Originally posted on Fox Sports Houston  |  Last updated 12/7/11
Sports fans are often suckers for big names. Big name players, big name managers, big name coaches and even GMs. Some owners are suckers for them, too. But history has shown the so-called big names dont always add up to the best hires. Had anyone heard of Jon Daniels, Brian Cashman, Theo Esptein or Andrew Friedman before they were hired by the Rangers, Yankees, Red Sox or Rays respectively? You can be sure fans in those cities were not happy that more established big names were bypassed. Yet none of the franchises that hired those unknowns has ever regretted doing so. The Astros may be about to do the same thing. When Ed Wade was let go, many fans and some sports writers started tossing out big names. Mostly it was candidates that had either already been a GM or had been rumored so often about being in the next wave of hires their names were recognized. That would not have automatically made any of them the right hire. The Astros are heavily interviewing candidates with major league experience who have the deepest grasp on scouting and building solid farm systems. They are not looking for GM candidates who have negotiated a number of big dollar free agent contracts or even who have been involved in making major league trades. They no doubt have had some contact with candidates of that level and if the right person were available would not likely automatically rule them out. But their goal is to build. The big time free agents and blockbuster major league deals will come later. They want someone who can follow the plan to build the entire baseball organization into something that can get back to a level competitive with the top teams in their league and sustain that level for years. A chance to win a pennant now and then is also the goal. The names that have leaked out and who have been interviewed show the Astros direction. J.J. Picollo is the assistant GM of Scouting and Player Development with the Royals. Jeff Luhnow holds a similar dual role with the World Champion Cardinals. Bill Geivett is a senior vice-president for scouting and player development with the Rockies. Logan White is the head of scouting for the Dodgers. Notice that three of the four come from a scouting and development background. White has been only in scouting, but the Dodgers have been very successful in that area. Scouting and development is what the Astros want to emphasize. Geivett has the most extensive background. He has been with the Rockies 11 seasons and before that worked for the Dodgers and Tampa Bay in development or scouting roles after starting in pro ball as a scout for the Yankees. Luhnow has the least experience, not getting into baseball till 2003. He has also only worked for one organization, but the Cardinals obviously have had great success with a heavily home grown contingent of players. If Picollo has a problem it may be that the Royals have not been one of baseballs more successful franchises in recent years. However, his resume includes working for the Braves as director of minor league operations. While Whites background does not include working directly in the development area, he comes highly regarded. This is where the personal interviews make the difference. Geivett, on paper, would seem to have the most extensive background and experience. Luhnow has been working as a key cog in a winning organization. Picollos Royals had five of baseballs top 25 prospects heading into 2011. All of the candidates in interviews published by Baseball America in recent years are advocates of the new job description of GM. They know it is important to incorporate traditional scouting methods with computerized analysis in everything involving players. While Jim Crane andor George Postolos have had interaction with more than just these four candidates I have chosen to highlight here, it is not a stretch to think these four represent the type of background of the person that is being targeted. Could a so-called big name still be part of the mix? Maybe, but the goal will be the same with whoever gets the job. Build the Astros back from within. A major league baseball general manager is the front office face of the club. The interview process should be able to tell which of the Astros candidates would be best suited for that role. It is not as important as drafting and developing the right players. But it is an important part of the job. Being able to communicate with the media and the fans to let everyone know the Astros are determined to make the team winners again as quickly as possible is the goal. Its all part of the plan.
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