Jon Daniels was given every chance to prove he was better off without Nolan Ryan. He wasn’t

·5 min read
Charlie Neibergall/AP

Jon Daniels started with the Texas Rangers in 2002 as the youngest GM in MLB history, and he left in 2022 as the most polarizing figure in the history of the franchise.

Three days after Daniels announced that the team fired manager Chris Woodward, team owner Ray Davis fired Daniels.

Some place near Houston, Nolan Ryan probably chuckled.

Other than Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, no one in our sports market lasted longer than JD.

And no one stood by Daniels more than Davis, who kicked former team president Nolan Ryan out the door to turn it all over to JD in 2013. It was ultimately Davis who decided the direction of this franchise under Daniels must change.

The team announced JD’s contract will not be renewed after the season, and he’s fired effective immediately.

That felt almost impossible to type, let alone believe.

As much as Davis didn’t want to do this, he didn’t have a choice.

The fan base remains checked out, the club ranks 17th in MLB in attendance, the team isn’t in playoff contention, and there remains an alarming portion of potential Rangers fans who simply cannot stand Jon Daniels.

The similarities between the Rangers in 2022 and 2001 continues.

In the winter of 2000, the club signed Alex Rodriguez to a 10-year, $252 million contract along with a handful of other high-priced veterans. Manager Johnny Oates resigned early in the season, the team finished 73-89, and then owner Tom Hicks fired long time GM Doug Melvin.

Hicks replaced Melvin with John Hart, who hired Daniels to be his assistant.

After the 2021 season, the club signed a bunch of high priced stars, most notably Corey Seager, and the team is currently more than 10 games under .500.

A couple of high-priced bats were never going to make this team a contender.

The manager is gone, and now the president of baseball operation is gone, too.

If you want one reason why JD is out, it’s this team’s bewildering inability to develop pitching.

That task now belongs to the man Daniels hired two years ago, GM Chris Young.

Daniel’s career with the Rangers will be defined into two eras: With Nolan, Without Nolan.

In October of 2005, Hart left the club and Hicks promoted Daniels, which was consistent with MLB’s trend of turning over teams to Ivy League grads’.

Hicks gave JD all of the necessary room to learn the job; Daniels hired Ron Washington as manager, and the results were OK in 2007.

In February of 2008, Hicks convinced Ryan to take over the role as team president; to complete this deal Ryan was given final authority on personnel.

Ryan could have easily fired Daniels, Washington, and hired his own people.

Ryan played it out.

JD’s rebuild plan was working, Wash’ grew into the job, and with Ryan as the face of the franchise the club enjoyed its greatest moments.

They won 87 games in 2009; in 2010 and ‘11 they won division titles and reached the World Series.

In Game 6 of the ‘11 World Series, the team was one strike away, twice, from winning its first title.

But ... things happened. No need to remind anyone of how it ended. Check out YouTube if you’re a masochist.

The new ownership group led by Davis was more enamored with Daniels, who simply did not want anyone in the way of his personnel authority.

The schism grew, and Ryan was effectively forced out after the 2013 season.

After that point the Rangers belonged to Jon Daniels.

There was a large faction of loyal JD followers who believed he was cutting edge and aligned with baseball’s growing trend of analytic team building.

He was also a GM who would talk to the team directly, rather than just conversing with the manager. That trait didn’t please a lot of people within the organization who felt a GM should not be addressing a team in a clubhouse.

There was a large faction of loyal Nolan fans, who believed JD shoved a knife in Ryan’s back.

The truth resides somewhere in the boring middle.

Here is the final stat line on JD:

From 2008 to 2013, with Nolan as team president, the Rangers were 536-437 with two division titles, two American League championships, and three playoff appearances. They had winning records in five of six seasons.

With JD running the Rangers from 2006 to ‘07, and 2014 to 2022, the club is 762-872 with two division titles. In his solo tenure, the club had winning records in two of his 11 seasons. They did not win a playoff series, or a home playoff game.

JD deserves as much credit as Nolan Ryan for the team’s success from 2008 to ‘13.

After Nolan left, however, this was all JD’s mess.

To his credit, JD was always a stand up person about the state of the team, good or bad. He would take the blame.

He’s a good person, and he was better at his job than even his most vocal critics want to believe.

Whatever bad feelings that existed between Nolan and the club they have repaired, to the credit of all parties.

Like so many people with the Rangers who were with the club in 2010 and ‘11, his tenure is partially defined by the team’s inability to get one strike, twice, in Game 6 of the World Series.

If the Rangers get that strike, everyone with the team is viewed differently.

As JD’s former manager famously said, “That’s the way baseball go.”

And Jon Daniels is no longer a Texas Ranger.