniels and his team had a way of doing things and then here comes this guy who isn’t one of them. I’m sure they were threatened by Ryan, and maybe Ryan was not particularly open to their way of doing things.

    And I’m sure Ryan doesn’t think he was the problem. I’m sure he thinks he was this saint who got screwed over, a narrative his media buddies gladly perpetuated. But, c’mon, in a situation like this, aren’t both parties to blame?

  3. xpensivewinos - Mar 19, 2014 at 2:31 PM

    The good ol’ boy charm wears thin. He’s a typical former athlete who thinks he automatically deserves a certain level respect as an executive due to his accomplishments as a player.

    Just a hunch, but having the Rangers announcers kiss his ass during the game broadcasts is probably not going to have nearly the negative effect on the team that “Nolan Ryan” thinks it will.

    • Kevin Gillman - Mar 19, 2014 at 6:35 PM

      The way I see it, with Nolan Ryan as president, the Rangers made 2 World Series appearances. Without him, the Rangers weren’t even in the postseason.

      I mean, forgive me if I am wrong here, but Nolan is a legend in Texas, right? He has EARNED that respect. What has Daniels done without him? Just because you’re smart, doesn’t mean it translates to a World Series. I have always believed a winning team needs a flavor of old school and new school in the mix.

      • lmoneyfresh - Mar 19, 2014 at 7:11 PM

        Well, Daniels put those two world series teams and fantastic farm system together, that’s what he did. Other than that, he didn’t do anything I guess. But hey, Nolan walked around looking all gruff and gritty so he earned respect.

      • Kevin Gillman - Mar 19, 2014 at 8:03 PM

        He also made sure those outstanding farm systems would work their pitchers to the point that almost every game, Rangers were averaging over 6 innings a game, no pitching counts were used, so the bullpen wasn’t over worked. Since he left, many of the pitchers are now injured, is that a coicidence?

      • lmoneyfresh - Mar 20, 2014 at 10:12 AM

        Didn’t Feliz and Colby both need Tommy John surgery while Ryan was there? And Harrison’s back? And Ogando’s whole body? I have a hard time trying to pin Ryan leaving on Holland having an off field accident and blowing out his knee. He may have pushed his guys to pitch longer but the injury thing is garbage.

      • Kevin Gillman - Mar 20, 2014 at 1:21 PM

        The thing that affected Ogando and Feliz is the constant switching back and forth with starter, and reliever. Now, I have no idea who’s idea that was to change Feliz as a starter, but then they quickly moved him back, did they not? Also was Harrison involved in the WBC? That easily can translate to his injury, and while Colby is a decent starter, he’s not the number one guy that can lead your team to the playoffs.

        But regardless, I blame this relationship going sour on both men. Egos have to be checked at the door for any successful relationship to work. We will see what happens this season.

      • alongthegulf - Mar 20, 2014 at 11:20 AM

        Kevin, you are absolutely right. With Nolan the emphasis was on pitching and defense. With Daniels the emphasis is on hitting and the long ball. With Nolan is control we made back to back World Series appearances. With Daniels back in control we’ve done basically nothing. Many Rangers fans love the long ball, but I rather see winning baseball and World Series appearances!

      • Kevin Gillman - Mar 20, 2014 at 1:15 PM

        In my opinion, they had the best of both worlds, with the pitching and hitting the two years they were in the World Series. Maybe it was a case of the two clashing? I blame that on both men, and we’ll see what happens this season, with Daniels at the helm.

      • Reflex - Mar 21, 2014 at 12:14 AM

        Kevin – So basically you cherry pick which injuries to blame on Nolan and which to blame on Daniels? How does that work?

        Also, Nolan was never in charge. Not of the pitching. Not of the player development. Not of the team. That is kind of the point. He wanted more authority, but he was not given it. Hence the sandbox comment. He was an advisor and figurehead, nothing more. Daniels did the hard work.

      • Kevin Gillman - Mar 21, 2014 at 12:36 AM

        So how is team president just a “figurehead”? Maybe the organization didn’t trust Jon at the time? I don’t know, but results are results. My statement stands about egos being checked at the door, and I am referring to both men there.

      • Reflex - Mar 21, 2014 at 1:56 PM

        Ask him how its just a figurehead. He is the one claiming it with the sandbox statement. Its pretty clear he did not feel he had any real authority or at least not the authority his title indicated.

        As for results, the important thing there is to correctly evaluate contributions to those results. There is little to nothing in them that can be attributed to Ryan. Its possible he did contribute, of course, but if he did it has not been well contributed beyond some really vague statements. If I had to guess he was more useful on the business side than the baseball side, and that was the problem he had as he wanted more of a say on the baseball side.

  4. forsch31 - Mar 19, 2014 at 2:32 PM

    Considering that Ryan isn’t what you would call your traditional businessman, I think he uses the terms that he’s familar with, and isn’t implying what you would call “businessspeak”. Especially since your implication doesn’t make much sense in the context of that quote. It ignores that Ryan says he was “dropped” into a situation, that the organization was up and running, and implies that he was a disruptive presence and his addition to the organization wasn’t handled properly.

    If anything, it sounds like he’s blaming ownership.

    • nolanwiffle - Mar 20, 2014 at 9:04 AM

      I believe Ryan has owned banks in Texas for the last 25 years. That would make him fairly business savvy. I think he said what he said knowing full well how it would be construed.

  5. jrob23 - Mar 19, 2014 at 2:33 PM

    just remember where the Rangers were prior to him getting there folks

    • beefytrout - Mar 19, 2014 at 2:38 PM

      roughly 3 years into Jon Daniels’ rebuilding of the team. never forget!

      • raysfan1 - Mar 19, 2014 at 4:26 PM

        I’m not sure that it’d be much of a poke in the eye if the Astros and Rangers were to swap AAA affiliates. Perhaps in perception in that the two franchises both want to be the primary team in central Texas. However, OKC is just about as close to DFW as Round Rock/Austin, and there are definitely more Rangers fans here than Astros fans.

      • bendover09 - Mar 19, 2014 at 5:38 PM


        It takes me 1h30m to get to OK casino
        From Dallas

        Over a 4 hour drive to Austin

        Most of the Houston fans jumped on the bandwagon , but hey ..

      • raysfan1 - Mar 19, 2014 at 7:05 PM

        1st, my apologies for accidentally hitting reply under the wrong thread–should’ve been the next one down.

        To which casino are you referring and how fast do you drive? It takes me right at 3 hours to get from here in OKC to the ballpark in Arlington. It’s 135 miles to the stateline down I-35.

    • paperlions - Mar 19, 2014 at 3:02 PM

      Yeah, and read the quote and realize that he is pretty much saying that JD and his team were responsible for running baseball operations and the success the team had….because, you know, they were and are. There is a reason he wasn’t sought after by another team, and why he is working on the business side and not the baseball side of the Astros organization as well.

      • stex52 - Mar 19, 2014 at 3:23 PM

        I’ve beaten this drum with you before, Paper. I’m not Ryan’s biggest fan; spent a lot of time watching the Astros and for a time in the Alvin area. He is thin-skinned and arrogant, often. But I have always thought, too, that is frequently an attribute of the extreme overachievers I have known in the past. And sometimes I think it is a component of being so extremely good. So take that for what it is.

        I also agree with you that suggesting he was any kind of key component to the Rangers’ success would suggest direct evidence that is simply not there. The only arguments I ever see for his input here are by coincidental timing. and inference. My own thoughts are that he doesn’t have access are competence to use the tools that have driven success in that organization. And they have, in general, been very smart.

        Having said all that, I am still hoping it works much better with the Astros. Reid has apparently grown into a competent executive, and Ryan is very popular down here. I suspect the Astros have given better thought to where he can help and have defined his territory well.

        And, as I always say, maybe that means the Astros will get the Round Rock AAA franchise back now. It would be a big gain for them and a poke in the eye to the Rangers’ organization. And I suspect Nolan wouldn’t mind poking them in the eye..

      • paperlions - Mar 19, 2014 at 3:50 PM

        I think Ryan could be an asset to an organization…but running baseball operations, and knowing enough about scouting, advanced metrics, player development, etc. is a career….it is not something a guy can do just because he was a great pitcher. Just because the people that do it make it look easy, doesn’t mean it is.

        The Ryan/Daniels situation had a chance to be like a Jerry Jones/Jimmy Johnson situation…in which one guy did all the work and made all of the decisions and the other guy thought it seemed so easy that he could do it….despite no training in doing it at all.

      • stex52 - Mar 19, 2014 at 3:24 PM

        Okay, typos. access or competence.

      • Old Gator - Mar 19, 2014 at 4:10 PM

        stex: and he has mass murderers for pals. They say you can judge a man by the kinds of enemies he makes. I guess Nolan got off easy that way.

      • historiophiliac - Mar 19, 2014 at 6:29 PM

        Well, you know, OG, I’ve seen Mr. Bush’s paintings, and he’s no Hitler.

      • Old Gator - Mar 19, 2014 at 7:13 PM

        Who vas dis Chhurrrchill, hah? Churchill couldn’t payint…Der Führer, he could payint a whole room in tventy minutes….two coats….

  6. tbird05 - Mar 19, 2014 at 2:42 PM

    Sure is funny how looking at someone else’s picture can make me feel old. Thanks Mr. Ryan.

    • dacty4491 - Mar 19, 2014 at 4:11 PM

      Feel old? How about this. I collected Ray Boone’s baseball card when I was a kid. I can see visualize it in my mind. I then watched his son, Bob play, as well as his grandsons, Bret and Aaron. Now those grandson’s are retired. I feel like frigging Methusalah.

      • dacty4491 - Mar 19, 2014 at 4:12 PM

        “see” should be “still”. “grandson’s” should be “grandsons”. like I said, old.

  7. 461deep - Mar 19, 2014 at 4:42 PM

    Nolan probably did have some effect on the Rangers success as did everyone who was there with him. Of course he has an ego and remains seen as a mellowing tough hombre. You don’t pitch 27 years by being soft. His comment was both diplomatic and an expression of his opinion. He was a great pitcher who would have been better with improved command and a less years on poor teams.

    • beefytrout - Mar 19, 2014 at 4:48 PM

      there is no question the Rangers organization benefited from Ryan’s presence, but no matter what happens to the team this year (good or bad), none of it will be a direct result of Ryan leaving.

  8. stlouis1baseball - Mar 19, 2014 at 4:51 PM

    “Kevin, this is Rickey callin’ on behalf of Rickey.”
    “Rickey wants to play some ball.”

  9. missingdiz - Mar 19, 2014 at 5:19 PM

    Vets typically say that you need X+1 number of boxes for X number of cats.

  10. happytwinsfan - Mar 19, 2014 at 7:33 PM

    i thought this might be an interesting thread when i misread the headline and thought it said “jack daniels sandbox”. wrong again.

  11. shanabartels - Mar 19, 2014 at 8:49 PM

    Am I the one who is bothered by the suggestion that Nolan Ryan is no longer working in Texas? He’s no longer in Arlington. But I’m pretty sure that Houston is still Texas.

  12. stevequinn - Mar 19, 2014 at 11:19 PM

    This is a good thing for Houston.

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