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Chron: Astros' McLane, Hunsicker weather differences

Discussion in 'Houston Astros' started by JPM0016, Feb 27, 2004.

  1. JPM0016

    JPM0016 Contributing Member

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    McLane, Hunsicker weather differences
    By RICHARD JUSTICE
    Copyright 2004 Houston Chronicle

    KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Did Astros owner Drayton McLane come close to firing general manager Gerry Hunsicker last fall? Did he decide the Astros had gone as far as they could go under Hunsicker and that the time had come for a dramatic change?

    McLane laughs loudly when the subject is broached. He laughs the kind of laugh that says, "Boy, what a ridiculous question."

    And then he doesn't really answer it.

    Instead, he talks about their mutual respect for one another, their commitment to winning a championship, and things like that.

    Only when he's pressed a bit is McLane emphatic.

    "No," he says. "Absolutely not."

    Inside the industry, a lot of people believe otherwise. They believe Hunsicker interviewed with the New York Mets only because he was convinced he was about to be dismissed.

    Hunsicker denies this flatly. He, too, talks about mutual respect and understanding one another. He says he does not want to work anyplace else. Ever.

    Yet there clearly were cracks in a relationship that for eight seasons had been as productive as almost any in sports.

    One of the questions hovering over this season of runaway optimism is if the McLane-Hunsicker relationship has been fully healed or if the best general manager the Astros have ever had begins a new year on a probation of sorts.

    They have not hoisted a World Series trophy, but together Hunsicker and McLane have finished first four times and lower than second only once. They've won because of McLane's judgment and success in getting a ballpark built, and they've won because he hired one of the best baseball men on earth.

    Since Hunsicker arrived, the image of the Astros has been transformed from that of a losing franchise to a winning franchise, a team with sound judgment, good guys and a terrific player development system.

    But for a few weeks last fall, things seemed to be coming unraveled. The Astros collapsed during the final weekend of the season. Then McLane, citing losses of more than $15 million in 2003, ordered the trade of closer Billy Wagner.

    In the avalanche of negative press that followed, McLane grew disenchanted with his general manager, according to several sources. He apparently became convinced for at least a few days that Hunsicker was contributing to some of the negative articles written about him. Or at the very least, he wondered why he was the one always being criticized when everyone else, especially Hunsicker, flew above the storm.

    On this most delicate of topics, the two men are reluctant to talk.

    " We have different personalities and different approaches," McLane said. "I think that's one reason we work well together. You can't have everyone thinking the same way. Don't marriages work like that? I mean good marriages have some of those issues."

    Sometime after the Wagner trade, things did get patched up. McLane gave Hunsicker a one-year extension through 2005, and the two men agreed to revisit a longer commitment after this season.

    What caused the problem in the first place? What they will admit is that because their personalities are so different, there are going to be days when they get on one another's nerves. They say this does not mean they can't continue to form a productive partnership.

    McLane is upbeat and talkative, quotes motivational tapes, writes hundreds of thank-you notes, and seems to want nothing more than for people to like him.

    He never met a microphone he didn't like, and even though he has been harshly criticized at times, does not appear to hold a grudge.

    Once, though, when a player's agent used a curse word during a meeting, McLane told him: "We do not use that kind of language in this office. If you're going to talk like that, this meeting will be over."

    Hunsicker is just the opposite. He wears his emotions on his sleeves, does not take defeat well, and views his ballclub through a critical eye. For this, he does not apologize.

    And some days, he and McLane wear on one another like Felix and Oscar.

    "If you're expecting Dale Carnegie to show up every day, you're going to be disappointed. That's not me," Hunsicker said. "Drayton is always upbeat and positive. I'm different. If we've played an awful game, you don't want to be around me. I'm miserable. I'm frustrated. Drayton will simply say, `We'll get 'em tomorrow.' "

    McLane admits he would like Hunsicker to be a bit more upbeat but adds that he understands how important his GM has been to the franchise.

    Hunsicker won't say it, but he probably wishes McLane would stay completely out of personnel decisions. McLane overruled his baseball people to bring Ken Caminiti back. He extended Craig Biggio's contract without much input from Hunsicker. He hired Larry Dierker as manager.

    Hunsicker also understands that McLane is not as involved as many other owners, that he at least listens, and that in the end he has almost always done the right thing.

    If they were very close to agreeing to a divorce last fall, McLane and Hunsicker seem to be making their marriage work once more.

    Another disappointing season could change the dynamics again. But maybe they'll continue to understand how much they need one another and how much the Astros' success is a result of both of them. Together.


    http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/ssistory.mpl/sports/2422951
     
  2. ima_drummer2k

    ima_drummer2k Contributing Member

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    Kind of a strange story.

    What's ironic to me is that if the franchise does something good, it's because of Hunsicker. If the franchise does something bad, well it's DRAYTON'S FAULT! I wonder if Drayton feels the same way.
     
  3. Nick

    Nick Contributing Member

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    Its like the Rockets. Do something good= Yao. Do something bad = Francis.
     
  4. meh

    meh Contributing Member

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    I've always thought that every time the Astros sign a big FA(Kent, Pettite, Clemens), people applauded Drayton for opening up the checkbook.

    Hunsicker can't be blamed for cost-cutting moves like Hampton or Wagner. And I can't think of a trade that Hunsicker really botched. Moises Alou played great coming from Florida. Randy Johnson gave us an excellent 1/2 season that was well worth the prospects. That said, Hunsicker re-signed some of our players to contracts that they didn't live up to(Lima and Hidalgo comes to mind).
     
  5. Rocketman95

    Rocketman95 Hangout Boy

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    You must not read this board or listen to 610 much.
     
  6. ima_drummer2k

    ima_drummer2k Contributing Member

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    Exactly. I really don't understand why Drayton draws the ire of so many so called Astro fans. Sure, his radio interviews are annoying as hell (he talks to the fans as if we are a bunch of children) but look at some of the players signed since he took over.

    Randy Johnson
    Mo Alou (a great pickup at the time)
    Jeff Kent
    Andy and Roger
    I know I'm forgetting some more
    Hell, even Drabek and Swindell were good pickups AT THE TIME.

    It's not his fault the players can't hit in the playoffs. MM Park is one of the best parks in the game and it still costs about as much as a night at the movies if you do it right.

    I can't wait until Opening Day.
     
  7. meh

    meh Contributing Member

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    Well, I got the feeling from 610(which I occasionally listen to in the car) and this site was that Drayton gets lukewarm praise when he spends money. But get bashed mercilessly when he cuts costs. So yes, I think he is viewed negatively in general, but still gets his dues when he deserves them.

    I can't speak for others, but I dislike Drayton because he seems to "cry poor" a lot. This right after we help build him a nice new stadium. I mean, I could see back in the Astrodome, but surely not now.
     
  8. RIET

    RIET Contributing Member

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    Any owner who admits that saving money is the #1 goal and winning is #2 will get bashed.

    Obviously, every owner wants to win but when they talk about "entertainment" and "putting a competitive" team, it means winning isn't their #1 goal.

    Of course it's his team and he can do with it what he wants. However, I don't want to listen to his whining about money while giving Craig Biggio a 500 year contract.
     
  9. ima_drummer2k

    ima_drummer2k Contributing Member

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    Yeah, I get that and I feel the same way sort of. I was referring to his moves more than anything else. You can't really say Drayton doesn't want to win.

    I guess we can all agree that Drayton would be a much better owner if he would just keep his mouth shut. It's ironic how the lower profile owners are the ones that are more popular with the fans.
     
  10. JPM0016

    JPM0016 Contributing Member

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    I think McLane has been one of the better owners in baseball. As some have mentioned, when he opens his mouth it tends to get him in trouble. However, over the course of the last 10, 12 years he's owned the team, he's always tried to improve the team, especially when they were a top contender.

    Bringing in guys like Randy Johnson, Moises Alou, Jeff Kent, Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte tells you he's willing to take risks in order for the franchise to win.

    I still wish he hadn't given a 37 year old CF/2B/C a 3 million dollar contract. However, with the recent additions all is forgiven. I can't wait for opening day. Haven't had this good of a feeling about the astros in a very long time.
     

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