HOUSTON — In joining the Houston Astros, new general manager Dana Brown's goal is to keep the 2022 World Series champions at the top of Major League Baseball.
"I'm coming to a winning team, and a big part of what I want to do is sustain the winning long term," he said. "We want to continue to build, continue to sign good players, continue to develop players and continue the winning success."
Brown's hire was announced Thursday, with the 55-year-old replacing James Click, who was not given a new contract and parted ways with the Astros just days after they won the World Series last fall by beating the Philadelphia Phillies in six games. Brown spent the past four seasons as the vice president of scouting for the Atlanta Braves, who have won five straight National League East Division titles and won the 2021 World Series against the Astros.
"He is very analytic savvy," Astros owner Jim Crane said. "He's a great talent evaluator based upon what we've seen at the Braves, seasoned at player acquisitions, seasoned at player development and retention. They were often able to extend some of their player contracts ... he's got great people skills, (is an) excellent communicator and, last but not least, he's a baseball player and knows baseball in and out, and we were very impressed with that."
Brown becomes the only Black general manager currently in the majors and joins manager Dusty Baker to form just the second pairing of a Black manager and GM in MLB history. The first was GM Ken Williams and manager Jerry Manuel with the Chicago White Sox from 2000 to 2003.
Brown said he interviewed for GM jobs with the New York Mets and the Seattle Mariners in the past and that MLB commissioner Rob Manfred told him to stay positive and that his time would come.
"It's pretty special," Brown said. "We understand that there are a lot of qualified African Americans in the game that know baseball and that could be a big part of an organization and leading organization in baseball operations. So at the end of the day, I think it's good for our sport to have diversity and I'm really excited for this opportunity."
Said Crane: "Certainly we are very focused on diversity with the Astros. It's a plus, but the guy's extremely qualified and he'll do a great job. It's nice to see a man like Dana get the job, and he earned the job. He's got the qualifications. He's ready to go."
Brown, who spent his short minor league playing career with the Phillies, doesn't have a lot of connections to the Astros — but he does have a couple of rather notable ties. He played baseball at Seton Hall University with Craig Biggio, who spent his entire MLB career from 1988 to 2007 with the Astros. And in the Cape Cod Baseball League, a summer collegiate league in which wooden bats are used, Brown played against Jeff Bagwell, who spent his entire MLB career from 1991 to 2005 with the Astros.
Bagwell and Biggio are both in the National Baseball Hall of Fame — Bagwell was inducted in 2017, two years after Biggio — and both are special assistants to the GM with the Astros. Brown said he spoke to both of them before taking the job and also chatted with Baker, whom he's know for some time.
"Dusty is old school, he cuts it straight and I like it," Brown said. "And so that means I can cut it straight with him."
Brown began his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates, spending eight years as their area scouting supervisor and East Coast cross checker. He joined the Montreal Expos as director of scouting in 2001 and spent nine years with that franchise, which in 2005 became the Washington Nationals. He worked for the Toronto Blue Jays from 2010-18 as a special assistant to the general manager before being hired by the Braves.
That move reunited him with Atlanta GM Alex Anthopoulos, who had worked for the Expos and the Blue Jays — including as Toronto's GM for six years — before a brief stint in the front office of the Los Angeles Dodgers that was followed by Anthopoulos joining the Braves in November 2017.
Click had served as Houston's general manager since joining the team before the 2020 season from the Tampa Bay Rays.
Brown, who has been part of drafting a number of well-known players such as Stephen Strasburg, Ryan Zimmerman and Michael Harris — the Atlanta center fielder who was last season's NL rookie of the year — is ready to show Crane that bringing him to Houston was the right choice.
"Baseball is all I know; it's my entire life," he said. "So I want to empty myself into this city, the Astro fans and let Jim Crane know that he made a special pick."