How the Houston Astros GM search took an unexpected turn
Astros owner Jim Crane is a man who believes in doing things his way. There's a reason he became a billionaire businessman who owns the team. When he and former general manager James Click couldn't come to terms on a new deal and parted ways after winning a World Series last year, people were a bit surprised. You know who wasn't? Those that know Crane and how he likes to operate.
Click was more of an analytics guy who didn't like to take big risks and was very conservative in his team building approach. Crane seems more like a risk taker who doesn't mind taking big swings in improving the team. He's proven that time and again when it comes to paying guys and approving of certain trades (Gerrit Cole, Zach Greinke, and Justin Verlander). So when those philosophies came to a crossroads, it was obvious, to some, that Click was going to move on and Crane would look for a new GM.
Wait...what?!? THAT AJ Hinch?!? Yes! You heard the video correctly! Crane reportedly reached out to AJ Hinch about becoming the team's new GM. I always thought a reunion of Crane and Hinch was possible because of the way Hinch seemed genuinely sorry about the scandal that led to him and former GM Jeff Luhnow being fired. Crane liked Hinch because they share a similar approach to the game. While Hinch is a traditional “baseball guy,” he also uses some aspects of analytics. Crane likes this blended approach. Hinch is still the manager of the Tigers, so I highly doubt this ever comes to fruition.
Now it's getting REAL good! Brad Ausmus is the beloved former catcher of the Astros. He was the soft hitting, defensive guy behind the plate that the ladies seemed to fawn over. He wasn't a good manager, the Tigers fired him after posting a .486 winning percentage over three seasons. He's a former player and that is something I believe Crane holds in high regard. People with previous, and recent, experience are atop his lists with every hire he's made so far. Ausmus would be interesting in the fact that he doesn't have GM experience. Same with Hinch.
Dana Brown is the Braves VP of scouting. Looking up and down that roster and what that team has been able to accomplish, it's no wonder he's on the list. Former Giants GM Bobby Evans was another guy listed as a finalist. If it comes down to these guys, I prefer Evans over the others. He's someone that's had experience helping build one of the playoff contenders over the last few seasons. Someone like him is needed to keep this thing going. Jeff Bagwell and Reggie Jackson have the former player/baseball guy advisory roles locked up. Let someone else, preferably with personnel experience, be hired as GM. This will give Crane a blend of old school and new school in his braintrust. The next hire will be manager whenever Dusty Baker decides he's done. Get this hire right, and it'll make the managerial hire easier. I have no doubt Crane will get his guy, it's just a matter of when.