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MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

Ryan, Rangers better together than apart

Most of credit for winning goes to Daniels and staff, but Hall of Famer brings credibility

In the end, it doesn't matter who was promised what. All that matters is that Nolan Ryan has decided to remain with the Rangers. To the millions of fans who care about the Texas franchise, it's a day to celebrate and to be reminded how good they've got it.

If you're one of those Rangers fans who dealt with all those unsuccessful seasons, you probably appreciate what the franchise has become. So enjoy the ride, because this is about as good as it gets in professional sports.

To sum up: The Rangers have one of the five best teams in baseball. They've got one of baseball's four or five best general managers in Jon Daniels, and a manager, Ron Washington, who has the trust and respect of his players.

The Rangers have ignited a passion for baseball in Dallas-Fort Worth that had never before existed. They drew 3.46 million fans last season and could approach that number again this year. Their merchandise flies off the shelves.

Ryan's role in this success can't be overstated. Daniels had already built a great baseball operation by the time Ryan arrived on Feb. 6, 2008. There hadn't yet been results on the field, but much of the heavy lifting had been done.

Ryan did not dramatically impact the product on the field, and this is the part of the story that sometimes get confused. Some have drawn a direct line between Ryan's return and the trips to the World Series in 2010 and '11.

That's how the story ought to go. If the legend is going to return to rescue the franchise, then he might as well lead it to the promised land. But in the case of Ryan and the Rangers, it's not true.

Some have told the story that way because, hey, who doesn't like a good yarn? No, Daniels deserves virtually all the credit for constructing a championship-caliber franchise.

That said, Ryan's contributions have been enormous. First, he brought the Rangers something they seldom had in their previous 36 years. In a word, credibility.

Fans suddenly believed in the Rangers because Ryan was involved. He was the most popular player the franchise ever had, and he stood for the things Texans want to stand for.

He's a man of honesty and straight talk and decency. To know Nolan Ryan is to admire Nolan Ryan. Players in the clubhouse feel the same way. So do most of the employees at Rangers Ballpark.

The Rangers have been almost above criticism because Ryan has been involved. His presence almost certainly has resulted in the avalanche of ticket sales, sponsorships and goodwill. Winning obviously has played a huge role, but Ryan has lifted the franchise's image, and what's that worth in terms of value, revenues, etc.? If that sounds overstated, check with the fans who do not have this kind of trust in the men in charge of their teams.

Daniels knows Ryan helped him, too. Ryan is such a larger-than-life figure that everything seemed to revolve around him. Ryan has said he has gotten too much credit for the franchise's success, but no one has listened. That said, he was above criticism, and because Daniels was connected to him, he was, too.

That Ryan didn't actually put those championship teams together led to some jealousy by a few in the organization. Daniels doesn't seem to care one way or the other about the dispensing of credit, but there are people in the club's baseball operations who have.

These people may not be happy that Ryan is staying, but they need to consider how the dynamics would change without him. There'd be a sense of uncertainty that hadn't been there before.

Suddenly, every decision would be scrutinized. Whether Ryan ever made a trade or signed a free agent is not the point. He brought the Rangers something invaluable. Beyond being a great sounding board, beyond having a great feel for people, Ryan makes the Rangers better simply by being part of the operation.

Almost no one familiar with his thinking thought this would be the outcome in the weeks after the Rangers announced in February that Ryan would be chief executive officer only and that the title of president would be shared by Daniels (baseball) and Rick George (business).

Ryan has said very little in the weeks since the announcement. He told one reporter he was "hurt." Others believe Ryan was furious and that there was no way he would stay. He told friends he did not want to be a figurehead or have a ceremonial position. As he said to one, "I'm not interested in being a mascot."

We may never fully understand why Ryan decided to stay. Ownership asked him to remain and attempted to hammer out a compromise. Daniels said he would continue to involve Ryan in every decision.

Daniels and Ryan will not agree on a lot of things. Nor should they. Daniels seems likely to retain final say, but Ryan deserves to have his voice heard. If he has a belief about what Daniels should or shouldn't do, it's up to him to make his case. If they can't work together, then shame on them. If they can, there's a good chance that even better days are ahead.

Those are discussions for another time. On this day, the news is that Ryan is staying and that the franchise will retain the credibility he has brought to the table. The Rangers will still have a great general manager, too.

In his statement on Wednesday, Ryan said the focus now should be on winning a championship. If that happens, here's hoping Ryan and Daniels understand how much they've each contributed.

Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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