UPDATE: I’m in Surprise today at Rangers camp. I just hung out in the Rangers clubhouse for a while. Everyone is proceeding in a business as usual way, but a lot of people — not players — are of the distinct impression that something messed up is afoot in the Rangers’ front office. This jibes pretty well with the report from this morning. The sense here is that either the Rangers’ owners or Jon Daniels needs to say something about Nolan Ryan’s status sooner rather than later because (a) there is too much uncertainty now; and (b) Ryan is not the person who should have to say that, no, he is not being squeezed out.
8: 19 AM: This would be something of a big deal. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram is reporting that Nolan Ryan could leave the Texas Rangers soon, possibly by the end of Spring Training.
The report is based on the announcements over the weekend that GM Jon Daniels has been promoted to president of baseball operations and that and that Rick George has been promoted to president of business operations. The Star-Telegram says that while Ryan’s title with the team is still CEO, Daniels now has final say over all baseball decisions and George the final say over business decisions, which would seem to leave little room for Ryan. They also report, however, that these moves happened in November internally even though they were just announced this weekend.
Team co-owner Bob Simpson denies that any changes are afoot, so this could all be hooey. But if there really were moves to squeeze Nolan Ryan out, it’s not the sort of thing you’d figure anyone would want to go on record to say.
Retired big league pitcher Barry Zito has a memoir coming out. Much of it will likely track the usual course of an athlete’s memoir. The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat and a few fun and/or sad and/or thoughtful anecdotes along the way. One bit of it, though, is not the stuff of the usual athlete memoir.
He writes that he ctually rooted against the San Francisco Giants — his own team — in the 2010 World Series. He did so because he was left off the postseason roster, felt miserable about it and let his ego consume him. From the San Francisco Chronicle:
“It was really hard to admit . . . I rooted against the team because my ego was in full control and if we lost then I could get out of there . . . It would a) prove they couldn’t do it without me, and b) take me out of the situation because I was so miserable coming to the field every day. I was so deep in shame. I wanted out of that situation so bad.”
Zito at that point was midway through a seven-year, $126 million contract he signed with the Giants after the 2006 season. Almost as soon as he signed it he transformed from one of the better pitchers in the game — he had a 124 ERA+ in eight seasons with the Oakland Athletics and won the 2002 Cy Young Award — to being a liability for the Giants. Indeed, he only had one season in San Francisco where, again, by ERA+, he was a league-average starter or better. In 2010 he went 9-14 with a 4.15 ERA and was way worse than that down the stretch. It made perfect sense for the Giants to leave him off the 2010 postseason roster. And, of course, it worked out for them.
Things would improve. He’d still generally struggle as a Giant, but in 2012 he was a hero of the NLCS, pitching the Giants past the Cardinals in a must-win game. He then got the Game 1 start in the World Series and beat Justin Verlander as the Giants won that game and then swept the Tigers out of the series. As time went on he’d fine more personal happiness as well. When his contract ended following the 2013 season Zito took out a full-page ad in the San Francisco Chronicle thanking Giants fans for their support. He’d leave the game in 2014 and pitch three more games for the Athletics in 2015 before retiring for good.
Not many baseball memoirs deliver hard truths like Zito’s appears willing to do. That’s pretty damn brave of him. And pretty damn admirable.