After a relatively brief search, the Houston Astros officially have a new manager as Joe Espada was introduced as skipper during a press conference on Monday. The reception to the news has been largely positive. Espada is well-liked in the Astros organization and while he doesn't have a ton of experience at the top levels of leadership, he has been an integral cog of the coaching staff during this historic run of success in Houston.
More interesting than the hire itself, though, was the tone of the press conference and how it aligned with the rumored power dynamics in the front office. Make no mistake about it, general manager Dana Brown is running the show.
It is clear that Dana Brown is calling the shots in Houston...for now
Throughout Espada's introductory press conference, he was effuse in his praise for Brown and very clearly was looking to be deferential to him when it came to any future decision-making? When asked about who the next bench coach would be, he said he would work with Dana. When asked about the Astros' offseason plans, he said he would talk to Dana. Again and again, the focus was on the front office's role in conjunction with his.
On the surface, this is simply the right thing to say in a public setting. Presenting a united front going into a critical offseason is probably the best course of action in a vacuum. However, this felt more purposeful and could be telling us why Brown was pushing for Espada during the search. Brown wants to control what he can control and having a manager that is going to be taking his cues from the front office is a means to that end.
With owner Jim Crane and the way he chooses to conduct himself, keeping that iron grip on the Astros organization won't be easy. Crane and senior advisor Jeff Bagwell already made an attempt to insert themselves into the managerial search. Brown appears to have won that battle, but it underscores the tightrope he is going to have to walk to run the team the way he wants to run it without running afoul of a meddlesome and sometimes fickle owner.
At the end of the day, Brown appears to have found his guy and seems to have both hands on the wheel of a team that is likely to be very good once again in 2024. If there are any slip-ups going forward, though, Brown also won't have anywhere to hide and fans have seen how messy that can get. Just ask James Click.