in a put up with no silliness, take no guff, John Wayne kind of way.
Example 1: non-firing of Ron Washington
It's not that Washington was either fired or not fired. It is, rather, the non-firing gave Washington instant credibility ... insofar as Nolan Ryan obviously would not hesitate to fire Washington ... and, therefore, Nolan Ryan's baseball gravitas + decision not to fire Washington = additional credibility for Washington in the clubhouse, in the media, and in the minds of fans.
Example 2: non-pursuit of free agent pitchers
The source of much past grumbling in media, in blogs, and amongst fandom. Comes Nolan Ryan to say free agent pitchers cost too much money, and therefore the Rangers will concentrate on developing their own young pitchers. When Nolan Ryan says it - especially since Nolan earned scads of millions of $ as a free agent pitcher - it has more weight behind it than if Jon Daniels or Tom Hicks says it. This significantly tamps down the media/blogs/fandom grumbling. The Rangers still might trade for a young pitcher, but they will not be aggressively offering Barry Zito type contracts.
Example 3: Milton Bradley's foray towards the Kansas City announcer's booth
This is an instance where it's valuable to have a 30 year old GM, as a 60 year old GM does not have the legs to chase down Milton Bradley in a hallway.
Nolan, the next day, said: This was no big deal. Voila! This was suddenly no big deal to the media.
The story had potential to be a massively repeated joke throughout the rest of the year, and to dog Milton Bradley all season. One sentence from Nolan Ryan turned the story into a semi-scarce joke. Nolan's gravitas tamped down local media references to it, and Nolan's gravitas apparently even tamped down ESPN references to it. Even the media don't want Nolan Ryan to believe they are fools and idiots. The media want Nolan to know they are smart enough to see when something is no big deal.
Example 4: C.J. Wilson struggles as closer
You can feel the local media firestorm building at all levels - blogs, print media, radio, television: C.J. Wilson is hurting the team! The media smell blood. C.J. Wilson is like a limping antelope who attracts the attention of hyenas.
Media love nothing so much as targeting an obvious struggling target. This is why media love to focus on QBs. This is why Roy Williams' pass coverage problems developed into a media firestorm: Roy is on an island where everyone can see him. His pass coverage struggles are obvious. When DE Marcus Spears struggles, media firestorms do not build.
C.J. Wilson is on an island, and last night Nolan Ryan bought C.J. some time with one sentence(think of Nolan softly drawling in the post game locker room): "I thaink Cee Jaiy should staiy as our clowser."
The point is not whether C.J. should remain the closer. The point is Nolan's I'm-John-Wayne-and-I'll-put-up-with-no-guff persona has bought a young pitcher some time in which there will be a bit less media criticism than there otherwise would have been.
Why does Nolan have gravitas?
He's not locally perceived as an especially brilliant brain. No one thinks he is dumb - yet no one thinks he has, for instance, a Jon Daniels type IQ.
I suspect the answer has to do with leadership, as in:
People will follow a person who knows where they are going.
I suspect the answer also has to do both with baseball experience and with personal character. People believe Nolan Ryan will look at issues and decisions with clear eyes and common sense. Nolan Ryan's truth is the truth most fans appreciate.
People believe Nolan Ryan has little tolerance for certain types of prissy horse manure. People believe Nolan Ryan will not panic if players criticize management. People believe Nolan Ryan will not panic if Randy Galloway or Jim Reeves et al begin media campaigns of criticism.* This is the type of character fans want in a club executive.
Voila: Gravitas. And the Texas Rangers franchise is better off for it.
*Galloway and Reeves actually adore Nolan Ryan, and the rest of the media are narcissistic enough to not tempt Nolan Ryan's disgust towards them - at least until such time as they can gang up as a group, and thus achieve strength via numbers.