More on former Stros General Managers

Hunsicker2.jpgTal Smith4.jpgBlogging is a big light today as I make some blog site upgrades, but I wanted to pass along a couple of interesting items on former Stros general managers.
In this remarkably frank article, Chronicle Stros beat reporter Jose de Jesus Ortiz uses the occasion of former Stros general manager Gerry Hunsicker losing out on the Phillies’ GM job to take a serious whack at Mr. Hunsicker’s credibility. Entitled “Hunsicker Must Prove That He’s Trustworthy,” the article relates how Stros owner Drayton McLane and current Stros GM Tim Purpura became disenchanted with Mr. Hunsicker’s alleged manipulation of media accounts of various Stros transactions, including the following:

The first time I knew Hunsicker’s days were numbered with the Astros was when he flirted with the New York Mets for their vacant general manager’s job after the 2003 season. A report in the Newark Star-Ledger stated that Hunsicker wanted out of Houston because he had been overruled when he wanted to hire Tony PeÒa instead of Jimy Williams as manager after the 2001 season.
The morning that report ran, I was awoken by Astros brass furious because they believed Hunsicker was trying to take credit for discovering PeÒa.
For the record, Purpura, not Hunsicker, was the one pushing for PeÒa.
Asked about the report, Hunsicker declined to comment. I told him I was running something about it with or without his comments because folks in his front office were offended by the inference. Whether it was true or not, Astros officials distrusted Hunsicker and believed he was the biggest leak in the franchise.

Read the entire article, which is really quite biting in relation to the usual local reporting on the Stros. Meanwhile, Mr. Hunsicker’s booby prize for losing out on the Phillies GM job is reportedly the Tampa Bay Devil Rays GM position, which is probably the most challenging job in Major League Baseball.
Meanwhile, take a moment to read this fascinating (and very long) Business of Baseball interview with former Stros GM and current director of baseball operations Tal Smith, who is the one common thread through the fabric of Houston’s 43 years in Major League Baseball. The interview is filled with anecdotes about the Stros franchise, including the following tidbit regarding last season’s failed negotiations for Carlos Beltran:

The Beltran negotiations, they really didnít get to any meaningful dialogue until the final hour before the deadline that we faced. Itís just tough to do a deal of that magnitude in the final hour. Drayton asked on many occasions if we could go visit with Carlos in Puerto Ricoóif we could talk to him. We were denied that opportunity and told that, if we did, that would foreclose any negotiation with Carlos and perhaps some others down the road. Again, when you have a situation like that, the agent and the player set ground rules of what we could do.
Some people have suggested, ìWell, you should have issued an ultimatum.î Thatís all well and good. That doesnít appear to me to be the right thing to do to your fans Ö to just foreclose any possibility. I donít think Scott Boras would have reacted to any ultimatum that we might have established as far as ìThis offer is good until December 1, or December 10Ö.î I donít think that would have worked. All we would have done at that point is, with absolute certainty, denied the Astros any opportunity. As it was, Iím not sure how great an opportunity we had. It didnít work out for us. But I donít think thereís anything, in retrospect, we could have really done other than perhaps close the doors earlier, write it off and go in another direction. We wanted to get Carlos, if at all possible, but thatís the course we chose.

My sense is that Scot Boras need not bother peddling any of his other clients with the Stros anytime soon.

6 thoughts on “More on former Stros General Managers

  1. I read Jose de Jesus Ortiz’s article earlier, albeit not carefully. My immediate reaction, given his history of being Drayton McLane’s PR boy on the Chronicle staff, was that McLane and some of McLane’s lackey’s wanted to smear Hunsicker, and their PR boy was all too willing to do so.
    Just one question: Why in the world can’t we get critical reporting on local sports management (or mayors, or METRO heads for that matter) while they’re actually in positions of power?!
    That newspaper just blows my mind. I’ll have to reread that article, but “remarkably frank” isn’t probably how I would have characterized it precisely. 🙂
    BTW, do you think two years from now, we’ll get a critical piece on Charley Casserly? (Okay, that’s two questions)

  2. It’s very interesting to watch the difference of opinions held of Hunsicker at the Chronicle. Richard Justice, in print and on radio, has been an unabashed Hunsicker supporter, and Ortiz is sticking it to Hunsicker in a major way in today’s article. I’ll be curious to see if this debate continues to play out in the pages of the Chronicle if Hunsicker is not hired elsewhere.
    I for one have always maintained – that for better or worse – the real power player in the ‘Stros organization is Tal Smith. You don’t get a hill named after you if you do not wield significant clout with the owner.

  3. Nice to see the Astros are still spinning their unwillingness to spend money for offense – an honest explanation would be that the team believed Beltran’s value was inflated at the end of last year. McLane’s refusal to include a no-trade clause (even a limited one) in the Beltran deal is what killed the deal for the Astros, and I take it as evidence that the team wasn’t committed to signing him. I wonder how management will respond in next few years now that the team reached the World Series: will they seek to remain competitive or just raise ticket prices and start rebuilding? My guess is on the latter.

  4. Kevin, given how Hunsicker has used Richard Justice to smear McLane, it’s only natural that McLane and apparently others in the Stros organization are using Ortiz to cast aspersions toward Hunsicker. Given how the Chronicle writers usually beat around the bush in regard to such issues, I think Ortiz’s piece qualifies as “frank.” Perhaps not entirely accurate, but frank.
    Keith, you may be right about Tal Smith being the real power in the Stros organization. If it is true that he was the one who engineered Jimy Williams being the Stros manager, God help us! ;^)
    Rip, it’s a bit hard for me to be critical of the way in which the Stros management handled the Beltran negotiations. Boras played them like a fiddle and they decided to let him do so to have a chance at Beltran. And not agreeing to the no-trade clause was a reasonable position. As it turns out, the Beltran deal is looking like the best deal the Stros never made.

  5. Kevin, given how Hunsicker has used Richard Justice to smear McLane, it’s only natural that McLane and apparently others in the Stros organization are using Ortiz to cast aspersions toward Hunsicker.
    That’s a fair point, although it does the newspaper no favors in the “perceptions of quality” department when the wars in its sportsroom are more interesting than the coverage it’s supposed to provide. Blinebury used to get in some of those dustups with other writers. It made for a very schizophrenic sports page, and readers really had/have to work to try to piece together some middle ground.
    So, any thoughts on my over-under on Charley Casserly? 🙂

  6. Is anybody at the Chron sports department on speaking terms?

    Earlier in the week, Tom Kirkendall called attention to a story by the Chronicle’s Jose de Jesus Ortiz that appeared clearly to be a hit piece on former Astros general manager Gerry Hunsicker on…

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