The Houston Astros needed a general manager. He’d be somebody to steer the franchise toward a little dignity, around the draft vacancies and talent craters sure to come, and away from the self-inflicted humiliation reflecting from recent seasons. Guy’s not going to sleep much, in part because the roster he inherited seems to have overrun the manager who just left. There’s a lot to do. A lot to fix. A lot to heal.
Team owner Jim Crane on Monday, with spring training opening in a week, chose James Click, a dedicated baseball man who in 15 years had risen from intern to vice president of baseball operations with the Tampa Bay Rays, just beneath Erik Neander on the baseball ops depth chart. This, just days after Crane hired a manager, Dusty Baker, and gave him but a season’s worth of security.
Click earned the job. He knows the industry. He is smart. People like him. He’ll probably make a fine general manager. He could not turn down a career opportunity that hardly ever comes along.
The Astros should not have hired him.
Not because he can’t or won’t do good things for the Astros.
Because it was unkind. Because it was unsporting. Because it ran up against the spirit of sanctions levied last month against the Astros for casting the sport in a dishonest light. Because it was a little cheesy.
Because the Rays should not be punished a week before spring training for the mistakes of the Houston Astros and Jim Crane. The Astros made the choices that put them in this hole. The Rays do not deserve to be in a hole with them. Losing a top baseball ops executive in February counts as a few shovelfuls at least, months after another of their top baseball ops guys jumped to the Boston Red Sox, maybe not so innocent themselves.
This sort of sucks for the Rays.
If team owner Stu Sternberg is unhappy that a fellow owner, one whose franchise damaged the $11 billion product they are in business together to sell, grabbed one of his guys at an awful time, well, he should be.
“The departure of another talented, senior Rays executive is difficult,” Sternberg said in Monday’s statement. “That difficulty is compounded by the timing of the departure, only days from the opening of spring training.”
He sounds mad.
Continuing: “A large number of former Rays staffers now populate senior team positions across the league. Most recently, two of the past three World Series winning teams, against whom we compete directly, have reached beyond their organizations and into our ranks to fill their top baseball operations positions. We have great organizational leadership, strong faith in our ability to regenerate, and we have supreme confidence in the men and women who will be stepping up into their newfound opportunities and responsibilities. That is the Rays way. It is who we are, it is what we do.”
Yeah, definitely sounds mad.
Major League Baseball suspended Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow for a year. It was Crane who fired him. And if Crane had any respect for the league he and his organization so stressed, he would have chosen as Luhnow’s successor someone not currently holding such a pivotal role in such a pivotal time as James Click. He could have hired former San Francisco Giants GM Bobby Evans or pulled Peter Woodfork or Kim Ng from MLB’s executive ranks, all of whom are wholly qualified. He could have ridden the past administration, dangerous as that might have been, with Pete Putila.
So, that is unfair to James Click. He, his career, should not have to suffer the wounds incurred from the Astros’ ethical and leadership lapses. He, of course, had no choice but to accept. And congratulations to him.
And that’s the thing. It should not ever have been offered.
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