“There was a relationship over time.” - Jon Daniels, after Josh Hamilton signed with the Los Angeles Angels
“There's no relationship there.” - Michael Young, after being traded to the Philadelphia Phillies
Ranger fans love their team’s front office, and rightfully so. Jon Daniels, Nolan Ryan and their entire staff have done excellent work building a championship contender for a franchise that had spent most of the previous four decades as one of the least competitive in pro sports.
It’s not unusual for departing players to feel some level of animosity toward their former team. But when there’s enough bitterness for it to be readily apparent to all the second they leave town, that is a bit alarming.
Michael Young didn’t wait until Festivus to air his grievances with his former employers, hastily calling an impromptu press conference during which he made it a point to call out the Ranger front office: "I can't say there's a relationship there or a good relationship there. Well, no there's no relationship there, but that's fine with me," he said.
Unlike Young, Josh Hamilton didn’t come right out and verbally blast the Ranger front office, but the way he signed with his former team’s arch rival without even having one final conversation with the Rangers was a pretty clear indication of his disdain for the front office. Hamilton’s agent claims they never agreed to give the Rangers one last chance to match any offer, but refusing the courtesy of one last discussion seems willfully spiteful - especially considering what a huge chance that front office took on him back when very few in baseball were willing to touch him with a 10-foot pole.
Could there be others still currently in the Rangers clubhouse who share Young and Hamilton’s unfavorable view of the front office? It’s possible, but even if there aren’t, the bigger concern might be how players throughout the majors look at the Ranger front office. The most commonly cited factors for free agents choosing not to come to Arlington (other than simply being offered more money to play elsewhere) are the excessive heat and the dimensions of The Ballpark. Nobody’s really ever included the front office when listing those factors.
But as is the case in all sports, baseball is very much a word-of-mouth game among its players. If a guy has an unpleasant experience with one team, he’s almost certain to let his new teammates know about it, as well as friends on other teams. Heck, it could even be what you see a runner at first shooting the bull about with the opposing first baseman.
There’s certainly no evidence whatsoever that free agents are avoiding the Rangers because they’ve heard bad things about their front office from current or former players, but it might be wise for Jon Daniels and Nolan Ryan to more carefully cultivate their relationships with those in the clubhouse. There’s already enough to overcome in trying to convince free agents Arlington is the place they should be, so adding any more potential negatives would not be conducive to improving their target acquisition success rate.
Bob Bland is a Staff Writer for ShutDownInning. He can be reached at Bob.Bland@ShutDownInning.com or on Twitter @SDIBob.