Results tagged ‘ Tal Smith ’

New GM will come after Winter Meetings

The Astros won’t have a new general manager in place until after the Winter Meetings, which get underway Monday in Dallas.

Assistant general manager David Gottfried, who has assumed the role of general manager until a full-time replacement can be found, said Monday he was told by team president and CEO George Postolos he would remain as interim GM through at least the Winter Meetings.

“George indicated yesterday it would be through the Winter Meetings, and he didn’t indicate how far beyond and I didn’t ask,” Gottfried said.

The Astros are searching for a new GM after Ed Wade was dismissed following four-plus seasons on the job. New owner Jim Crane and Postolos will have plenty of opportunities to interview potential candidates at the Winter Meetings, when front-office executives from every team will be in attendance.

Postolos, who wasn’t available for comment Monday and hasn’t laid out a timetable for finding a GM, did contact manager Brad Mills to address rumors his job status was in question. Mills is under contract through 2012 with a club option for 2013 and no change is imminent.

“There was some speculation out there [Sunday] night and I think that was all premature and not accurate,” Gottfried said. “George reached out to Millsie personally to make him aware.”

Gottfried, who’s been with the club for 13 years, including five as assistant GM, said the club’s goal remains the same in the wake of the dismissal of Wade and long-time president of baseball operations Tal Smith.

“We’re just going to continue to load up the farm system as best we can,” he said. “Certainly, in all my conversations with George, he wants to get good and stay good for a long time and believes, like many people, the best way to do that is with a strong farm system.”

Wade told last week he wouldn’t return

Former Astros general manager Ed Wade told MLB.com on Monday that he was informed by owner Jim Crane and club president and CEO George Postolos last week that he would not be returning for another season in Houston.

The Astros began a major shake-up of their front office by announcing late Sunday president of baseball operations Tal Smith andWade were being dismissed. The moves come less than a week after a group led by Crane assumed control of the club from long-time owner Drayton McLane and only a week before baseball’s annual Winter Meetings, scheduled to begin next Monday in Dallas

Wade said he was informed in a meeting with Crane and Postolos on Wednesday morning he wasn’t going to be retained, and he left flew to his Philadelphia-area home later that night for a previously scheduled to trip to spend time with his family at Thanksgiving.

“There was really no discussion beyond that beyond timing of announcement,” Wade said. “I did have an opportunity to talk about some of our staff and the esteem I hold them and [manager Brad Mills]. It was a very brief conversation. We’ll move forward from here.”

Wade, who was hired Sept. 20, 2007 to replace Tim Purpura, inherited a team with a barren Minor League system and an owner who would trim payroll over the next few years prior to selling the club. The Astros contended in 2008, going 86-75 and finishing in third place, before slumping to 88 losses in 2009 and 86 in 2010. <p>

The team, which traded away franchise icons Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman in 2010 and up-and-coming players Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn in 2011, hit rock bottom last season en route to losing a club-record 106 games and having 20 rookies see playing time. <p>

Smith, Wade out in front office shake-up

The Astros began a major shake-up of their front office by announcing late Sunday president of baseball operations Tal Smith and general manager Ed Wade were being dismissed.

The moves come less than a week after a group led by Houston businessman Jim Crane assumed control of the club from long-time owner Drayton McLane and only a week before baseball’s annual Winter Meetings, scheduled to begin next Monday in Dallas.

Crane’s $610 million bid to buy the Astros was approved by Major League Baseball owners Nov. 17, and he told reporters shortly after being approved that significant changes were on the way.

Smith, who just completed his 54th season in baseball and 17th consecutive with the Astros, was a close confidant of McLane and has been a mainstay in the Houston baseball scene for decades. Wade had been on the job with the Astros for four-plus seasons.

In a statement released by the club, team president and CEO George Postolos said assistant general manager David Gottfried will serve as interim general manager, but is not a candidate for the permanent position.

“With the change in ownership, we would like a fresh start in baseball operations,” Postolos said. “We have told Ed Wade and Tal Smith that we are making a change. We recognize their dedication to the Houston Astros. We thank each of them for their significant contributions and many years of service to the Astros, and wish them our very best as they pursue new opportunities.

“The search for a new general manager begins immediately. We are searching for a candidate who has the knowledge, skills and experience to build a winner and a strong commitment to player development in order to sustain success. Our goal is to consistently compete for a championship, and we know the first step towards that goal is to develop one of the top farm systems in baseball. We will hire the best candidate available to achieve our goal.”

Astros Winter Meetings notes

One thing the Astros aren’t going to be willing to do is trade away any of their top prospects. That’s not surprising considering how much of a commitment the club has made in the last three years to try to replenish its farm system through the draft and player development.

“Generally speaking, we’re going to be very, very reluctant to talk about the young players in our system,” general manager Ed Wade said. “We’ve spent a lot of years now waiting for a group of some substance to show up, and they just don’t show up. It’s a lot of hard work on the part of the scouts and the development guys, and we’re beginning to get there at this point.

“You can’t shortcut the process. We need to be patient with those guys, and being patient with them we have to be reluctant to move them because it doesn’t take a lot of moves to have it turn our poorly.”

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The longer the Winter Meetings drag on, the less convinced I am the Astros will make any deals. Sure, that’s an easy assessment to make, but based on conversations with some in the organization, I feel there’s a decent chance Brian Bogusevic will be the club’s left fielder in a platoon situation with Jason Michaels in the event Carlos Lee is at first base.

“I think we could go to war with the players we have right now and not have to make any adjustments on our payroll, but at the same time it makes sense for us to be open-minded with regard to the structure of our club now because we may be able to free up additional payroll to do something that makes us better,” Wade said.

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Pat Gillick, the former general manager of the Blue Jays, Orioles, Mariners and Phillies, gave some credit to Astros president of baseball operations Tal Smith upon learning Monday he was inducted in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

“He was the biggest influence on me,” Gillick said.

Smith and Gillick go back to their days with the Colt .45′s, when Paul Richards and Eddie Robinson brought Gillick to Houston. Smith was in charge of scouting and player development, and Gillick worked for him as a regional scouting director. Gillick followed Smith to he Yankees and two years later joined the Blue Jays.

The two men are so close they’ve often vacationed together in locations as such Hawaii and the Virgin Islands.

“He’s a very dear friend and we’ve stayed in touch in all his career moves,” Smith said. “He’s a superb guy. It’s a great honor and very deserving. Pat has done a lot of things. He’s been successful with the club he’s put together and had a great reliance on scouting, probably more so than anybody else in the game.

“The thing that separates him is the way he treats and deals with people. He makes everybody feel pretty good and that really inspires them. He works very hard himself and he expects other people to do so. He treats them well and creates a so-called baseball family. I think the results speak for themselves.”

Smith plans to be in Cooperstown, N.Y., when Gillick is inducted next year. That will mark only the third Hall of Fame induction ceremony Smith has attended. The others are Nolan Ryan and former Astros broadcaster Gene Elston.

If you remember, when the Phillies won the World Series in 2008, Gillick immediately credited Wade for helping put that club together.

 

Big Unit electrified the Astrodome

There may have been no more of a magical time to be in the Astrodome than the summer of 1998, when the Astros were churning towards 102 wins and their second consecutive National League Central division title. They sealed the deal whey they acquired Randy Johnson at the trade deadline.

Johnson’s time in Houston was only a blip on the radar during his terrific 22-year career, which came to an end Tuesday when he announced his retirement. Johnson started 603 games in his career, 11 of which came with the Astros. He signed with Arizona following the 1998 season and won four consecutive Cy Young awards, but he proved late in 1998 he was the best pitcher in the game.

Former Astros general manager Gerry Hunsicker sent pitchers Freddy Garcia and John Halama and Minor League shortstop Carlos Guillen to Seattle for Johnson on July 28, 1998. Johnson made his Astros debut on Aug. 2 at Pittsburgh and allowed six hits and two runs and struck out 12 batters in seven innings to win his debut.

He pitched back-to-back shutouts in his next two starts – both at home – and struck out 16 Pirates on Aug. 28 in the Astrodome for his third shutout of the month. A crowd of 52,071 – the largest regular-season crowd in Astrodome history – watched Johnson make his home debut Aug. 7 against Philadelphia.

“Now I know what a rock star feels like,” Johnson told reporters after the game. “I’ve had a few hundred people give me a standing ovation when I was in the bullpen when I was with Seattle, but this is the first time I’ve had 50,000 people give me a standing ovation when I was warming up.”

Johnson went 10-1 with a 1.28 ERA with the Astros and continued his success in the playoffs. He started two games against the San Diego Padres in the National League Division Series and posted a 1.93 ERA, but dropped both outings, losing to Kevin Brown in Game 1 and Sterling Hitchcock in Game 4.

The Astros lost two good prospects in Garcia — who later helped the White Sox beat the Astros in the World Series — and Guillen, but Astros president of baseball operations Tal Smith was pleased with how the trade worked out.

“It was a very exciting couple of months with certainly a tremendous and a very memorable performance,” he said. “That may have been our best team really. Obviously, we didn’t fair well when we went to San Diego, but you have to give the Padres credit. We ran into some good pitching out there. Randy really had a phenomenal half a season for us and he’s just one of the great pitchers of all-time.”

Recalling the trade, Smith said Mariners president and close friend Chuck Armstrong had informed Smith that Johnson would likely be dealt before the trade deadline because Seattle wasn’t going to be able to sign him as a free agent in the off-season. He wanted to end his career in Arizona to be close to his family.

“We had ongoing conversations and Gerry and the general manager of the Mariners at that time [Woody Woodward] were communicating,” Smith said. “From Seattle’s standpoint they got a couple of players did very well for them in Guillen and Garcia and John Halama rendered good service. It’s one of those trades that benefitted both clubs. Seattle got some players for future use, and we got the benefit of Randy Johnson’s superb performance for a couple of months.”

When he’s inducted into the Hall of Fame, Johnson will be one of a few Astros players to reach Cooperstown. By the time Johnson gets in, Craig Biggio and perhaps Jeff Bagwell will have already taken their place, making them the first players to join the Hall who played their career entirely with the Astros.

Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan played nine of his 27 seasons in Houston. Hall of Famers Joe Morgan, Nellie Fox, Robin Roberts, Eddie Matthews and Don Sutton also played for the Astros.

Winter Meetings may be quiet for Astros

Astros president of baseball operations Tal Smith, general manager Ed Wade, assistant general managers Ricky Bennett, David Gottfried and Bobby Heck and the rest of the club’s front-office crew arrived in chilly Indianapolis late Sunday in advance of baseball’s Winter Meetings.

The Winter Meetings begin Monday and figure to bring some wheeling and dealing, but the Astros likely won’t be making much news. They don’t have a lot of money to spend and don’t have many tradable commodities, but you can’t rule out Wade from doing something.

The No. 1 piece of news figures to come Monday when the Astros find out if closer Jose Valverde accepted arbitration. If he did, he’s a signed player and will return for 2010 at probably around $10 million. If he rejects and signs with another team, the Astros get two draft picks.

Yes, the Astros need starting pitching like every team, but they aren’t in the market for big-name starting pitchers because the market is expensive. Wade wants to add some bench depth, beef up the back end of the bullpen and he will explore third base options.

Houston has already re-signed Geoff Blum to play third base and also can put Jeff Keppinger at third, but Wade would like to beef up the offense at third base if possible.

“We like the job Geoff Blum has done us the last two years or we wouldn’t have signed him,” Wade said. “Geoff did a tremendous job for us defensively and has done a pretty good job overall. We just look at our situation, and if there’s a way to tweak the offense a little bit, we’ll try to do something like that.

“Keppinger can play over there, and [Blum and Keppinger] did a good job for us. Both can play around in the infield and help us. Keppinger’s a very professional hitter and did a good job after he came over here. We’ve got Chris Johnson, and we still think he had a chance to be an outstanding big league player, whether that happens on Opening Day this year or down the road remains to be seen.”

The Astros’ starting outfield of Carlos Lee, Michael Bourn and Hunter Pence is set, and it appears Tommy Manzella could begin the season at shortstop. The right side of the infield has returning starters in Kaz Matsui (second base) and Lance Berkman (first base).

At catcher, Humberto Quintero, J.R. Towles and Jason Castro will compete for the two roster spots, barring some additional roster moves between now and February. There is a chance to the Astros could be in a low-cost free agent to be in the mix.

Open interview process will be interesting

Astros fans, consider yourselves lucky. You’re going to get to go through each step of the managerial interview process as if you were in the same room with Tal Smith and Ed Wade. Like they did when Wade was hired more than two years ago, the Astros are keeping the process open.

That means they’re going to announce who’s coming in to interview (or in some cases who they are going to interview) the day before the interview happens, and the candidate will be made available to the media when the interview is over. Not that we’ll gain any great insight from these guys after they interview, but it will be nice to know who the candidates are and what they bring to the table.

And I’ll be there to bring you all the details on the candidates. Of course, the quickest way to find out which candidates are going to be interview is to follow me on twitter: @brianmctaggart

 

 

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