In Brown, Astros get 'class act' as GM
Phillies legend Del Unser and Omar Minaya, the Yankees’ senior advisor to baseball operations, both played roles in Dana Brown’s success as he was climbing up the baseball ladder. Both were pleased by the Astros hiring Brown as their general manager.
“I was not shocked [Brown was named general manager],” Unser said. “You say, ‘Maybe you had a little something to do with it along the way.’ It’s gratifying. … He is never going to embarrass you. No negative connotations in any way, shape or form. He was always positive.”
Said Minaya, “He was one of my first hires in Montreal. The thing I love about Dana is that he is a quality person. He was taught right [about the game of baseball]. He was taught about talent, looking for the right players and what to look for. The thing I’m most proud of about Dana, he hasn’t changed as a person. He is the same guy that he was back in Montreal.”
Brown’s baseball life changed at the end of the 1991 season, when the struggling outfielder was released from the Phillies’ organization. Unser, then Philadelphia's farm director, wanted Brown to stay in the game and offered him a coaching job with Class A Martinsville in the Appalachian League. Brown accepted.
“He was a class act from Day 1,” said Unser on why he kept Brown in professional baseball. “He is dedicated to the game. He was an excellent teammate. He had some leadership ability. He just gave you 100 percent.”
Brown took advantage of the situation, spending two years as a coach with the Phillies before spending eight years in the Pirates' organization as a scouting supervisor and East Coast cross checker.
Minaya, then the Expos' GM, gave Brown his first front-office job by naming him a scouting director in 2002. Brown’s first successful Draft pick was Chad Cordero in the 2003 MLB Draft. By August of that year, Cordero was in the big leagues as the Expos’ closer. Remember, the Expos were in the pennant race when Cordero became the man in the ninth inning.
“In that situation, we needed a reliever,” Minaya remembered. “In a lot of Draft boards, Cordero would have gone in the second or third rounds. But Dana thought he was close to the Major Leagues. At that time, no reliever was taken early. Dana was open to do what was best for the organization.”
Minaya said he knew Brown was GM material during his four-year run as the Braves’ vice president of scouting. Brown’s biggest success came this past season when outfielder Michael Harris II and right-hander Spencer Strider finished first and second, respectively, in the National League Rookie of the Year balloting. Brown and his staff drafted and developed them into big leaguers.
“Dana was taught to recruit talent one way [the eye test]. He hasn’t deviated from that and he has been great at it,” Minaya said.
If Unser had to give Brown advice, it would be to surround himself with smart people.
“Don’t be afraid to have a lot of smarter ones than you around,” Unser said. “It’s still a teamwork game. You have to rely on your eyes and ears in the field -- even with the emphasis of sabermetrics and all the equations that are out there. It’s a combination of using [both] to your best advantage."