HOUSTON, WE’VE GOT (MORE) PROBLEMS

By:  Holly Horning

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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12 thoughts on “HOUSTON, WE’VE GOT (MORE) PROBLEMS

  1. For the integrity of the game, MLB must quickly and publicly investigate Fiers’ allegations. If proven true, the penalties should be swift and severe. My concern is this could be just the tip of the iceberg. With smartphones, tablets, and laptops in dugouts and bullpens (plus wide-spread wireless capabilities), a guy watching a TV monitor and banging on a garbage can is stone-age stuff.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Holly you nailed it when stating it starts from the top down, search EEOC Jim Crane to see about allegations of employment discrimination. I wonder if some of these things were known among players and could have bee a reason it took Verlander to the last minute to approve the trade to Houston.

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  3. The Astros 2019 edition reminds me of the 1986 New York Mets which baseball fans unanimously disliked. But there is a difference here. With the Mets, it was the behaviour of the players that turned everybody against them. The Astros are bordering on corruption and the questionable practices appear to be institutionalized. This runs much deeper than anything the Mets were guilty of.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Considering the Tigers record this past season and what they`ve done the past few years, which is nothing, I wish the Tigers had the Astros` problems.

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  5. I believe Holly some weeks ago indicated that the new Astros owner came from the finance industry. If so, probably brought to the Astros that industry’s aggressiveness and do anything attitude to make the numbers.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. There are two species of front office ills here. The Tigers are inept, the Astros immoral, bordering upon evil. At least when you have the Astros’ problem you win a few ball games.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I stopped rooting for them when they traded for Osuna, thought it would bring bad karma. They also come across as arrogant. Kevin Gausman’s tweet was the most troubling as he pointed out it affected pitchers who got sent down because Astros hitters were hitting them hard. No longer want our JV on their team.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Perhaps the Houston Disastros will be supplanted in the 2020 season by The Tampa Bay’s who shall be a “Ray of Light” illuminating the MLB landscape to the fact that one does not have to: spend a gazillion dollars or resort to illegal tactics and even fight through all kinds of adversity to win an MLB championship
    Perhaps The Tampa Bay Rays as the Ford Pintos of the MLB as they are called can win one for us little guys! Go Tampa Bay you represent us little people who struggle everyday!!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I used to own a Ford Pinto – a much maligned vehicle. But I also owned a Corvair and a VW bus in my younger days and survived both without incident. I have much to be thankful for, Rev.

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  9. Unfortunately another example of unchecked abuse of ‘power’, not a good reflection of the organization’s integrity, as Holly says. Even more so, another disappointing performance of a lack of proactiveness by MLB leadership- this behavior can’t have been a real secret around the league. And it took Mike Fiers to bring it to light by exposing a cheating culture? How lame the league looks too. I agree the Astros leadership looks horrible, but MLB as the overseer looks even worse.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Holly I loved your line about the Tigers being too cheap to ever considering doing anything likes this outside of buying a trash can. This is sounds like a problem the Tigers won’t have to worry about because no one in the organization is smart enough or for that matter competent enough to consider it

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