Now what? James Click is out in Houston

Historically, this seems just so wrong. James Click, who ran the front office of the Astros, is gone after three seasons as general manager. Three seasons ended up with three ALCS trips, two WS trips, and one World Championship.

Now let me get this straight, Click lasted about as long as Tim Purpura. YAAAARRGGHH!! He lasted less time than Ed Wade, Bill Wood, Paul Richards, and sweet Jesus, Spec Richardson. No GM in the team’s history oversaw a more successful run than James Click. Not even Jeff Luhnow.

And perhaps Jeff Luhnow is why James Click is looked at as expendable. Even though the 2022 team was quite different from the 2017 team, the vast majority of pieces can be tied back to Jeff Luhnow. Luhnow inherited Jose Altuve like Click did, but most major pieces were obtained under Luhnow’s oversight.

But still, the overall set of moves by Click was not that impressive outside some relievers, who were coached up to great seasons here (Montero, Stanek, Neris). He may have been unlucky with Baez and Mancini, or he may have hitched his wagon to the wrong hombres.

While some folks point to friction between Click and Dusty Baker, which certainly may have existed, it stretches the imagination that Crane could not have patched over this until Dusty heads off into the sunset, if that is what he wanted to do. No, it had to be Crane’s call all the way. While some of it may stem from some conflict they had over a Jose Urquidy for Cub catcher Willson Contreras trade, there must be a lot more involved here.

The one-year contract offer did not do what Crane may have thought. If he thought it meant people could not point at him and say he did not offer his WS-winning GM a contract extension, it did not work. Instead, it meant people could point at him and say he did not make a meaningful offer. Click is not a septuagenarian manager hanging around year to year. He’s a young man, where one-year lame-duck contracts are offered to guys coming off their 4th season of mediocre teams.

The best explanation that this writer can come up with about this move (and believe me, the Jerry Jones egotistical owner moves that tore apart a championship team come to mind) is that Jim Crane is playing the long game, and he did not see James Click in alignment with him like Jeff Luhnow was. When you look at the team under Crane/Luhnow there was a steady stream of moves that not only improved the team incrementally but they also set up the team for sustained success. He may have thought that Click was making too many moves that undercut the long-term sustainability of the team. Perhaps they did not share the same vision of the team. We may never know this, but which direction Crane goes at this time may tell us a lot.

Going forward…..

  • Option 1 – Make a minor trade with the Milwaukee Brewers and bring back David Stearns, who recently stepped down as their president of baseball operations. He is still under contract to the Brewers and would not be interviewing for a promotion, so they would have to trade some value for the privilege of bringing him back. He was the Assistant GM to Luhnow when Luhnow was hired in 2011 and left in 2015 to lead the Brewers.
  • Option 2 – Hire a current assistant GM or promote them from within as the GM, and bring in Stearns after 2013 as the new President of Baseball Operations.
  • Option 3 – (This one was suggested by the founder of this feast Chip Bailey), Hire Sig Mejdal, former Astros front office sabermetrician and the current assistant GM of the Baltimore Orioles, as the new head of your front office.
  • Option 4 – Hold on to your hats, boys and girls – Rehire Jeff Luhnow – Yes, there are so many reasons not to do this, but look at Red Sox Manager Alex Cora. Implicated in the cheating scandal here and in Boston, he sits out one year, and boom, back to being a manager. A.J. Hinch is the same way, implicated and back to managing very quickly. It probably should not happen, but if Crane realizes that what his current team needs is the guys with the long vision, why not a return to the original man with whom he plotted this great era of Astros’ baseball.
  • Option 5 – Bring in someone we don’t know and have not been thinking about as the GM and/or president of baseball operations. Crane has made some great hires along the way, and this might be the one he sees that will bridge the gap between his own running of the team and his son’s takeover. (And wouldn’t it be weird if Click was out because of a conflict with Crane’s son?)

These are just some thoughts on this unusual subject. World Series winners don’t do this, but there are a lot of things this World Series winner has done that was not the norm.



33 comments on “Now what? James Click is out in Houston

  1. Like you Dan, I hope Crane will not turn into Jerry Jones II. That scares me as I read a few days ago that he has been taking a more active part in baseball decisions and was influenced by Bagwell and Reggie Jackson. Like all you, I hold Bagwell as sacred to the Astros and respect his knowledge of the game. But I also remember Larry Dierker feeling that Bagwell and Biggio working behind the scenes to have him removed. As an oblivious fan, I am always shocked with these kind of decisions when the ship is running well. I could understand if he had traded Joe Morgan for a cup of coffee. Also, I like the front office being run by these ivy leaguers and hope that continues.


  2. Let’s work backwards:
    Maybe Crane didn’t like the Contreras/Urquidy trade.
    Maybe he didn’t like the price we paid for little result from Vasquez.
    Maybe he didn’t like the Mancini trade, given the results.
    Maybe he didn’t like the worthless Goodrum deal.
    Maybe he didn’t like the way the Will Smith deal turned out.
    Maybe he hated the Pedro Baez deal.
    Maybe he didn’t like the way Graveman didn’t want to be here.
    Maybe he doesn’t like the way the Maton deal is looking.
    Maybe he wasn’t happy with the way Brooks Haley turned out.
    Or Austin Pruitt.
    Or Blake Taylor.
    Or Yimi Garcia
    Or Jacob Wilson.
    Or Jose Siri.
    Or Dustin Garneau
    Or Chase De Jong
    Or Mauricio Dubon.
    Maybe He is unhappy about drafts
    Maybe he is unhappy about the last 3 years of International free agent signings.
    Maybe he just wants somebody who he thinks can do better with developing minor league pitchers.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. As I said earlier, then don’t offer a 1 year deal. Thank him for his efforts, give him a fair bonus and tell him the club is moving in a different direction. That’s called taking the high road.

    The Astros have worked so hard at being the best club in baseball. And I personally would like to see the fraternity of MLB again appreciate the organization for being one of integrity, one that always does business the correct way. Regardless of how Crane felt about his GM, he did not handle the divorce very well. So once again the Houston Astros look like idiots, within baseball, in the media, to fans all over. I’m tired of it.


  4. Hey there Chipalattians, sorry I’ve been traveling with limited net access and I hate texting. Anyway, I say no to bringing back Luhnow. I think scouting and player development is more important than drafting and trading.


  5. If, as some think, the 2022 team is largely Jeff Luhnow’s creation, then the next GM is critical. Indeed, the current team core came together under Luhnow’s leadership, and if the team treaded water somewhat under Click, then it’s even more important. But it can’t ride on Luhnow’s coattails forever. Crane is shrewd. Remember, he’s the one who hired Luhnow, and you can say he’s got it right more than not in his hires (e.g, Hinch, Dusty, Luhnow), but this move may determine if the Astros stay in the dynasty search. Am I overreacting here?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Chip – it is a critical hire for the team. They do have a good base of players under contract or under team control, but the next GM is going to have the task of extending this successful era.
      – Who and when do you give out contract extensions?
      – How do you build up the minors when you don’t have the high end picks and when you have a hole from the two seasons of lost 1st and 2nd round picks?
      – Who do you let walk away ala Cole, Springer and Correa?
      – How do you continue finding gold nuggets in the International market?
      And a lot more….


      • That surprises the heck out of me. I’m very happy to have Montero back as previously stated, but would it really have taken 34 million?

        Maybe this is the response from our owner. Is he going to be hyper aggressive and sign all the guys he wants even if he pays more than he might have to? It’s a pretty smart approach if that’s the plan. It might appease guys like me. I can be had.

        And yes, we need a new GM too. But what does Crane want? A mirror of himself, or someone that will reach goals, maybe in a different way than the owner might. Some guys will stay away from Houston at this point.

        By the way, we can pretty much document all that Luhnow achieved by now. But we can’t do the same with Click. It’s easier to point out his early failures.

        I don’t know how much say he had in giving a fulltime job to Pena, but that should score some points for that. And in the coming years we will get to see his impact, even as he’s long gone from Houston.


    Says something about how the players on the team feel about the Astros.
    Says something how the team felt about Montero.
    Says something about whether the team will spend more money.
    Does this mean they plan on Hunter Brown fitting into a six man rotation? Consequently, could that mean they won’t pay $40 million a year to Verlander?
    This means they could have Pressly, Neris, Montero, Abreu, Stanek, and Maton definitely in their bullpen.


    • I don’t know.

      On one hand, they are giving 11M+ to a non-closer – in a deep bullpen. It tells you how much they value depth – and bringing back JV is depth.

      On the other hand, they are giving 11M+ to a non-closer – how many more doles does the dolemaster have?

      The Astros were shrewd in who they hitched the wagon too – choosing JV over Cole – Bregman and Altuve over Springer and Correa. In most cases they chose the stars that cost a little less (and signed early before there was competition), and not matching when the bigger fish come biting.

      I think JV is a special case though. He is happy here. Kate is happy here. He has a relationship with the owner. I don’t know that we have done enough with him to get him to change his HoF hat, but 3 more years could do that if it comes with another WS win.

      I never looked at Springer, Correa or Cole as legacy defining players. I have no idea what the Astros are going to do, but this fan would be happy with bringing back Verlander even if the cost is 3/120. It’s not like they don’t have the cap space. If I’m not mistaken they are now around 130M and the only significant arby case is Tucker and that probably won’t pass up 6M. This team can bring back JV, sign Brantley, and make a move at 1B without even getting to 200M. And honestly, I would just bring back Gurriel and split his time with Y. Diaz at 1B (who should be in Houston this year and needs a spot to play). If Gurriel falls off the track and is hitting .220 in June, cut your losses put Diaz full time in there, but if Gurriel is hitting .280…..

      I like what I’ve seen from Hensley. I doubt Aledmys is back. I’m fine with that. Hensley is younger, and arguably a tougher out right now. He has played all over the diamond (even recording time in CF in college and independent ball). This is a guy who made the concious decision to improve his OB skills and it worked last year, drawing 80 walks at AAA. That is a harder skill to keep up when you might go 3 days without a PA as a utility guy but it shows he works at his craft. Diaz at 8-10M a year or Hensley at minimum salary is a no brainer to me.

      What I think works best for the Astros next year is Hunter Brown in that old Javier role – spot starts, and long reliever. If he starts 33 games next year you are going to be giddy after some starts, and you are going to be down right frustrated after others. He has pitched 20 innings of outstanding ball in the majors. That is a great start, but it is 20 innings. He has a longer track record in the minors of being brilliant followed by confoundingly inconsistent. Let him slowly grow into the role, look what that has done for CJ.


  7. It’s possible — if not probable — that Click was already working on this deal, and the assistants just brought it home. I’m not shocked at this deal, but I will be looking for the non-obvious deal. JV wouldn’t be a shock. Montero didn’t come out of left field (though the $$$ are a little steep). I’ll keep an eye on how the Astros will UPGRADE the team (e.g. CF, 1B, C etc.).

    That will be the difference maker. The top six relievers had 50+ IP, meaning no significant injuries. Having the depth in place could help alleviate those concerns there.

    My guess is that Crane wasn’t going to bring back Click, and he knew Click wouldn’t agree to a one-year deal. With that in mind, I also think he’s done his homework about who is available and who he wants.

    PREDICTION: New GM by Thanksgiving, if not this week.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. In the bottom of the 11th, Astros’ Will Wagner singled in the tying run and then Astros 1B prospect Scott Schreiber singled in the walk-off winning run as Surprise wins the Arizona Fall League Championship. Mickey Storey, Sugarland’s manager, led the Surprise team to the best record in the AFL and then to the title.


  9. And in a non-news story Joe Espada is sticking around another year.
    Since he didn’t get a manager’s job this time around(again) that is not really news unless one thought they would send him packing with James Click. (OK Click not fired – just insulted to the point of leaving)


  10. Listening to Dan Fogelberg’s amazing album “Phoenix” for the first time in years, and perusing through various Astros stuff, I am reminded:
    – Two different major league playoff managers walked from their dugouts to the pitcher’s mound to remove their pitcher and insert a left handed thrower to face Yordan Alvarez in series-changing moments. Both ended in disaster for those managers and their teams.
    – Jeremy Pena’s ascent to the upper echelons of major league achievement is a clear picture of how badly early assessments of MLB experts can be in gauging the contributions of young baseball players before they reach their peak. Nobody of significant “importance” in baseball saw this coming except whoever in the Astros organization pushed to draft this player. Even then, who foresaw what just happened in the playoffs.
    What will the next two years bring the Astros in this regard?
    -I look for the Astros to target potential “plus” hitting infielders and outfielders and young pitchers with built in growth in the international free agent market and mature college pitchers and more infielders in the college draft.


    • – Oh man I miss Dan Fogelberg, OP. I will still throw on his Greatest Hits or his early classic album Souvenirs (produced by Joe Walsh and including a lot of backing vocals by the Eagles). Gone too soon.

      – I would add to your two managing decisions (which I assume were in the first and last games of the postseason) – one more. Game 4 of the World Series, where Thomson pulled Nola for Alvarado, who plunked Yordan and then gave up the big bases loaded double to Bregman, a sac fly to Tucker and a single to Yuli – which gave the Astros a 5-0 lead on the way to the huge no-no.
      – Pena was a big unknown heading into the post season – you just never know what young guys will do under those circumstances. Pena played with ice water in the veins. So smart, so clutch. I hope this is a springboard to even smarter hitting in the regular season next year.
      – I hope they continue the International signings magic. That has given them an advantage along the way.

      Liked by 1 person

    • We are fortunate that both our lefties are not just sluggers, they are hitters. Really, all 3 are if you still include Brantley in that mix, though in his older years he could be had by a lefty.

      In both cases both managers would have been served by having their best guy on the mound, not just a lefty.


  11. Tried to post this last week but here it is now:

    As the losing team stumbled back to Philly like zombies, a joyful celebration was heard in H-town that sounded like this:!

    Buh buh buhmph, aaah!
    Buh buh buhmph, aaah!
    Buh buh buhmph, aaah!
    Buh buh buhmph, aaah!

    It’s the time of the season
    When Jose’s bat swings high
    In this time no one gives it to you easy
    But let their pitches fly with rosined hands
    Bregs will take you deep downtown
    To Crawford stands
    We’re showing everyone
    It’s the time of the season for winning!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Buh buh buhmph, aaah!
    Buh buh buhmph, aaah!
    Buh buh buhmph, aaah!
    Buh buh buhmph, aaah!

    What’s your name?
    Who’s your daddy?
    Is he rich like JV?
    Has he taken any time
    To show you Framber’s curveball spin?
    Maldy says you run too slowly
    Tell you why
    He’ll cut you down like a machete!
    It’s the time of the season for winning!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Buh buh buhmph, aaah!
    Buh buh buhmph, aaah!
    Buh buh buhmph, aaah!
    Buh buh buhmph, aaah!

    What’s your name?
    Who’s your daddy?
    Are you experienced like Dusty B?
    Has he taken any time
    To show you old guys still can win?
    Yordan round the bases slower
    Tell you why
    You hit a definite no-doubter!
    It’s the time of the season for winning!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I expect Jayden Murray to be added to the 40-man soon. That is, if they haven’t been hugely disappointed by him, which I haven’t observed thus far.
    The Rays moved him to us in the Mancini 3-team deal because they have a big 40-man crunch problem coming up and he is Rule 5 eligible. Murray is currently rated as our # 12 prospect.


  15. Okay, AstroNut has got me thinking ‘Zombie’ thoughts. So, here’s my take on another of their classics:

    Now no one told us what went sour;
    brought the divide;
    no one foresaw this fight for power;
    it seems undignified. ‘
    But it’s too late to say who to-blame;
    How can we know? Why should we care?
    Just don’t bother to dial Click’s number – he’s not there!
    Why don’t we talk about the deals Crane nixed;
    the trades that tanked, and the way of millionaires;
    you’d better tow the line; you’d better get it right …
    or you’re not there!


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