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The Houston Astros kicked off the offseason with one of the more stunning decisions in recent memory.
Just a week after winning the franchise’s first non-cheating World Series, owner Jim Crane fired the team’s general manager.
That unprecedented decision shocked the baseball world, leading to rampant speculation as to what was behind it.
ESPN’s Jeff Passan did a lengthy investigation into what happened, which provided insight into the Astros confusing front office situation.
Apparently, according to Passan, there was frequent “disarray” in the Astros’ front office. One “Hall of Fame adviser” repeatedly yelled at people, and another “frequently” questioned where the organization was headed.
Click’s bizarre firing raised significant questions as to who would lead the team, and if they’d rely heavily on analytics going forward.
Passan spoke to one Astros employee who brought up that Crane has a similar ego to another famous Texas team owner.
“‘Sometimes I wonder if Jim thinks he’s Jerry Jones,” said one Astros employee.
Crane, like Jones, is apparently willing to “meddle in baseball-operations decisions.” That mindset is undoubtedly similar to Jones, who’s also the Cowboys GM.
Astros Front Office Disfunction
Analytics have become an increasing focus for nearly every major league team. Incorporating statistical analysis has helped teams maximize production while doing better evaluation.
Crane apparently didn’t like that trend and wanted to involve more old-school baseball types. That led to Jeff Bagwell and Reggie Jackson joining baseball-operations meetings.
He’s also personally taken over free agency negotiations, including a bewildering $34.5 million contract for reliever Rafael Montero.
While the Astros clearly were successful regardless, Crane killed an agreed upon deal to acquire Cubs catcher Willson Contreras at the deadline.
Click and Crane clashed over Click being overruled and his lack of “institutional arrogance,” according to the report.
Jeff Lunhow, the former executive fired in the wake of the cheating scandal, was known for his “preening” attitude. Crane like that mentality, which led to conflict with Click.
There have been player evaluation and development disagreements between the old school Dusty Baker and new school front office.
Click apparently would have been fired earlier if the Astros were eliminated, as their relationship deteriorated.
Now he might wind up taking over baseball operations entirely.
What Happens Next for Astros?
Former plays who dislike analytics have seemingly influenced his decision making as well. While incorporating traditional evaluation methods certainly has merit, it’s unlikely the Astros win without their analytical processes.
With free agency underway and major contributors still unsigned, Crane’s meddling has created mass confusion.
Justin Verlander, for example, remains a free agent. Would he want to return to a team with this much turmoil?
Who will even be making the choice to bring him back or not? Jeff Bagwell? Jim Crane?
This is an extremely unusual situation, with many unresolved questions.
Beyond Crane’s meddling, this much confusion in a World Series winning organization is very odd. Astros fans are surely still celebrating the title, but it can’t feel great to hear about this much disfunction.