With Astros owner Jim Crane looking for a clean slate, he should start by finding an external GM candidate.
Rather unexpectedly, the Astros are starting anew when it comes to their baseball operations department. With former top dog Jeff Luhnow gone, owner Jim Crane will be searching for a permanent replacement to guide the club through a critical time.
This hire will be key, as whoever takes Luhnow’s job will be responsible for keeping a championship caliber club from falling apart. They will have to expertly navigate the fact that its stars are commanding more money as the team’s payroll soars.
But more than that, they must also show that the franchise is moving past the stain that the sign stealing scandal has left behind. Crane said he wants a clean slate, and in order to achieve that, he must look outside the organization for a new leader of the baseball operations department.
Astros Assistant GM Pete Putila has often been cited as a potential candidate, and indeed Crane will probably lean heavily on him until a permanent successor to Luhnow is named. But Putila was in the replay review room prior to his 2016 promotion to farm director. That doesn’t necessarily mean he was part of anything nefarious, but it still casts a shadow, fairly or unfairly.
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Beyond that, he was part of Luhnow’s front office, which MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred referred to as having an “insular culture – one that valued and rewarded results over other considerations.” The Brandon Taubman incident and the prior trade for Roberto Osuna were the poster children for this, but evidently the culture was pervasive.
A truly clean slate means Crane needs to bring in someone with no connections to that culture, someone who will come in and run the baseball operations department the right way. Building a great team is important, of course, but so is keeping your own house in order. That is where Luhnow failed, and his successor cannot afford to.
There will undoubtedly be many potential candidates, but I will throw one name out there: Kim Ng. Currently the senior vice president for baseball operations for Major League Baseball, she is the sport’s highest ranking woman. She’s held assistant GM positions with the Yankees and Dodgers and has nearly 30 years experience in the game.
Not only is she supremely qualified, but hiring the first female general manager in baseball history would be a powerful message for the Astros to send. After the Taubman and Osuna incidents gave the club a black eye, having Ng take over the club’s baseball operations department would not only be insanely positive from a PR perspective, but it would also leave the club in excellent hands.
Regardless, Crane must at the very least bring in someone with no ties to Luhnow’s front office. If he’s serious about that clean slate, he has to follow through and start anew.