Nolan Ryan on stint with Rangers: ‘I was dropped in Jon Daniels’ sandbox’

Mark Townsend
March 19, 2014

Nolan Ryan is in a much happier place now that he's working alongside his son, Reid Ryan, as an executive adviser to Houston Astros owner Jim Crane. But the poor taste in his mouth leftover from his departure from the Texas Rangers last October and his long-running feud with general manager Jon Daniels still lingers, even if he's done a good job suppressing his feelings during the months that have passed.

While speaking to ESPN's Jerry Crasnick this week, Ryan finally let out a small piece of his feelings on how the situation in Texas played out, and the wording was quite interesting.

"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.”

It may be difficult to get past Nolan Ryan referring to himself in the third person, but "I was dropped in J.D.’s sandbox" is the phrase that has everyone buzzing.

Despite the success the Rangers achieved following his hiring as team president and CEO in February of 2008, it's clear Ryan never felt entirely welcomed, respected or comfortable working alongside Daniels. But as Crasnick notes, it appears he's not exclusively pinning that on Daniels, as his comments seem to indicate he was placed in a situation that was destined to create conflict and ultimately doomed to fail because Daniels had already established his vision for the franchise, and the people around him had bought in. And not without reason, either, as the team was already making strides following several seasons at or near the bottom of the AL West.

If anything, it sounds like Ryan is blaming Rangers ownership for the failed relationship, which may be part of the reason why Ryan always attempted to work with Daniels and his group despite owning the authority to fire them and move on.

Ryan's hire, while seemingly smart because of the experience and wisdom he brings, never meshed with Daniels' vision and only served to complicate matters as it gave the front office another person to answer to. The old phrase "too many cooks in the kitchen" comes to mind, and it's only natural the cooks would eventually turn on each other to push their competition away.

Of course, there are other ways to interpret Ryan's comments. Some might say he's essentially calling Jon Daniels a child that doesn't play well with others. While that may be true on some levels, Crasnick's interpretation seems like the most logical. It was simply a bad situation destined to fall apart sooner or later. It finally did. Feelings were hurt along the way, but the end game seems to find everyone happier and at least one Texas baseball franchise better suited for success, with another hoping to follow in their footsteps soon.

And that's exactly where the focus of both Ryan's is right now.

"Sometimes you don't know what you're getting into until you get there," Reid said. "I took the job last May and as I started going around town, I saw there's a pride with the Astros. People are tired of losing. We had a stretch where we swept the Angels last year and you would have thought we won the World Series. As this group of young guys comes up, there will be a lot of folks who come out of the woodwork and bust out the orange and blue and start following the Astros. It can't get here soon enough for the fans."

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!