James Click of Houston Astros wins World Series, has no contract

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LAS VEGAS — A day after a parade celebrated its World Series champion Houston Astros, general manager James Click found himself answering questions about his job security. Nearby, reporters covering GM meetings polled Click’s peers who couldn’t beat his Astros about their less successful seasons, about free agents — about baseball.

But Click, whose contract has expired and has yet to sign another one, was forced to answer questions about his return next season, questions that only Astros owner Jim Crane can likely answer. answer. Most general managers who lead their teams to a World Series title don’t have to worry about their professional status. But most owners aren’t Jim Crane.

“We are in discussion,” Click said when asked if he was under contract for next season. He said those discussions with Crane began shortly after he disembarked from a parade float in Houston on Monday and shortly before he hopped on a flight to Las Vegas for the annual COO meeting. baseball – “post-float, pre-float,” as he put it. this. He declined to comment much beyond that.

Astros manager Dusty Baker also remains without a contract for next season. But Baker, who in the hours after the Astros clinched the title on Saturday seemed confident he would be back, was in the same position last year. He made a deal soon after.

About 30 minutes before Click was supposed to join his American League peers in a Tuesday afternoon press conference, the Astros sent out a press release announcing a press conference scheduled for Wednesday afternoon in Houston. Asked about the subject of this press conference, Click replied that he would not comment, but admitted that he had not heard of it until “recently” – the implication being that he was also coming to hear about it. When asked if he would be there – hypothetically – to have a contract extension announced alongside Baker, he replied that he would not.

“I plan to be here,” he said, “trying to build the squad for next year.”

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In some ways, Click’s position is not unique among CEOs.

Brian Cashman of the New York Yankees is also working without a contract. But Cashman said last week he understood team owner Hal Steinbrenner wanted him back and expected to be back. Which was evident when Click politely dodged questions about whether someone in his position should have to wonder about their future – and, more importantly, why someone in his position would. have wonder – is that despite all the success, his business relationship with Crane is much more tenuous.

“We’re different,” Click said. “There are some things we do very differently. There are some things that we are very aligned with. This is going to be true of any relationship between a boss and an employee. He likes to act very quickly in certain cases. I tend towards a more deliberate approach. He is very demanding, but he also gives you the means to accomplish what he asks of you.

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Crane hired Click to run baseball operations ahead of the 2020 season after he fired Jeff Luhnow following the team’s sign-stealing scandal. Click had been vice president of baseball operations for the Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays don’t have the resources to make mistakes. The Astros yes. In this way, Click said, he was trained to be “precise” in his decision-making, which doesn’t necessarily match Crane’s reputation as a reactionary and sometimes brash decision-maker.

“I also have no problem being quick and aggressive,” Click said. “But I also want to make sure that we’ve done the work before this point and that we’re not following a ‘fire, set, aim’ philosophy.”

“Philosophical differences” have undone more than a few power couples over the years, and it seems possible they could separate Click from Crane sooner rather than later. Click declined to say if any other teams have approached him in recent days. And he declined to say what negotiations with his landlord entailed.

And he refused to say — or maybe just couldn’t — why someone with his background wouldn’t expect to return. After all, most championship-winning GMs show up to these meetings on some sort of post-title bender — not exactly disengaged but hardly having to navigate anything resembling awkwardness or drama. .

“That’s a question for someone else,” he said.

“All of us in these jobs are navigating the realities of our particular circumstances,” added Click, whose particular circumstances included the legacy of a team consumed by scandal, being asked to keep that team in position to win, and then to take it back to back. World Series appearances capped by this season’s title. Many owners would be satisfied with such a result. Many CEOs would expect to be rewarded for such a result.

Click just wouldn’t say all of that itself. He would not publicly express his resentment. In fact, he asked about which team he might or might not lead in a few days. And he joked that he should go to the casino instead of answering questions, given the hot streak he was in the playoffs. He instead spent Tuesday afternoon answering questions about his job security.

“’Equitable’ is a difficult word to define in many ways,” he said. “We all have our own situations that we have to deal with. We treat them as best we can. »

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