Introducing new Astros GM Dana Brown

February 1st, 2023

This story was excerpted from Brian McTaggart's Astros Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click hereAnd subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

The Astros’ hiring of Dana Brown last week to be their general manager went against the grain of owner Jim Crane’s first two GM hirings after he bought the team. Jeff Luhnow and James Click were data-driven minds whose value for numbers was at times perceived to overshadow the human element.

That’s not a knock against Luhnow or Click. After all, they are still the only two general managers in Astros history to win World Series titles, though Click inherited a juggernaut built by Luhnow (and kept it going). Still, things got messy. Luhnow, of course, was fired in the wake of the sign-stealing scandal, and Click was let go after last season because he didn’t mesh well with Crane.

Crane said he was going to take his time to find his new general manager and made a popular move in hiring Brown, who played in college and has a scouting background and a strong track record running Atlanta’s player development group. Those things weren’t necessarily found on the shorter resumes of Luhnow and Click, but Crane was searching for something different this time -- old school and new.

“We went through a pretty vigorous interview and some of the things we found out about Dana was that he was very analytics-savvy,” Crane said. “He’s a great talent evaluator based upon what we’ve seen with the Braves, seasoned at player acquisitions, seasoned at player development and retention. [The Braves] were always able to extend some of their contracts. He was a college player, [and] he played three years in the Minor Leagues in the Phillies. … He’s got great people skills, an excellent communicator and last, but not least, he’s a baseball player that knows baseball in and out.”

The fact that Brown played at Seton Hall (with Craig Biggio and Mo Vaughn) and also played professionally with the Phillies resonated with Crane, who played in college and appeared to be seeking someone who’s had dirt on their knees. Thus, Crane said Brown checked every box for the Astros.

“People like to say he checks all the boxes, which I guess he does,” said Hall of Fame player Jeff Bagwell, a close advisor to Crane. “He was a baseball player. He played for two years in the Minor Leagues. He played at a good college program and has been a player evaluator his whole life. He just has a good way about him. I think he’s going to be a good leader for us in the front office. He’s had a good relationship with [manager] Dusty [Baker]. I just think it’s a very smooth fit for us.”

Former Astros player Enos Cabell, another close advisor of Crane who was involved in the hiring process, said getting a general manager who could build up the Minor League system and retain talent like Brown did in Atlanta was important.

“Our Minor League system was maybe average,” Cabell said. “If you don’t fix it, you’re going to pay a lot of money in free agency. We have some kids and some players that are becoming eligible [for free agency] in the next three years and we want to have a dynasty where you win 10 or 15 years in a row, and you have to have a good Minor League system to do that. He’s a scout who knows what he’s doing and he’s very smart.”

At his introductory press conference, Brown said he was trained by “old-time scouts,” which meant he beat the bushes looking for players and trusted his instincts. When analytics came along, he melded that into his philosophy of finding players.

“We have a saying that you have to weigh all the evidence,” Brown said. “And when you weigh all the evidence, you can cut back on mistakes that are made. And so we really feel that analytics is a big part of it. … At the end of the day, these are human beings. We have to tap into ‘What does it take to make this guy a better player?’ ‘What does it take to … extend him long term?’ and things like that, but analytics is certainly a part of it.”