What the Astros are looking for in a general manager.

Astros president and CEO George Postolos acknowledged on Monday that he and club owner Jim Crane have interviewed “about a half-dozen” candidates for the vacant general manager position. He declined to reveal names, but one thing is perfectly clear — whoever gets this job will have a strong background in scouting and player development.

If it comes down to a candidate who projects as a “win now” GM whose strength is tweaking a Major League roster to be an immediate contender, and a candidate who has a “get good and stay good” vision with a definitive idea how to pump as much talent into the farm system as quickly as possible, look for the latter to be hired.

Long-term, Postolos and Crane are looking to win a World Series. (Obviously. Who isn’t?) But before the Major League team can rise back to prominence, the farm system needs to get back on track. This isn’t a chicken-egg riddle. There’s no question which comes first with regard to a winning franchise. Major League teams with bad Minor League systems do not win championships (yes, even the Yankees have a solid farm system). Crane and Postolos plan to carry out the long-term plan, with the realization that long-term plans aren’t carried out overnight. Their first order of business is to find the right GM, then continue to build the farm system, and then prepare to win on the big league level.

(Postolos video on scouting and player development)

“A lot of the time you’ll see candidates from two different pools,” Postolos said during his media session late Monday afternoon at the Winter Meetings in Dallas. “You’ll see candidates who came up as assistant general managers focused on roster construction and then you’ll see candidates who are very experienced in scouting and player development. Because of where our franchise is and where our priorities are at this point in time, we tend to be focused more on that scouting and player development pool.

“That’s a little different from some recent searches where somebody may be looking for the person who can come in and tweak the Major League team just right in order to get over the hump and win the division title or get in a position to win the World Series. We know where we are. Having finished the 2011 season where it is and given where our system is, the key for us is laying the foundation the right way.”

Postolos pointed out that “if you say everything is your priority, then you don’t really have a priority.” The Astros’ priority, Postolos added, is to be “elite in the talent pipeline.”

“That’s the candidate we’re looking for,” Postolos said. “The candidate that can put us in that position. We’re very confident if we get into a situation if we develop one of the top systems in baseball, we’re fortunate enough to be in a market that will allow us to sustain that success.”

With that in mind, it’s not surprising why the first two candidates that have been confirmed as having interviewed with the Astros have piqued Postolos’ interest. Jeff Luhnow was picked to head up the Cardinals’ baseball development operation eight years ago and brought with him an unconventional philosophy, one that was initially scoffed at by the old guard in baseball that believes there is only one way to identify and develop talent.

Yet, as highlighted in an extensive Baseball America feature, Luhnow’s fingerprints can be found all over the Cardinals’ World Championship team. During a three-year stretch from 2005-07, Lunhow, according to the publication, oversaw three drafts that eventually produced 24 big leaguers, more than any other organization has gotten from the same three drafts. Many of those players were under-the-radar prospects who eventually played key roles in the 2011 Fall
Classic.

Bill Geivett, senior VP of scouting and player development of the Colorado Rockies, is largely responsible for his team acting as a cohesive unit, from the very top to the very bottom of the organization. In his early days with the Rockies as player personnel director and farm director, according to an MLB.com report, Geivett compiled a teaching manual used throughout the organization so that the Minor Leagues and Major Leagues are all on the same program.

Continuity is a huge part of the success of any organization, and those who have worked with or for Geivett have never experienced any confusion as to what the organization’s feelings are on various topics. That can go a long way when it comes to entrusting the many managers and coaches who players encounter as they make their way through a farm system.

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Elsewhere around the gigantic Hilton Anatole hotel in cold and drizzly Dallas…

While the Winter Meetings are largely known for teams making trades and sign big-ticket free agents, there is a lot more that goes on during the four-day convention than just Major League clubs wheeling and dealing. It’s also a time when executives get together with their brethren for meetings that usually run morning until late afternoon. Public relations departments have their meetings, as do athletic trainers, traveling secretaries, and on and on.

I sat in on a couple of public relations meetings this morning that were centered on Social Media. With the announcement of the new Basic Agreement came the revelation that Major League players would be subject to guidelines regarding Social Media, with specifics on what to do and (more importantly) what not to do.

The final guidelines haven’t been made official yet, but we were given some insight as to the general rules, and there are really no huge surprises. They can be implemented easily by simply using a little common sense. Don’t use Twitter to reveal confidential club information, don’t use Twitter as a mechanism to denigrate your teammates, coaches, manager or organization, don’t use derogatory language, don’t reveal confidential injury information. That kind of stuff.

Last summer during my Minor League tours through Lexington and Lancaster, I gave a 10-minute speech to the teams about the do’s and don’ts of Social Media. (We also talk to the players about these topics during Spring Training.) Twitter is at the forefront obviously, but Facebook (and the ability to post hundreds of pictures in a matter of minutes) is not to be ignored either.

Regarding Twitter, the message to the players was pretty simple: What you say on Twitter is on the record. If interesting enough, your quotes will be used by reporters. And as a professional athlete, it’s not acceptable to embarrass yourself or the organization through this medium. And yes, you are in the spotlight and therefore you are held to standards different from the average member of society. So get used to it.

Before you send out a tweet, I tell them, imagine you are relaying this thought verbally to a reporter who is standing there in front of you holding a recorder and a flip cam. Now, think about it again. Is this something you really want out there? If the answer is yes, let it fly. If you have even a smidgeon of trepidation about it, play it on the safe side and do not tweet.

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Programming note: Bud Norris will appear on “Astroline” Wednesday at 7 p.m. CT. The show, hosted by Milo Hamilton, will air live from Buffalo Wild Wings in Midtown and can be heard on 740 KTRH and Astros.com. The call-in number to the show is 713-212-5874.

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Questions? Email afooter@astros.com

4 Comments

Who doesn’t want to win a World Series? You ask.
The Royals and Pirates owners! They just want to make money off of the luxury tax

We’ve already seen what “just any old GM” can do. Wade and Purpua were both
to blame for the shape this team is in. It’s depressing to see how MANY GM’s
have turned down the position here. Sad, sad, sad. Becky:( :( :(

The smouldering ruin that McClain and Selig have left us is not going to attract top level talent, or even second level talent. It’s possible the Houston American League franchise will find a “diamond in the rough”, but unlikely.

The revenue stream will be cut with so many games now out of prime time, a multimillion dollar power hitter is required in place of a much less expensive utility infielder, the farm system is a hollow shell and the hard-core fans, the only ones likely to frequent the stadium to see the worst team in baseball, are disillusioned for having their team’s history spat upon.

This may be the most unattractive GM position in the history of MLB.

What Postolos doesn’t know about baseball would fill an encyclopedia. The Astros would hire any idiot stupid enough to take a job being a general manager of a team that loses 120 games. Which is to say a very special sort of idiot.

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