Today, Dana Brown announced Joe Espada would be the new Astros manager.
For those who read this website, this was not a surprise as we discussed this in the Replacing Dusty article.
"So, who will be the next Astros manager and how will that manager be hired? Until I see otherwise, if the decision is not Dana Brown's to make, I believe the ultimate answer will be Joe Espada."
I said this with regards to Dana Brown because I thought he would want someone he has known for a long time. I still think the Scenario 2, Espada was the answer all along, was correct. Based on his comments today Dana Brown got way more comfortable with Espada as his manager this last season.
I think it could be extremely important and telling that Dana Brown made this announcement. He seemed to OWN the decision. Despite the rumors Dana clearly indicated HE made the decision who would be hired as manager NOT Jeff Bagwell. For me that is a huge positive development and means that Crane is allowing Brown to be a real GM.
One of my followers on Twitter gave me the LarryTheGM discussion point with regards to Espada.
"Am I wrong or is the Espada hype based on nothing measurable?
He's great with analytics, pitchers, lineups? Based on what? When has he had the reigns to show that??"
I think this is a very fair question. This is the sort of discussion I have internally as I analyze everything about this sport. Essentially he was asking, how do we know what is said about Espada is true?
The truth we don't. We don't have a significant sample size of when he managed to even know what sort of manager Espada will be. I was at times concerned when he stepped in for Dusty and at other times THRILLED as I was in game 5 of the ALCS.
We don't know but that is better than what we could be saying right now about the previous manager and some of the other potential candidates.
For me Espada has always been the right choice for the job now mainly for these reasons:
The biggest reason was extremely evident from the press conference. Dana Brown said he was looking for a manager he could collaborate with. Espada used the word collaboration/ collaborate at least twice. Espada said "work with Dana" or "Dana and I" at least four times in 15 minutes. With Espada and Brown we have ALIGNMENT between a manager and a front office for the first time since 2019.
He knows the players on this team probably better than any single person in the world. He has been the bench coach for some of them for six years. He knows what they do well and what they don't.
He was bench coach under Hinch and Dusty, two very different managers. This means he has watched two very good managers very different approaches to the game and can craft his own approach which hopefully takes the best of both.
This is what I replied in Twitter and THIS is my second biggest reason for optimism. "Well I have heard Espada give way better explanations of team moves and strategy than his boss ever did." There have been a few times Espada explained the Astros strategy in some situations and almost every time, I felt like the explanation was a good one. Espada seems to have been very engaged in the in game strategy. I think we are going to find out he is extremely comfortable running a game.
To Dusty's credit, he prepared Espada for this. He had him run Spring Training which is where a ton of real coaching occurs. I think Espada has known this day was coming for over a year and he has been prepared for it.
This is probably too simplistic, he made the move in the ALCS game 5. There was some debate if this was a Dusty or Espada move and I addressed it at that time. Dusty never PH for Pena in a high leverage situation all year. Espada did and it worked. Will Espada make moves that don't work? Of course, it is baseball. If Espada continues to make moves that are easily justified by metrics, I will be very happy that he is giving the Astros the best opportunity to win. THAT is what I want in a manager.
Here is my one reason for concern. If Espada has actually been directing some of the lineup and strategic decisions that were made in 2023, forget everything I just said. If he told Dusty to play Gurriel in the ground in 2022 and Maldy in 2022-2023, I reserve the right to completely flip my opinion. I don't believe that, so I won't.
I am sure Espada will have some learning opportunities. It will be interesting if any of the coaching staff changes.
Despite any of that, I am thrilled that Joe Espada is the new Astros manager.