HOUSTON (AP) — James Click knows Houston’s sign-stealing scandal has tarnished the franchise’s reputation.
Instead of looking back at the turmoil, the new general manager hopes he can help the Astros make a fresh start.
“We’re focused on the future,” he said. “Obviously, there’s been some things in the past that may have, have not gone the way that the Astros organization wanted it to. I wasn’t here for that. I’m trying to bring a fresh look.”
Click was introduced on Tuesday, joining a scandal-plagued team that scrambled to fill two major roles just before the start of spring training.
Click took over for Jeff Luhnow, suspended for a season by Major League Baseball and then fired. The Astros last week hired 70-year-old Dusty Baker to take over for AJ Hinch as manager.
The 42-year-old Click spent the last three seasons as the Tampa Bay Rays’ vice president of baseball operations. Click had been with Tampa Bay for the last 14 seasons.
Astros owner Jim Crane lauded the combined experience of Click and Baker, who have joined a team that lost a seven-game World Series to Washington.
“They’ve both been in baseball a long time and have unbelievable experience,” Crane said. “We’re confident that under their leadership we will win another championship or championships.”
Click seemed undaunted at the challenge of taking over a team portrayed as an outlaw. Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred concluded the Astros used electronics to illicitly steal signs during their run to the 2017 World Series championship and again in the 2018 season.
“My goal is to help us win this year, nothing less,” Click said. “I’m confident that with the talent we have in the front office and the talent we have on the field that we will be competitive for years to come.”
Click is a Yale graduate and wrote for the analytics website Baseball Prospectus for several years before being hired by the Rays.
Click was involved in guiding and overseeing all aspects of the baseball operations department. His areas of focus were research and development, strategic planning and innovation.
Crane was asked if he was concerned about hiring someone who has never been a general manager to lead his team during these trying times.
“He’s worked in almost every department and has tons of experience and was primed to be a general manager,” Crane said. “With his experience level, and his interaction with the guys, and our entire staff, I think he’s definitely the right person and I have no reservations whatsoever putting them in the job. I know we can do it.”
Click is the 13th general manager in franchise history.
“Winning a championship is going to be on the front burner at all times,” Click said. “I’m really looking forward to getting to know Dusty and everybody here at the Astros and figuring out the best way to do that.”
In his report on Houston’s sign-stealing, Manfred called the culture in the team’s front office “problematic.” Before the sign-stealing sanctions, the Astros were widely criticized when assistant general manager Brandon Taubman was fired after yelling at female reporters about closer Roberto Osuna during the team’s celebration after winning the AL Championship Series.
Click didn’t have any comment on how things were done in the past, but vowed that he’d foster a nurturing culture under his watch.
“Culture is something that I take very seriously,” he said. “And I think we’d like to do everything we can to continue to make sure that this is an employee-first culture, the kind of place where people want to work and are involved and engaged in every phase of your life, that continue the positive culture that we have with the Astros.”
Crane found a new manager and general manager in less than a month after Luhnow and Hinch were fired on Jan. 13. The Astros also were fined $5 million, the maximum allowed under the Major League Constitution, and forfeited their next two first- and second-round amateur draft picks.
Álex Cora, the bench coach for the Astros in 2017 and the manager who guided the Red Sox to the 2018 World Series title, recently parted with Boston. Carlos Beltrán, singled out for his role in the cheating scheme while playing for the 2017 Astros, was let go as manager of the New York Mets last month before working his first game.
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