Making a pitch for Ryan to fire away for another year

September 24, 1992|By Randy Galloway | Randy Galloway,Dallas Morning News

ARLINGTON, Texas -- About Nolan Ryan.

Leave the old man alone, OK?

Let him pitch in peace. Let him pitch until he's either 95 or can no longer hit 95 on the radar gun, whichever comes first.

Where does it say Ryan has to retire before his first Social Security check arrives? And why do people with two good eyes write that retirement nonsense? What you see is what you get. And what you see is a big-time, big-name, crusty legend who remains as mound-mean as one of his bulls back on the ranch. The competitive fire burns bright and the right arm throws heavy smoke. What's there to talk about, except next season?

But with the Texas Rangers' 1992 campaign making an official gutterball exit in 10 days, several pieces of unfinished business are on the agenda. Like will Tom Grieve be back? The answer is yes, definitely. Will Toby Harrah? Maybe.

And then, bigger than life itself, is the Ryan question.

Nolan will make an announcement this weekend about his 1993 plans. Will he come back at 46, or will he punch cows?

Not being privy to inside information, the only thing I can tell you is this:

Ryan is not as smart as I think if he calls it quits. But still not as dumb as the outsiders who think he should.

What we seem to have around here is a whiney segment of local do-gooders who have appointed themselves mother hen to Nolan. They worry and fret like crazy over a wide variety of subjects, including Ryan's cerebral well-being and his nagging aches and pains.

These people have been trying to "retire" Nolan for at least a year. It has become their life's work, but, of course, it's for Nolan's own good. Mother hens are like that.

The facts, however, suggest Ryan should and will ignore his adorning "advisers." It's best for the Rangers if he does. It's best for Nolan Ryan if he does.

The most important question of all:

Can he still pitch?

Even Murphy Brown's kid can answer that one.

Ryan threw six shutout innings Tuesday night, which seemed to be a defiant reply to anyone who might think he's finished.

What a beauty that performance was for raw power combined with mound expertise. "I pitched well tonight," said Ryan, just in case somebody hadn't noticed.

But did he win? Of course not. These days the Rangers can't score. Minnesota won, 1-0, in 13 innings.

But we are talking about this one pitcher, not the hitters.

With Ryan's season-finale outing on Sunday afternoon, he is 0-6 in his last nine starts and 5-9 overall. Those who have been paying attention need no explanation of why, but here goes anyway:

In his last 20 1/3 innings, Nolan has allowed two runs without getting a victory. Four times this season he has given up one run or less and received no decision. He has departed with the lead six times and had the bullpen blow it. In five starts, the Rangers have been shut out, and in nine starts have scored one or fewer runs. His batting average against is .235, fifth best in the league. With 150 1/3 innings, Ryan is third on the Rangers' staff despite nagging injuries all season.

Yes, he has been luckless, but Nolan also is paid well to handle such personal aggravation. And if he answers the call for next season, Ryan will earn $3.8 million. Can anybody walk away from that kind of money, particularly when he won't have to compromise his integrity or pride? Ryan is fully capable of earning that salary, which is important to him.

That doesn't mean, however, he's not prepared to compromise in other areas. One theory is that Ryan be demoted in the rotation for next season and be made a fourth or fifth starter. That way he can skip turns and be counted on for maybe 28 starts instead of 34 over the season. Combined with a strict pitch count, it should lead to better overall health.

"I realize I'll have to be more open-minded if I come back," said Ryan, who has repeatedly balked at giving in to age. "I've reached a point where concessions have to be made and I can't be hard-headed like in the past."

Why ask why? Just let Nolan pitch and the whiners whine.

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