What Reid Ryan as President Means for Astros, Nolan Ryan, Astros-Rangers Rivalry
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
The Houston Astros have their Ryan.
Maybe not the Ryan they were hoping for, mind you, but the Ryan the Astros have hired certainly comes to them with baseball cred, and his hiring could potentially lead to a fascinating shake-up of the baseball landscape in Texas.
If you're just now catching up, the Astros introduced Reid Ryan, son of Hall of Fame pitcher and Texas Rangers boss Nolan Ryan, as their new president on Friday, according to Alyson Footer of MLB.com. He's replacing George Postolos, who resigned from his post earlier this week.
This is a hiring that came together fairly quickly. FOX 26 Sports in Houston reported just a couple days ago that Ryan was "being strongly considered" to fill Postolos' shoes, and Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported Thursday that it was all but a done deal.
"Today really is a dream come true because you grow up an Astros fan if you're in Houston," said Ryan at his introductory presser on Friday, via the aforementioned article on MLB.com. "This is just a very special day."
The hiring of Ryan falls in line with other hirings the Astros have made recently. They've shown little interest in bringing aboard old retreads, choosing instead to favor fresh faces and voices to carry out their rebuilding process. The Astros have been around since 1962, but right now, they have the look and attitude of a start-up.
But unlike his old man, Reid Ryan is very much in need of an introduction. I should admit that I knew little about him or his work, but a few minutes with the wondrous Google machine helped paint the picture.
Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle penned quite the glowing endorsement of the young Ryan and what he's going to bring to the table in Houston. One of the things Ortiz pointed out is that there is a sort of a "prodigal son returns" thing going on, as Ryan has apparently always sincerely viewed the Astros as his hometown team and is very familiar with the organization, the fans and the city.
And though he's not the legend that his old man is, Reid Ryan does indeed have some credibility within the baseball world.
The young Ryan is a notable figure in minor league baseball, as he's coming to the Astros from his post as boss of two minor league clubs: Rangers Triple-A affiliate Round Rock and Astros Double-A affiliate Corpus Christi. Both organizations have been highly successful under his watch.
By virtue of his name, his familiarity with the whole Astros operation and his baseball credibility, Reid Ryan is an upgrade over Postolos. He spent years helping Jim Crane acquire the Astros, but he was never a baseball guy. Postolos came to baseball from a basketball background with the Houston Rockets, and Mr. Ortiz will tell you all about how little he did to endear himself to Astros fans.
As for those fans, Baseball-Reference.com's records show that attendance numbers at Minute Maid Park are still on the decline in 2013. The locals aren't too keen on spending their hard-earned dollars to watch one of Major League Baseball's worst teams.
[I would scold Astros fans for being fair-weather fans, but, shoot, I've been going through the same thing with my beloved Oakland Raiders for over a decade now.]
Astros fans have every right to be disillusioned, but Ryan can go a long way toward bringing them back by getting the organization's television mess figured out. CSN Houston doesn't have anything worked out with any of the major satellite/cable providers, resulting in only 40 percent of the Houston area being able to watch Astros games. In this day and age, that's absurd.
Getting the TV mess figured out is certainly going to be a top priority for Ryan, but what about the actual baseball side of things? Can he do anything to help the Astros on the field?
Meh. Don't count on it.
Ryan is more a businessman than a baseball man, meaning the fate of Astros baseball is still going to be in the hands of general manager Jeff Luhnow. He's in charge of a grand experiment with the club's farm system, and the good news for now is that he's built a system that Baseball America put in its preseason top 10.
Don't expect Reid Ryan to come in and do with the Astros what his old man did with the Rangers after he was brought aboard in 2008. The elder Ryan is rightfully credited for remodeling the Rangers' approach to pitching, something the younger Ryan couldn't do if he tried. His pitching experience consists only of two minor league seasons in the Rangers organization in the mid-1990s.
It would have made for a heck of a narrative had the younger Ryan remade the Astros in his image and then pitted them against his father's Rangers, made, of course, in his own pitching-obsessed image. But that's not in the cards, to which all anybody can say is: Oh well.
If Ryan vs. Ryan is going to add any sort of element to the Astros-Rangers rivalry, it's going to be a storyline thing for the fans and the media. It's not going to resonate on the field.
But maybe there will be no Ryan vs. Ryan at all. Instead, maybe a Ryan and Son operation could be coming to Houston.
Had things gone differently, it could have been Nolan Ryan stepping into Postolos' shoes. You'll recall the whispers about the elder Ryan potentially leaving the Rangers by the end of spring training, which prompted speculation that maybe he was going to turn coat and join the Astros. Richard Justice of MLB.com had him pegged as a perfect hire for the Astros.
The whispers were finally silenced last month when the Rangers announced that Ryan was going to stay with the organization, but the Astros talk didn't go away entirely. Heck, Ryan was even asked if he had any interest in taking up Postolos' post when he left it earlier this week. His response, via the Houston Chronicle, was "I don't think so."
What's your gut feeling? Will Nolan Ryan end up with the Astros too?
Maybe the prospect of leaving the Rangers for the Astros is more attractive to the elder Ryan now that his son is in the picture. The two of them teaming up to do business is hardly uncharted territory, as the elder Ryan co-owns the two minor league clubs that the younger Ryan had been running before joining the Astros.
Baiting the elder Ryan could be precisely what the Astros have in mind. It could be that hiring the younger Ryan is just a means to an end.
Maybe, but it's not like the Astros are taking an necessary gamble even if that is the case. They'll be fine if Reid Ryan lives up to his reputation, in which case the business end of the franchise is going to be in good hands no matter what.
We'll see. It's only the young Ryan's first day on the job. There's only one thing that's clear now, and that's that the Ryan Empire has the baseball market in Texas pretty well covered.
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