There's certainly more than one history lesson in Seattle, where the Mariners, in Armstrong's words, are experiencing the most disappointing of his 23 years as a club executive.
"I don't think the Angels have anything we can't catch up to," he said from the West's basement, "but after thinking it was going to happen this year I'm not predicting it's going to happen next year.
"It's not going to be a quick fix, because we're going to have to grind through some of these contracts we've obligated ourselves to. Our attendance is going to go down in connection with our performance, and as chief operating officer here it's my job to be fiscally and financially responsible, so you're not going to see the Mariners go out and commit high dollars to free agents. We want to get back as quickly as we can, but we want to build something that will endure. If you don't build a strong foundation in a market our size, you're going to have some volatile swings in your record."
Volatile? After winning 116 games in 2001 and establishing baseball's best record over a four-year span through 2003, "we fell off the table in 2004 and we've been trying to fight our way back," Armstrong said.
There have been bad trades, bad drafts and bad signings.
The Mariners spent a treasure chest on, among others, Adrian Beltre, Richie Sexson, Carl Everett, Jose Guillen, Jarrod Washburn, Carlos Silva and Erik Bedard, giving up farm system prize Adam Jones to acquire the latter in a trade with Baltimore. At $118 million, the Mariners this year could become the first team in baseball history to lose 100 games with a payroll of more than $100 million. The fall from the table has claimed managers Lou Piniella, Bob Melvin, Mike Hargrove and John McLaren. Jim Riggleman isn't real secure as interim manager, and a search is underway to replace recently fired general manager Bill Bavasi.
In Texas, Ryan is operating with a patient but careful eye. He has replaced the pitching coach but allowed Manager Ron Washington to continue.
The Rangers are basically out of the division race but still in distant wild-card contention with an offense that leads the majors in runs and a pitching staff that is the worst in the majors, based on earned-run average.
"I think offensively we can play with anyone, including the Angels, but we fall considerably short after that," Ryan said.
Hired on the eve of spring training, "I didn't have a timetable," Ryan said, "because I wasn't familiar enough with the organization to formulate one.
"I knew that for several years the Rangers have lacked the stability in their pitching that a championship team requires. I didn't think the staff would present as big a challenge as it has turned out to be. We've had to rush a lot of our young prospects up, and I think that experience will be beneficial. But we've also asked them to do some things they weren't developed enough to do."
The task, he said, is to create a balance between offense and pitching that will allow the Rangers to be competitive every year.
"At least I have a reasonable feel of what's in the organization," he said, "and how they project. I don't know what our capability is going to be in the off-season to fill some needs through trades and free agency. We need a closer and we need to strengthen the rotation.
"I think it's a challenge in today's game to build a team that's fighting for a division title every year, but I think the Angels have created the balance in all phases of their ballclub that we want to create here. I can't predict how long it will take to reach that level, but it's a formidable challenge in a division where the one team has now started to do it every year."