Don't Cross Nolan Ryan

Is the 'curse of Nolan' ruining the Rangers' season?

Is the 'curse of Nolan' ruining the Rangers' season?

I am not normally superstitious. I don’t believe in ghosts. I’m not worried about black cats crossing my path.

But this whole “curse of Nolan” thing is making me rethink my skepticism. The theory goes that since Nolan Ryan left the Texas Rangers in October after losing a power struggle with general manager Jon Daniels, nothing has gone right in Arlington.

I certainly didn’t think that way after the Rangers wheeled and dealed to get Prince Fielder from the Detroit Tigers. I was quite optimistic after the Rangers signed Shin-Soo Choo for a bit below market value.

 The Rangers are like one giant infirmary. No Major League team has used the disabled list more than Texas.

I actually didn’t fret after pitcher Derek Holland tripped over his dog, hurt his knee and needed microfracture surgery, causing him to miss half the year. Like most, I figured the Rangers had the depth to deal with it.

Now? The Rangers are like one giant infirmary. No Major League team has used the disabled list more than Texas.

Fourteen players have been placed on the disabled list as of May 23. There are backups on the list, players like infielders Jim Adduci and Kevin Kouzmanoff. That would be survivable.

But that pitching rotation that looked so good on paper in January? Along with Holland, there’s Matt Harrison and Martin Perez. That’s three-fifths of the expected starting rotation.

Perez is done for the year after Tommy John surgery. Harrison’s balky back has those covering the team speculating that Harrison’s career might be done after spinal fusion surgery. The Rangers are holding this starting rotation together with fishing wire.

There are young prospects like outfielder Engle Beltre, who had tibia surgery earlier this year, and infielder Jurickson Profar, who will miss the first half of the season and could miss the entire year, with a torn shoulder muscle. Don’t forget pitcher Pedro Figueroa (Tommy John surgery) and Joseph Ortiz (fractured left foot).

But what finally got me buying into the “curse of Nolan?” Well, that would be Prince Fielder, the crown jewel of the offseason. Fielder’s massive slump to start the season led to a herniated disc in his back that requires surgery. Fielder is now done for the year.

If you’re keeping count, that’s 60 percent of the starting rotation, the hot-shot infielder, and the guy who was supposed to hit 35 home runs and drive in 110 more all enjoying a long dip in the clubhouse whirlpool. This makes the Dallas Cowboys’ struggles on the defensive line last season look quaint.

Amid all of this the Rangers are still in the hunt in the American League West. Manager Ron Washington has pulled strings as well as any manager could have buried under this barrage of injuries.

But for how much longer? There are still four months left in the season. It’s a long summer. The blast furnace is warming up fast, and I’m not talking about the triple-digit temperatures that come with the month of July.

The pessimism is palpable, and it’s valid. But is it a curse? Is it really Nolan Ryan chanting a hex in a back room at his new home at Minute Maid Park in Houston in a grand plan for revenge against the franchise he helped lift to the upper echelon of the majors? 

I have to admit, I’m starting to come around to the idea.

Nolan Ryan suit
Nolan Ryan has physically moved on from the Rangers, but his spirit lingers. Courtesy of Hardball
LuminArte Gallery presents The Prince of Texas
Prince Fielder will see more action in art galleries than on the field in 2014. Photo courtesy of LuminArte Gallery
Jurickson Profar standing with Elvis Andrus
Jurickson Profar was the Rangers' top prospect this year. Courtesy of mlbfanatic.tumblr.com
Texas Rangers pitcher Martin Perez
Martin Perez is one of many promising players sidelined with injuries. Texas Rangers/Facebook