I was not expecting to write a Part Two to Houston’s woes. But a worrisome pattern is emerging. Catch up with Part One: https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/2019/10/28/houston-youve-got-a-problem/
It’s a tough year to be a member of the Houston Astros. Actually, more like a tough last 30 days. Thirty days that have done so much damage, that it will carry over into the future and damage the brand.
But the signs were there for at least the past couple of years. Things were said, players were talking and stories were written. Suspicions were raised. But none of the concerns lasted more than a hot NY minute.
That’s what happens when your team is among the best in baseball. That’s what happens when your organization turns into one of MLB’s greatest success stories. That’s what happens when you win the World Series.
No one with any real smarts wants to attack those who are really successful – and winning. No one wants to be the buzzkill. No one wants social media to rain down on them so hard for attacking winners.
That is, until you start showing cracks in the armor.
Just look at how the local Detroit media facilitated making the Tigers Teflon-proof when the team was winning. Now that they are a hot mess, it’s open season.
And you know what? Many of the problems they have now, they had back when they were winning division titles and individual awards. It’s just that spending lots of money and winning can conveniently cover up or dissuade others from critiquing them.
But let’s return to the Astro-nomical problems Houston is having. We all know about the comments made by former Assistant GM Brandon Taubman. Repeated comments that specifically targeted a female reporter who had a firm stance against domestic violence.
And a team that said it took this issue seriously, yet signed a player who served a 75-day penalty for it. A Front Office that should have run their controversial decision past the players to see if it would create problems. And it did.
And to make matters worse, and to showcase their hypocrisy, the organization went after the female journalist who reported the story and accused her of fabrication and questioned her credibility. A self-inflicted gunshot to your brand.
Shortly thereafter, the Astros lost the World Series and weren’t the best of sports in their comments afterwards. After their final game loss, Gerritt Cole met the media sans his Astros hat, wearing instead a Boras Corp. hat and claiming he was “not an employee of the team.”
With a heartfelt desire to further implode on a weekly basis, owner Jim Crane demoted top executive Reid Ryan (Nolan’s son) to advisor and promoted his own son, Jared, into that slot. Jared had never worked in baseball before now.
And shortly thereafter, the Astros top advisor, Nolan Ryan, quit.
Nepotism, esp. when the individual involved has no experience in your industry, is a high-risk and controversial move. Not to mention that you really shouldn’t tick off the Ryans who own your AA and AAA minor league teams.
And now the sign-stealing rumors of the past couple of years have finally ripened and are growing with alarming regularity by the hour. Four witnesses and counting who corroborate the story that hi-tech was used to steal pitchers’ strategies. And where there is smoke, there’s Fiers.
Speaking of former Tigers – and there’s a lot of them these days – rest assured that the Detroit organization would never participate in a cheating scandal like this. First of all, they don’t have the technology to do it and Chris Ilitch wouldn’t spring for the extra cameras and tv monitors. He might, however, sign off on purchasing a garbage can.
Ok, seriously, the biggest issue with sign stealing is that what the Astros did goes directly against the written rules that MLB put into place regarding the use of technology in the attempt.
And it brings up serious questions about the 2017 playoffs in which they went 8-1 against the Dodgers, Yankees and Red Sox at home. Away, they went 3-6.
Of even greater concern is a track record that goes all the way back to 2015 with the computer hacking case between the Cardinals and the Astros. Cardinal employees went to jail for hacking into the Astros system, however, the Cardinals were adamant that the ‘Stros started it first. (And for those of you with multiple children, this argument will sound familiar.) And it does make sense that the Astros, still in their new owner infancy, would go after the successful team with the established computer program rather than the other way around.
What these two teams have in common is Jeff Luhnow. He left the Cardinals just before the computer hacking took place in order to become the Astros GM.
Add up all of this – from the Assistant GM bad behavior and attempted smearing, Front Office firings, poor sportsmanship of the players, computer hacking and sign stealing – and there is a serious problem with the corporate culture of this organization.
A problem that only really bubbled to the surface after the World Series loss. Losing can have that effect on an organization.
Was it always there – just masked by winning?
Or did the arrogance we see simply grow unchecked because the team was winning?
We may never know. But the one thing we do know is that a bad corporate culture simply doesn’t exist within one department of an organization. It exists from the top down.
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