Thursday, March 7, 2013

Texas Rangers Ryan-Daniels Drama Power Play or Publicity Stunt?

The Texas Rangers issued a press release at the end of the day on Friday, March 1 at 4:54 p.m. CST with a headline that read, "Jon Daniels Named President of Baseball Operations/GM - Rick George Named President of Business Operations." This left the obvious question hanging out there of what's going to happen with Nolan Ryan, who up until Friday was President/CEO? The release explained that like this:
The Texas Rangers announced today the promotions of General Manager Jon Daniels to President of Baseball Operations/General Manager and the promotion of Chief Operating Officer Rick George to President of Business Operations.
In their respective roles, Daniels and George will continue to oversee the day-to-day baseball and business operations of the Rangers organization under the leadership of Chief Executive Officer Nolan Ryan.
And so the Dallas/Ft. Worth sports media proceeded to go absolutely nuts. One of the first to do so was longtime baseball writer/columnist and ESPN radio host, Randy Galloway who was quick to speculate that this move might signal the end for Nolan Ryan. Others piled on over the weekend and well into this week in the local jock media kingdom and abroad

The media has portrayed this move as a power struggle between Jon Daniels and Nolan Ryan. At one point we've heard Nolan Ryan could be out by season's end or as early as the end of spring training. Speculation and rumors have been swirling since day 1 and it has truly been interesting to observe locally as a sports (and Rangers) fan and as a public relations pro. 

Bungled PR or Savvy Publicity Stunt?
One of the common themes that's out there is that the Rangers front office had bungled the public relations aspect of this news. At first, I was on board with this assessment. First, they release the news at the end of the day on a Friday anticipating some level of attention, but hoping the weekend takes care of most of the issues. I didn't see/hear/read anything from the Rangers organization until Tuesday of this week with the new President of Baseball Operations/GM, Jon Daniels basically saying all is well, nothing really has changed. By that point, the narrative of major speculations and rumors had taken over. 

The media had settled on this was either a power grab by Jon Daniels or ownership being more interested in keeping Daniels (the young baseball mind) over Ryan (the Hall of Famer and well-loved veteran). If you frame this as a fiasco waiting to happen, then the Rangers' ownership has seriously miscalculated the fans' potential for push-back and disdain. 

At least that's how the media has portrayed this mini-drama will/would play out.

But what if it was orchestrated this way? What if the Rangers ownership, Nolan Ryan, Jon Daniels, and Rick George (who ever that is) were all in on this as a way to get major media attention. Since the announcement, the Texas Rangers have been at the top/front page of most local media outlets sports pages and newscasts. If it is/was an elaborate ruse to get tons of coverage while in spring training, it's working. 

A quick look at the local sports landscape is good for this type of play. The Dallas Cowboys are not major news right now, the Dallas Mavericks are struggling to keep playoff hopes alive, and the Dallas Stars are trying to get people to remember they like hockey. The Rangers lost some key players, personalities, and bats. They are continuing with their youth movement. The team, in my opinion, will be contenders again, but will do so with the strong players on the 40-man roster as well as minor league talent. But all that doesn't keep the attention of the casual sports fan until the season starts (or well into the season). This team news provides that narrative of controversy and puts the Rangers front and center. 

Maybe I'm wrong, maybe this is a sign of real fissures within the team management and foreshadows rough days for the team in the very near future especially if the fans revolt. But all it would take for this to stop would be for Nolan Ryan to come out and say publicly, in his classic country drawl, "everything is good, I'm fine and we are looking for another great season of Texas Rangers baseball." If he said that, the story would have nowhere to go and we'd move on. If he said that, this episode might have just been all a publicity stunt. And it will have worked.

(Photo credit: phoca2004 via Flickr Creative Commons)