November 30, 2022


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The Athletic

Rosenthal: Uncertainty surrounding GM’s Astros James Click spoils world championship brilliance

I don’t know James Click’s personal finances, his family dynamics, or his career ambitions, so it would be presumptuous for me to suggest that he says Astros Owner Jim Crane sticks to his show for one year, You Know Where.

But it would only be appropriate if Klick, the team’s general manager, asked Crane to stick to his one-year offer, You Know Where.

The crane, at least based on the success of the Astros, is a good owner. This does not mean that he is a good boss, nor does it mean that he fosters a good culture.

Most Astros fans probably don’t care about any such shortcomings, not when the series celebrates its World Championship title and Sparked talk about the dynasty. But at a time when the team should be admired globally, Crane is once again downgrading his stature within the sport.

The Astros’ illegal e-sign theft in 2017 and 2018 was a direct reflection of the win at any cost mentality. Crane’s treatment of Click pushes the boundaries in a different way. This could also have long-term repercussions for the club, from the quality of the candidate who might be willing to replace Click to the steps the staff might take in the future to placate Crane – a circumstance not unlike that which got the Astros in trouble before.

Both Click and manager Dusty Baker’s contracts expired on October 31, midway through the series. Baker, 73, accepted a one-year contract to return. He wouldn’t return if he saw Crane’s offer as illogical or insulting, and his prestige gave him a certain amount of security. Click, 44, in a different position. He is expected to discuss his one-year special with Crane on Friday. Unless the offer is for an astronomical sum – unlikely – it is safe to describe it as illogical and offensive.

Jim Crane (Eric Williams/USA Today Sports)

I wrote about A tense relationship between Crane and Click On the eve of the series, saying if the owner wanted to separate from the GM, he would need better reasons than those cited by sources familiar with the situation: stylistic clashes between the two, disagreements over the size of the baseball operations crew and Klick’s concern about other voices in the organization affecting the owner.

Crane hasn’t discussed any of these reasons publicly yet, and that’s his prerogative – the owner can do whatever he wants without explanation. But he hired Click in January 2020 to stabilize the Astros in the wake of the signal theft scandal. Click has continued to do just that, amassing the most MLS regular season wins during his three-year tenure, and most importantly, capping an 11-2 postseason with the 2022 World Championship title.

However, due to the suspicion of his peers, he might actually be forced out.

Klick, who is married and has two children, told reporters at the general managers meetings on Tuesday that his family is happy and settled in Houston. So, maybe he decides he wants to keep the job, the pimples and all. Even like a lame duck. Even with an owner who would actually dare to say no, so he could then claim, “I didn’t fire James. He walked.”

Crane will find another GM if he leaves Click; The job, one of only 30 in majors, is still required. The top candidates, though, may stay away from the Astros, or at least ask the landlord specific questions. And if Crane treats a successful chief of baseball operations so harshly, how do the other employees feel safe?

On Wednesday, Crane acknowledged that this is his department, saying at a news conference announcing Baker’s extension that “not satisfied. The problem is that employees who feel threatened will fight, scratch, and scrape themselves to survive. Previously with the Astros, they cheated, too.

The illegal Astros mark theft was not solely driven by the player. A low level baseball team has been developed An algorithm in Excel called “Codebreaker” Which helped decipher signals more quickly – and when used during games, illegally.

Commissioner Rob Manfred, in his statement announcing the Astros’ sanctions, described the culture of the team’s baseball operations division as “extremely problematic.” However, Manfred blamed former general manager Jeff Luno, who had him layoffs for a year with manager AJ Hinch (Crane fired both later). The Commissioner actually praised Crane In his report, saying that the owner was “unusually disturbed by the behavior of members of his organization, fully supported my investigation, and provided unrestricted access to any and all information requested.”

Many rival fans still resent to this day that Manfred did not punish the Astros players, who were granted immunity in exchange for their honest testimony. Manfred ordered the team to pay a $5 million fine and give up their first- and second-round picks in 2020 and 2021. But he essentially acquitted Crane, as if the owner had nothing to do with the culture Luhnow created, relentlessly striving for efficiency, and an obsessive search for advantage. .

Crane history It also includes war profiteering and discrimination cases that were brought against his air freight logistics business, resulting in multiple settlements. Many fans tend to overlook such things; Mets fans love Steve Cohen, even though he owns a company pleaded guilty to insider trading And paid $ 1.8 billion in fines, and a former employee made a Gender discrimination lawsuit against him.

If Click continues, Astros fans can justify his departure by saying that Luhnow mostly built the club. They could also point out that a Crane deal was canceled at the deadline, as first reported by ESPN – Jug Orchid atmosphere to me Cubs For Musk/D.H. Wilson Contreras – As a click-step might have been chasing the stars. However, such quirks will lose the biggest points. How did Klick win the franchise in the midst of its major crisis? How he led the team in his three years to Game 7 of the ALCS, Game 6 of the World Series and the series title. And how he managed all this even though he was initially unable to bring his own staff.

In the most recent season, Click hired two assistant GM, Scott Powers from Dodgers Andrew Paul from Angels; Added farm manager Sarah Goodrem from bruer; He boosted the number of scouts in the team from 27 to 38. One of the reasons for his reluctance to leave may be his loyalty to his people. These employees, upon joining the Astros, may have learned that Klick had only one year left on his contract. But they may not have imagined that the situation would deteriorate in this way.

Whatever happens, click is fine. Graduated in 2000 from Yale University. Spent 15 years with rays before Crane hired him; His former teammates now run Rice, the Dodgers, red socks and Brewer. If he wanted to leave baseball, he could definitely adapt his research and development background to another field. If he wanted to stay in the game, some team would hire him, most likely as a special assistant at first, and possibly allow him to keep his family in Houston.

Likewise, the Astros will remain strong no matter who replaces Click. Crane will continue to spend the money needed to win. But the farm system, damaged by the confiscation of four picks, is no longer the same as before, ranking 26th in the US baseball mid-season rankings. And the team’s reputation, both within the industry and among rival fans, will remain in doubt.

Crane clearly doesn’t care. Maybe he shouldn’t care. But his approach to Click is another unfortunate episode of a franchise that’s owned way too many, and one that should be blessed with the glow of an untainted World Championship title. It would be hard to blame Klick if he asked Crane to stick to his You Know Where.

(Top image by James Click: Bob Levy/Getty Images)

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