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How The Astros Will Replace Dusty

Today, Dusty Baker will announce he is retiring and/or not returning to the Astros,

Brian McTaggart wrote this in his "Astros Beat"

1. Who will be the manager in 2024?

Baker, who led the Astros to two World Series appearances in four seasons, winning his only championship in 2022, is likely headed to retirement. The Astros will look to get younger in the managerial role in what will be an attractive job. Dana Brown, who was hired as GM just before Spring Training, will have a say in who’s in the manager’s chair, but owner Jim Crane and Jeff Bagwell, the team’s senior advisor to ownership and baseball operations, will oversee finding the next Astros skipper.

So, who will be the next Astros manager and how will that manager be hired? How will the Astros replace Dusty Baker?

My first response to this was to be angry and ask why do Crane and Bagwell, who arguably oversaw the WORST moves this team made in the 2022-2023 off season think they are qualified to hire a manger?

Why doesn't Jim Crane just trust his General Manager to hire the next manager so that we can have a manager and GM be on the same page with regard to player personnel and usage?

This has been on my mind for 12 hours since it was announced.

I have two scenarios.

Scenario 1- Jim Crane doesn't WANT a Manager and General Manager that are aligned and agree on everything.

Hold on with me here. Jim Crane has watched his team go to SEVEN straight ALCS. He has seen his 2022 and 2023 teams that won it all and reached the final four do that in an environment where the manager and GMs were NOT always on the same page. He LIKES that they challenged each other and pushed for their opinion.

Crane doesn't WANT a Brown yes man as his manager. He doesn't want a "Dana's Boys" group that runs the team. He wants there to be tension and challenging each other because they won it all with that.

I think this is crazy. I think it undermines his GM and likely means that Crane once again has a GM he does not really trust like he did Luhnow. I think it means he will NEVER trust ANY other GM like he did Luhnow. He is always going to have "his boys" (Bagwell and Jackson) involved in everything.

I think what is not being recognized is how completely talented and excellent the players are for the Astros. The team is not successful because of this dysfunctional paradigm. The team is successful because they have OVERCOME this dysfunctional paradigm. A team with lesser talent can't and won't.

God help us.

I think this process will mean Brown can recommend a few people- probably Eric Young Jr. or Ron Washington and others he has a connection with from his pre-Astros days. Bagwell will recommend a few people- probably including Brad Ausmus and Joe Espada. Both will have a right to veto someone(s) off the other's list. They (Crane, Bagwell, and Brown) will interview the ones they can agree upon, and that Crane will decide who HE wants.

The end result of this could bring unity or it could stoke more dysfunction. We will see.

Scenario 2- The Astros ALREADY KNOW who their next Manager is.

I think Crane, Brown, and every power player in the Astros front office has known that Dusty Baker was not coming back for the 2024 season maybe for a year now. Do you think they were just sitting back and not preparing for this time? I don't.

There were rumors last year that Joe Espada was going to be hired by the White Sox and then a day later he was no longer under consideration. Why? Could it be that Espada was promised the Astros managerial job after Dusty left as long as there were no major red flags in the 2023 season (i.e. he did not undermine Baker)? I not only think that is possible but probable.

Therefore, when Crane was trying to hire a GM last year, they were told that Crane would be hiring the manager after Dusty. Maybe now it makes sense why it took so long to hire a GM. Under this theory, Brown agreed to this path forward knowing his greatest strengths as a GM were scouting anyway.

So here we are. Everyone knows what is going to happen, but the Astros need/ want to make it look like a competition. Maybe they are open to someone coming in and blowing them away and essentially stealing the job from Espada. Maybe that isn't possible, but they at least want to appear to interview others to be able to say no one was as good as our internal candidate- Joe Espada.

In this scenario Crane and Brown are actually aligned. Rather than waste Brown's precious time right now with a managerial search, they have agreed to let Bagwell "interview" folks and then report Espada is the right guy. Brown can focus on everything else that has to happen as shown in the offseason outline. If Bagwell finds someone else that is so much better than Espada, then Crane and Brown can interview THAT person.

Please let THIS be true.

So, which is it?

  1. The dysfunctional and yet successful mess we have had for two years plus continued by design.

  2. Complete alignment to execute a plan that has been in place for as long as a year.

I don't know and the actions the team takes may look the same in both cases. I suppose if Espada starts interviewing for multiple other jobs, it might indicate the first scenario is more likely.

Maybe there is a hybrid truth between these two extremes. I am not sure what that would look like.

Despite sports franchises looking significantly different than most businesses we know; I do think it is important to remember that at a time like this that they really are businesses. They plan ahead and have plans for key personnel moves. The also have internal politics and drama.

How the Astros replace Dusty Baker will just be the latest episode in watching this franchise operate in the Jim Crane corporate model.

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.

Please let me know what you think.

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1 Comment

As usual, thoughtful analysis. I wish I knew how Crane operates in his other businesses. That would likely steer us to the most likely system for choosing. I lean towards the Bagwell initial screening and then Crane/Brown getting involved. I pray that “back of the baseball card” bullshit does not carry the day. I am older than dirt but think analytics are hugely important.

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