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Decision-Making by Consensus, or Degrees of Power

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Decision-making by consensus is great...until there is no consensus...


This may be obvious, or simplistic, or what have you, but this has been rattling around in my head for the past week or so...

One of the things that we've heard, for quite some time, is that the Ranger front office reached decisions by consensus. Jon Daniels, Nolan Ryan, and the various folks in the front office had their positions, met, discussed them, and eventually reached a compromise on how things would be done.

Here's how Evan Grant describes the ideal situation in the Rangers front office:

Ideally, the Rangers would like to create a mix where Ryan and Daniels either build a consensus or agree to compromise on various decisions. That is essentially how the Rangers have operated since Ryan became president in 2008.

That sounds great in practice, however, it is very difficult to implement, particularly when there are two people at the top of the decision-making chart. If there are three people, and there's a disagreement, there will eventually be a two-versus-one outcome, and the two would seemingly control.

But what happens if there are two people responsible for making decisions, and those people can't agree?

Randy Galloway, in a column a few days ago, wrote that, for most of their time together in Texas, if Daniels and Ryan didn't agree, then Ryan won out. Galloway pointed to Mike Maddux and Jackie Moore as hires made unilaterally by Ryan, and of course, there's the Tim Purpura hire, which Ryan made over Daniels' objection, when Daniels wanted Jayce Tingler.

Here's the thing, though...if Nolan Ryan ultimately has the power to make whatever moves he wants to make, whether Daniels agrees or not, then this isn't decision-making by consensus. Ryan is the ultimate Decider. He may -- and by all accounts -- has delegated a lot of that decision-making authority to Daniels, but the reality is that, until late 2012, whatever decisions Daniels made could be vetoed by Ryan.

For whatever reason, in late 2012, that changed. Evan Grant writes that Daniels dismissed minor league hitting coordinator Randy Ready over the "objections" of Ryan. The reports that are out there indicate that Ryan went to ownership, and was apparently told that, on baseball matters, if Ryan and Daniels couldn't agree, Daniels' opinion would carry the day.

So the reality is that protocol in the front office changed in one regard -- Ryan could no longer veto Daniels' decisions. It doesn't appear that Ryan vetoed those decisions all that often, so the ultimate impact of that decision would appear to be minor. When Jon Daniels says that he still reports to Ryan and that, as far as he is concerned, nothing has changed, he's probably mostly right. Most of the time, nothing will change. Most of the time, Daniels and Ryan will work together, will attempt to come to a consensus, and will be able to reach compromises everyone can live with.

So on the one hand, this can be viewed as a minor change. On the other hand, though, it can be viewed as a huge change. The role of the Decider is a major role, and even if that veto power is rarely used, its very existence is significant. Jon Daniels, no doubt, views this as an endorsement of his abilities as a manager, and sees this as a way to help keep his key people in place. And it isn't unreasonable to think that he's in a better position than the CEO would be to make decisions about, for example, who the minor league hitting coordinator should be.

Does it erode Ryan's power? Absolutely. In terms of power, this is a major change. But in terms of day-to-day operations and roles, is it a major change? It doesn't appear to be.

And that, I think, is what really bothers me about Ryan's response to this move. The reports out there are that Ryan doesn't want to be a "figurehead." That's fine. I don't blame him.

But what, in regards to the changes implemented by ownership, has changed in regards to Ryan's day-to-day responsibilities? As far as I can tell, nothing. Jon Daniels and Rick George (who has been promoted on the business side) still report to Ryan. By all indications, Ryan's duties remain the same as they ever were. The only difference is that, if there is a disagreement, the guys hired to oversee their departments on a day-to-day basis have been determined, by ownership, to be qualified to make the final call.

And so I fail to see how that makes Ryan a "figurehead." I don't get how losing the power to have the ultimate final word, the power to unilaterally overrule Daniels or George (at least, without going to ownership and getting their support), makes Ryan a "figurehead." I don't see how it changes what he is doing on a day to day basis. It only changes how certain decisions get made.

But again, this belies the claim that the Rangers make decisions by consensus. The front office has consistently done the right thing, and put forth publicly a united front, and sold the notion that everyone was singing kumbaya and working everything out by agreement.

But one thing this drama has highlighted is that, behind the facade, there's not always agreement. There's not always consensus. Someone has to be the Decider.

And what Nolan Ryan appears to be demonstrating right now is that, if he's not going to be the Decider, he doesn't know if he wants to be involved in the organization.