Texas better not lose Ryan

It’s how-to-act-dumb week for the two leading AL West contenders. The Los Angeles Angels started the silliness by renewing Mike Trout’s contract for $20,000 over the minimum salary when they could have avoided any controversy by paying him an extra $100,000. But if the Texas Rangers lose Nolan Ryan as their CEO, they will retire the trophy for short-sightedness and deserve any ridicule they get.

I don’t know what the heck is going on in Texas. I don’t know the exact details of the political in-fighting that may be taking place in the Rangers’ organization, and frankly I don’t care about such he-said, she-said nonsense. I’ll just say this: Shame on the Rangers if Ryan departs thinking that he lost a power struggle. If that is his perception, ownership is guilty, guilty, guilty.

Oh, the Rangers would survive just fine without Ryan: They have built a powerhouse organization that went to back-to-back World Series in 2010 and ’11 and reached the postseason again in ’12, in part due to Ryan’s contributions. The front office headed by general manager Jon Daniels is one of the game’s best, and that is not going to change.

But the point is, Ryan helped save the franchise twice – in Dec. 1988, when he joined the team as a free-agent pitcher, providing the credibility that helped lead to the construction of a new ballpark; and in Feb. 2008, when he became club president under former owner Tom Hicks and helped the team endure through bankruptcy.

Ryan is a Hall of Famer, a legend in the game, a legend in Texas. He might be the most famous Texan of all time, ahead of even Sam Houston and Stephen F. Austin. Yet, he is relatively unassuming, and hardly the kind who seeks attention at the expense of others.

So, someone please explain why all this might be coming apart.

Last Friday, the Rangers made the seemingly innocent announcement that they were promoting Daniels to president of baseball operations/GM and Rick George to president of business operations. Nothing seemed different except the titles: Both Daniels and George were to report to Ryan, who lost his dual title as team president/CEO but remained CEO.

Two days later, longtime columnist Randy Galloway of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram dropped a bombshell, writing, “Yes, there has been a shift of power in Arlington, which may or may not be the same as a power struggle, but the end result is the same.” Galloway, citing sources, then said that Ryan could leave the Rangers sooner rather than later, and possibly by the end of spring training.

Bob Simpson, one of the team’s owners, told Galloway, “Nolan Ryan leaving the Rangers would be a tragedy, and something we don’t want to happen. We absolutely do not want Nolan to leave. The moves we announced were to preserve Nolan, not to remove him, or remove his power. We want Nolan to be with the Rangers forever, and in charge of the team as long as he wants to be.”

If that’s the way it works out, fine, no harm done. The moves will be exactly as advertised – the first step, on the baseball side, toward Daniels becoming club president and assistant GM and Thad Levine becoming GM. Such hierarchies are quite common in baseball today – think Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer with the Chicago Cubs, Ken Williams and Rick Hahn with the Chicago White Sox, Mark Shapiro and Chris Antonetti in Cleveland.

But if Ryan leaves, a lot of people are going to have a lot of explaining to do.

The perception of a power struggle would haunt A) the owners who failed to broker a peace between Ryan and those who opposed him and B) Daniels, who – fairly or not – would be viewed by some as the guy who helped run Nolan Ryan out of town.

Frankly, I find it difficult to believe that Daniels would be party to such a thing. He and Ryan come from quite different backgrounds – Ryan is a baseball lifer from Texas, Daniels a Cornell graduate from Queens, New York – but the consensus among Rangers people is that they enjoy an excellent working relationship.

Ryan has served as a valuable sounding board for Daniels, helping him mature and grow as an executive. And while the two have had differences – notably, when Ryan hired former Astros GM Tim Purpura as farm director – so what? All front offices experience creative tension.

Some on the baseball side bristle that Ryan too often receives credit for the Rangers’ success when it’s Daniels and his assistants who do the bulk of the work. Again, who cares? Ryan doesn’t ask for credit, doesn’t operate with a heavy hand. And the reality is, he’s the one who brought pitching coach Mike Maddux to Texas and helped smooth out the Michael Young mess before the 2011 season, among other things.

Shame on the Rangers if they can’t figure out a way for everyone to work together. Shame on them if they lose Nolan Ryan.