Ryan is a charismatic, tough-talking Texan, and since becoming President of the Rangers in 2008 and even more so since becoming part-owner last year, he has made several pronouncements against the conventional wisdom of managing young pitcher's workloads via 100 pitch limits. He has even instructed the team's minor-league pitching coaches to lose their counters and make judgments based on observation and not pitch counts. This has made him immensely popular in the press and he is routinely give the lion's share of the credit for the Ranger's rise. Numerous mentions on the MLB channel and ESPN's Baseball Tonight suggest that Ryan is the architect of the Rangers success. This article from the New York Times all but credits him for changing the baseball culture in Texas from the spendthrift, ineffectual ways of previous club owner Tom Hicks. The article states early on, "Ryan has presided over the team's baseball operations for the last three years. Thanks in large part to his guidance, the club is headed to the postseason."
Stephen Hawkins of the Associated Press were even more enthusiastic. In a playoff preview last autumn, he gushed, "Texas bottomed out again in the 2000s, until the Ryan Express roared in again. Everything good the Rangers have ever been and everything great they could become all trace back to Ryan."
Even players are wrapped up in the Ryan love fest. Texas outfielder David Murphy told ESPN, "Ever since Nolan has been on board here, this franchise has gone nowhere but the correct way and the right direction inside and out," Murphy said. "You look at the farm system, you look at the big league club and it's gotten better in all aspects. "
The logic of these stories followed an attractive syllogism. Hicks's signature move was first overspending to sign Alex Rodriguez in 2000, then overpaying to unload him four years later. The signature event of Ryan's reign with the Rangers has been last year's World Series, featuring a team with stellar pitching and defense as well as a bright future and moderate payroll. But this change in the baseball culture predates Ryan's arrival in Arlington.
Most winning baseball teams have a long gestation period, and the Rangers' rise began in October 2005 with the promotion of Jon Daniels to General Manager and then the hiring of Ron Washington as manager. Daniels, a Cornell alum, had worked for the Rangers for four years, and he was 28 when took the GM job, making him the youngest man in history to hold that level of authority in the major leagues. He began to re-orient the team by bolstering the scouting budget in Latin America and the Pacific Rim. In 2007 he traded Mark Teixeira to the Atlanta Braves for four players. Three of them—shortstop Elvis Andrus, closer Neftali Feliz, and starting pitcher Matt Harrison—are integral parts of the current Rangers team.