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Crane cleans Astros house; Wade, Smith let go

Houston AstrosNew Houston Astros owner Jim Crane didn’t waste any time in launching his makeover of the struggling franchise, firing team president Tal Smith and GM Ed Wade.

The moves were far from unexpected: the team has struggled in recent years and Crane signalled an intent to rebuild things via the draft and a youth movement, perhaps slashing payroll from 2011’s $60-million level. (Indeed, despite that figure being low by MLB standards, it still represented a waste of money in terms of cost per wins, as you’ll recall  from our analysis of 2011 MLB payrolls.) We’re talking full rebuilding mode here.

Which didn’t leave much room for Smith and Wade. Tal Smith has been in baseball for 55 years, including the last 35 with the Astros and the last 17 as team president. He guided the team during both good times and bad, overseeing the team’s move to Minute Maid Park (the center-field incline is dubbed “Tal’s Hill”). Wade took over the GM post from Tim Purpura at the end of the 2007 season and oversaw the team’s rebuilding process, shedding players like Roy Oswalt and Hunter Pence while putting money and resources into the farm system, ranked in baseball’s top 10 by Baseball America. (Richard Justice evaluates his legacy here.)

The team issued the following statement on behalf of team president and CEO George Postolos:

“With the change in ownership, we would like a fresh start in baseball operations. We have told Ed Wade and Tal Smith that we are making a change. We recognize their dedication to the Houston Astros. We thank each of them for their significant contributions and many years of service to the Astros, and wish them our very best as they pursue new opportunities.

“The search for a new General Manager begins immediately. We are searching for a candidate who has the knowledge, skills and experience to build a winner and a strong commitment to player development in order to sustain success. Our goal is to consistently compete for a championship, and we know the first step towards that goal is to develop one of the top farm systems in baseball. We will hire the best candidate available to achieve our goal.

“Our Assistant General Manager Dave Gottfried will serve as Interim General Manager until the new General Manager is hired. Dave is not a candidate for the permanent position.”

The speculation for replacements centers on Tampa Bay Rays GM Andrew Friedman, a Houston native, and former Astros GM Gerry Hunsicker, also now with the Rays.

RELATED STORIES: MLB approves Astros sale to Crane group; team to shift to AL in 2013; With MLB realignment, it looks iike the Houston Astros; 2012 MLB schedule released; no realignment or playoff expansion; Astros to AL West: report; MLB eyes realignment for 2012


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