Differences: The word describing the Click/Crane fracture

Mandatory Credit: Photo by David J Phillip/AP/Shutterstock (12554849q) Houston Astros general manager James Click, right, talks with bench coach Joe Espada during batting practice before Game 1 in baseball’s World Series against the Atlanta Braves, in Houston World Series Baseball, Houston, United States – 26 Oct 2021

Differences: The word describing the Click/Crane fracture

The Houston Astros just won a World Series, their first since 2017. Jim Crane has already said everyone in the building is getting a ring because they deserve it for a well-done job. While he was at it, he rewarded 74-year-old Dusty Baker with a one-year extension to manage the Astros in 2023. Why? Because he just won the World Series, the first of his career as a manager. The Astros general manager, who was hired after Jeff Luhnow was fired back in 2020, James Click, took what he was given and added a few pieces, which led to the Astros winning the World Series. You reward him as well? Right?

After the World Series parade Monday, after a brief meeting with Crane before the parade, Click headed to the GM Meetings in Vegas without a contract. Why? Because that is what you do if you are still technically the GM of an MLB team. Click answered all the questions asked of him at the GM Meetings, no matter how awkward it was. As far as he knew, he was still the GM of the World Series-winning Houston Astros. He was not the only GM without a contract at the meetings. Yankees GM Brian Cashman’s contract had also expired, but he had a little more job security.

Typically, general managers like to know that they are building something and have job security. Not too many general managers would be comfortable taking a one-year deal like the rumors were reporting that Crane had offered Click. While Click was looking for a multiyear deal that The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal felt he deserved, he even said he should decline the insult of the one-year deal. Click is no longer the Astros GM because of differences, starting with the obvious.

The Length of the Contract

In negotiations, one side starts high, the other starts low, and then they find a way to reach a compromise. We have seen this through the arbitration process in baseball. As long as both sides are building towards something, negotiations can continue or need to go before an arbitrator. With your kids, they ask for $50 to go to the mall. You give them $25 instead and say, “take it or leave it.” One side is not acting in good faith in the negotiation process, or it is just what you are willing to spend on whatever.

Reports say that Crane did not want Click to remain the GM but did not want the lousy look of not trying to retain him after their team won the World Series. Bob Nightengale suggested that Click was fired because Crane offered him “a one-year deal and raise from his $1 million in salary.” He then went on to say that Click wanted a longer deal but then was dismissed after he complained about things at the GM Meetings.

In other words, the Astros made him an offer he could refuse. When he did, Crane allegedly cut off talks because of the differences that Click discussed at the GM Meetings. So much for those discussions.

Difference In Thinking

As a boss, you want someone who thinks differently than you. Bring up different options you may not have considered for the organization’s betterment. Recent reports indicate that Click was close to trading for Cubs catcher Willson Contreras, but it was called off at the top with concerns from Baker. Click then turned to try to acquire Christian Vazquez from the Red Sox. While the Astros did win the World Series, wouldn’t it have been easier if Contreras had been the DH instead of Aledmys Diaz and Trey Mancini?

When asked about Crane’s involvement in baseball operations at the meetings, Click said, via Chandler Rome, “I only have one other owner to compare it to, and it’s a little different than that guy.”

That was probably not the best thing to say in that situation. But wait, there is more. Click was asked how he and Crane are different in their approach. While he said they see eye-to-eye in most cases, Crane tends to act more quickly sometimes while he takes more of a deliberate strategy. But it is a difference in thinking.

He also said that while Crane is demanding, he gives you the resources to do the job. We saw that this postseason when the Astros hired Framber Valdez‘s mental coach to help him to his best postseason record to date.

Looking At Some Of Click’s Imprints on the Team

Yes, 19 of the 26 players on the Astros’ World Series roster were brought in by Luhnow. However, you cannot deny what Click did to make one of the most dominating bullpens in postseason history, finishing with a 0.82 ERA. Click was responsible for Ryne Stanek, Rafael Montero, and Hector Neris. You can consider Will Smith a Click product, but he did not pitch in the series. Just a clever way to dump Jake Odorizzi‘s contract. His best trade has to be Joe Smith and Abraham Toro for Kendall Graveman and Montero.

Montero was a throwaway by the Mariners but an essential piece for Click. This year, he is likely one of their top free agents to retain. The trades in 2022 did not lead to much, Vazquez could have been more valuable, but Baker viewed him as option B behind Martin Maldonado. Vazquez made his presence felt in the World Series, catching the no-hitter and for the bat in Game 6. Trey Mancini never really lived up to his hitting ability with the Astros, and Baker did not play him that often at first. Smith was better with the Astros than the Braves but not a key reliever in Baker’s bullpen. Once again, a difference in thinking.

Click will always be remembered as the guy who extended Lance McCullers Jr. and Yordan Alvarez.

Friday’s News

Why did Crane handle things the way he did? It’s Crane’s team. He can do whatever he wants to in the name of improvement. A few hours after Click was dismissed/not-renewed, Jeff Passan announced that Scott Powers was also fired. Powers and Andrew Ball were hired last spring as Click’s assistant general managers. That leaves Ball at the moment, still with the Astros. Pete Putila and Oz Ocampo are no longer in the Astros organization.

Who is Crane looking at to be the next Astros GM? Yesterday, I would have said he was waiting a year for David Stearns, who is currently under contract with the Brewers. However, Stearns came out Friday afternoon, reminding everyone that he was not going anywhere. Crane has to have someone in mind already. Is Sig Mejdal up for a Houston reunion? Nightengale reminds us that he was high on the Astros wish list.

If Crane had already decided to move on from Click, what was with the dog and pony show? In Crane, we trust, I guess. The next move is his, and he needs to find a GM quickly before the Winter Meetings and the free-agent pool dry up too much. This will be an exciting off-season.

Check out Richard Justice’s Column!

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