Nolan, get ready to take cover
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has sent his super scout/head coach Wade Phillips to South Florida to lead the NFC in the most meaningless professional all-star game in major sports. And that's why we turn to the Texas Rangers in this week's groundbreaking edition of Obstructed View, a column that really seems to resonate on the rare occasions it's posted for more than 14 minutes.
For now, though, let's focus on the fact that a minor league owner and attorney from Pittsburgh named Chuck Greenberg has teamed up with Nolan Ryan, and several millionaires to be named later, to purchase our beloved Rangers. To those of us who grew up in Kaufman County believing that Buddy and Sunny would eventually lead us to World Series glory (or a playoff appearance), this is a good-news, bad-news situation. The only reason I cared about the Houston Astros growing up, other than their Creamsicle uniforms, was watching Nolan Ryan on the mound. He single-handedly made that franchise matter, and he eventually did the same for the Rangers.
The good news
Former owner Tom Hicks got one thing right on his way to the poorhouse. He hired Ryan as team president and put him in charge of all baseball decisions in 2008. It was a much-needed credibility infusion, and Ryan's very presence seemed to point the organization in the right direction. To be sure, GM Jon Daniels and manager Ron Washington have both performed well in their own right over the past two years, but it is Ryan who sets the tone. By all accounts, he was ready to pull the plug on Washington early in the '08 season, but the ballclub climbed out of an early hole and began to make some noise.
The bad news
Most of us sort of have a built-in distrust for owners. No matter how much some of us loved collecting Ryan's baseball cards when we were kids, most of us have learned not to revere owners. For instance, I've heard stories about owners who squander most of their money and then default on $525 million in loans, thus preventing their teams from signing first-round draft picks.
Oh wait, that happened here?
Once a beloved player becomes part of management, it changes our relationship with him. I'm not a hockey expert, but I think the folks in Philly will tell you that their relationship with Bobby Clarke changed dramatically once he became the Flyers' general manager in 1984.
And even when Ryan became the team president for the Rangers, we still had Hicks to kick around when things backfired. Some of you didn't like how Daniels handled telling Michael Young that he'd be moving to third base before last season. It didn't seem like something that should happen on Ryan's watch, but again, it was much easier to blame it on Daniels' inexperience and his limited interaction with other humans during college.
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We'll still be able to blame things on Daniels, but Hicks' departure puts Ryan directly in the line of fire. It just seems a little pitiful to kick around the ballclub's new chairman emeritus. Ryan could walk away from the game right now with one of the best reputations of anyone in professional sports.
Or he could stick around and run this franchise for the next 10 years or so and take his chances. Nearly four decades of painful history suggest that Ryan's reputation (off the field) will take a hit in the coming years.
But it's a risk he's willing to take. So there's the good news -- and the bad news -- coming out of Arlington
One more thing: If anyone locally is thinking about writing a tribute piece to Tom Hicks, please clear it with me first.
A quick word on the Senior Bowl
Even though Jerry Jones recently told us that Wade Phillips is pretty much the top scout at Valley Ranch, let's give some credit to director of scouting Tom Ciskowski and his staff for some of the work they've done at the Senior Bowl in recent years.
They loved the competitive fire and skills that Georgia Tech running back Tashard Choice brought to Senior Bowl workouts in '08, so they made him their first pick in the fourth round. And they liked Virginia tight end John Phillips so much during the '09 Senior Bowl week that he's now a prime candidate to supplant No. 2 tight end Martellus Bennett if the former Aggie doesn't get his head right this offseason.
Men such as Ciskowski, Chris Hall, Walt Juliff and Henry Sroka have been doing an excellent job for years in the Cowboys' scouting department. Does that mean that Jones always acts on their advice? Absolutely not, but it's still worth noting.
If you enjoyed or hated this column, I encourage you to flood the comments section.
Matt Mosley writes weekly on the Dallas-Fort Worth sports scene for ESPNDallas.com.