Astros Hire Dana Brown as New General Manager
Rarely does a team win the World Series and then part ways with its general manager the following season. In fact, over the course of baseball’s more than a hundred-year-long history, it’s happened only a couple times in the modern era. (Walt Jocketty was let go by the Cardinals in 2007, and Dave Dombrowski was fired by the Red Sox in 2019).
But such was the case with the Houston Astros, who, after beating the Phillies to claim the 2022 championship, were unable to agree on terms with former GM James Click.
Enter Dana Brown, a former scout and longtime baseball executive, who, for the past four years, alongside GM Alex Anthopolous, helped build the successful Atlanta Braves program. Brown and Anthopolous also worked together in Toronto and Montreal, where Anthopoulous was a young executive and Brown was the scouting director with a keen eye for talent.
It was Brown, Anthopolous said, who was largely responsible for drafting pitcher Spencer Strider and Rookie of the Year winner, outfielder Michael Harris II—two of the top young players in the National League.
“I remember Dana telling me [Harris] was a top-five high-school bat in the draft—he wrote it in his report as well—and that we had to take him,” Anthopoulos said. “He wasn’t highly touted at all and Dana wanted to take him in the third round. I remember asking him if he was sure we needed to take him that high and he was adamant. He did the same thing with Spencer Strider (the Braves’ fourth-round pick) in 2020. I’ve been with him a long time and when he’s that convicted I stay out of the way.”
Brown brings that level of conviction plus a wealth of experience, knowledge, insight, and baseball savvy with him to the Astros GM position. A role that many might consider particularly plumb, given their recent success, but one that Brown knows requires constant nurturing and upkeep to continue that winning way.
"I'm coming to a winning team and a big part of what I want to do is sustain the winning long term," Brown said. "We want to continue to build, continue to sign good players, continue to develop players and continue the winning success."
Astros owner, Jim Crane, who also met with former major league player and manager, Brad Ausmus, about the GM role, ultimately settled on Brown because, he said, "He's a great talent evaluator based upon what we've seen at the Braves. [He’s] seasoned at player acquisitions, and player development and retention. They were often able to extend some of their player contracts. He's got great people skills, excellent communicator and, last but not least, he's a baseball player and knows baseball in and out and we were very impressed with that.”
Brown now becomes the only black general manager in the Major Leagues, and joins Astros Manager Dusty Baker (who is one of only two Black managers in MLB), as they seek to repeat the fortunes of the past few years (despite losing some key pieces in the off season, most notably Cy Young Award-winning pitcher, Justin Verlander).
"At the end of the day, I think it's good for our sport to have diversity," Brown said. "I'm really excited for this opportunity and especially grateful that Jim Crane took an opportunity to say, 'Hey, I like this guy. I like what he's all about,' and he's rolling with me."
Of the opportunity with the Astros, Brown said, “I know there's some special things going on here already and I really want to continue that and extend that long-term," Brown said. "I've been in the game for 33 years. Baseball is all I know. It's my entire life, and so I want to empty myself into this city [and] the Astros fans and let Jim Crane know he made a special pick."
According to Crane, Brown was the right man for the job all along. “When we did the complete evaluation, he's the perfect fit for us,” he said. "Certainly, we are very focused on diversity with the Astros. It's a plus, but the guy's extremely qualified and he'll do a great job. It's nice to see a man like Dana get the job and he earned the job. He's got the qualifications. He's ready to go.”
While Brown doesn't have a lot of connections to the Astros, he did play baseball at Seton Hall with Hall of Famer and lifelong Astro, Craig Biggio. And he played with another Astro Hall of Famer, Jeff Bagwell, in the Cape Cod league. Now both Biggio and Bagwell will serve as special assistants to Brown.
Brown, who has interviewed for GM jobs in the past with the Mets and Mariners, said that MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred told him to stay positive and that his time to be a general manager would come.
Now that time is here and the new season is only a few short weeks away.