Rosenthal: Uncertainty surrounding Astros GM James Click marring World Series shine

I don’t know James Click’s personal finances, family dynamics, or career aspirations, so it would be presumptuous of me to tell Astros owner Jim Crane to hold him for a year of you-know-where.

But the team’s general manager, Clic Crane, would be right to tell him to continue his one-year, you-know-where.

Crane, at least based on the Astros’ success, is a good owner. This does not mean that he is a good boss, and it does not mean that he develops a good culture.

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Most Astros fans probably don’t care about such flaws, not when the franchise is celebrating a World Series title and talking about a dynasty. But at a time when the team could be drawing universal acclaim, Crane is once again diminishing his status in the sport.

In the year The Astros’ illegal electronic sign theft in 2017 and 2018 was a direct reflection of the franchise’s win-at-all-costs mentality. Crane pushes the boundaries of click therapy in different ways. And he, too, could have long-term problems for the club, from the quality of the candidate willing to replace him, click on the steps he can take to keep Crane in the future – this situation is no different. The Astros have been in trouble before.

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The contracts of both Clique and manager Dusty Baker expired on October 31, midway through the series. Baker, 73, received a one-year contract to return. He would not have returned Crane’s offer if he had considered it unreasonable or insulting, and his height would have given him a certain degree of security. Click, 44, is in a different place. He is expected to discuss his own one-year offer with Crane on Friday. Unless the offer is for some astronomical sum – which is unlikely – it’s safe to call it illogical and insulting.

Jim Crane (Eric Williams/USA TODAY Sports)

I wrote about the strained relationship between Crane and Click that if the owner wanted to part ways with GM, he would need better reasons than those cited by sources familiar with the situation. , disagreements over the size of the baseball operations staff and concerns from Click about other voices in the organization influencing the owner.

Crane has not yet publicly discussed such reasons, which is his right – the owner can do whatever he wants, without explanation. But he hired Klick in January 2020 to calm the Astros following a sign-stealing scandal. Click to do it, compiling the most regular season wins in his three-year tenure in the American League and, ahem, 11-2 postseason run to a 2022 World Series title.

But, to the credit of his peers, he could effectively be fired.

Klik, who is married with two children, told reporters at the General Managers meeting on Tuesday that his family is happy and settled in Houston. So, maybe he decides he wants to keep his job, warts and all. Even as a lame duck. Even with the landlord effectively daring him to say anything, so “I didn’t fire James. He walked.”

If Clique leaves, Crane gets another GM. A job in one of the 30 majors will still be in demand. Top candidates, however, may steer clear of the Astros, or at least ask the owner’s suggested questions. And if Crane treats the heads of a successful baseball operation this ruthlessly, how can the rest of the staff feel safe?

On Wednesday, Crane acknowledged that was his MO, saying at a news conference announcing Baker’s extension that he was “not satisfied at all.” The problem is that employees who feel threatened are fired, cut, and left. Previously with the Astros, they cheated.

The Astros’ illegal sign stealing wasn’t just player driven. Minority Baseball’s operations staff has developed an algorithm called “Codebreaker” to help decipher signals more quickly — and when they’re used illegally during games.

In a statement announcing the Astros’ fines, Commissioner Rob Manfred described the culture of the team’s baseball operations department as “deeply problematic.” But for that, Manfred suspended former GM Jeff Luhnow for a year along with manager AJ Hinch (Crane subsequently fired both). The commissioner praised Crane in his report, saying the owner was “extremely distressed and frustrated by the behavior of members of his organization, fully supported my investigation, and consistently provided any and all information requested.”

Many opposing fans were upset that Manfred did not punish Astros players who had been granted immunity in exchange for their testimony. Manfred ordered the team to pay a $5 million fine and forfeit their 2020 and 2021 first- and second-round draft picks. But the owner, Luhno, absolved Crane of the blame, saying it had nothing to do with the culture he created. Efficiency, edge search.

Crane’s story includes allegations of war profiteering and discrimination in the air-cargo logistics business, resulting in numerous settlements. Many fans ignore such things; Mets fans love Steve Cohen, even though the company he owns has pleaded guilty to insider trading and paid a $1.8 billion fine, and a former employee has filed a gender discrimination lawsuit.

If Klick continues, Astros fans may argue that Luhnow largely built the club. First on ESPN – Peter Jose Urquidi reports to Cubs chiller/DH Willson Contreras that they could point to a trade crane at the deadline – as a move that could upset the Astros. However, such noises lose big points. How Clique Unleashed Franchise in the Midst of Crisis How he led the team to Game 7 of the ALCS, Game 6 of the World Series and a series title in three years. And how he handled it all despite not being able to bring his own staff at first.

Last season, Click had two assistant GMs, Scott Powers from the Dodgers and Andrew Ball from the Angels; Added farm director Sara Goodrum from Brewers; And he increased the number of scouts on the team from 27 to 38. His loyalty to the people may be one of the reasons why he doesn’t want to leave. When those employees joined the Astros, they probably knew that Click had just one year left on his contract. But they could not imagine that the situation could get worse.

Regardless, it would be nice to click. He is a 2000 graduate of Yale. Crane spent 15 years with Ray before being hired; His former teammates now manage the Rays, Dodgers, Red Sox and Brewers. If baseball wants to leave, it can adapt its history in research and development to another field. If he wants to stay in the game, some team will likely be a special assistant at first, and perhaps allow his family to stay in Houston.

The Astros, likewise, think whoever replaces Clique will remain strong. Crane will continue to spend the money necessary to win. But the farm system, plagued by four top picks, isn’t what it used to be, ranking 26th in Baseball America’s midseason rankings. And the team’s reputation, both in the industry and among rival fans, will still be suspect.

Apparently, Crane doesn’t care. Maybe he doesn’t care. But Klick’s handling is yet another tragedy for a franchise that has owned so much, a franchise that should be basking in the glory of an untainted World Series title. It’s hard to click if Crane tells you to hold on to the You-Know-Where offer.

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


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