Houston Astros Owner Jim Crane Transcript: Crane Fires Hinch & Luhnow Amid Sign-Stealing Scandal
Happy Scribe's Favorites

[00:00:00.03]
First, let me start out. Thank you all for coming on short notice. Today, it's a very difficult day for the Houston Astros. MLB did a very thorough investigation and they Astros fully cooperated. We accept their decisions and findings and penalties. We worked very hard to build this organization for our employees, fans, sponsors, community and the city to all be proud. With that being said, there's two very important points I want to make today.

[00:00:39.06]
I have higher standards for the city and the franchise, and I'm going above and beyond MLBPA penalty. Today, I have made the decision to dismiss AJ Hinch and Jeff Luhnow. We need to move forward with a clean slate and the Astros will become stronger. Stronger organization because of this today, you can be confident that we'll win. We will always do the right thing and we'll not have this happened again on my watch. With that being said, you guys have a copy of the commissioner's report.

[00:01:20.01]
I'll be glad to answer questions.

[00:01:21.09]
OK, raise your hand. David Baron right here.

[00:01:26.03]
Was the decision to fire Pluto or not to retain and bring them back? Pluto Hinche after after their suspension was made, after the receipt of the report, it. Was this a decision that you made prior to today?

[00:01:38.01]
Yeah, we didn't really find out about the decision, the final decision till on the weekend. And after I had their findings, I decided to make that decision today.

[00:01:50.05]
OK. Channeler right here.

[00:01:54.02]
Jim, who will run baseball operations and who will run the team in the interim? Well, we'll quickly look for someone to manage the team so that we get out of here today. Certainly, we have popped possibilities internally. We'll also look outside the baseball operation. I will oversee we have a number of capable guys that can run that operation. No more interviewed for GM spots, one in particular. And so we'll sit down today and start working on that and move as quickly as we can.

[00:02:26.05]
Next question. Jim, how did both AJ and Jeff take your decision when you told them? I just. I just spoke to both them just a few minutes ago. They've got their letters from baseball. You know, AJ was was upset. I think he understands the consequences. And, you know, he said, I'm sorry. And, you know, you know, I'll I'll do whatever I can to help the team. Jeff was a little bit shorter.

[00:02:59.01]
He was traveling. And so I just informed him and he said, OK. And you get with me when he gets back. Christine, you. Do you think that any of the players should have been suspended for this incident? No players will be suspended from this. OK. Market you. Can you just go into why you decided to go ahead and fire Jeff and AJ? Well, I felt that with what came out in the report, they both had responsibilities.

[00:03:35.09]
Jeff, running the baseball operation and overseeing AJ and all of those people associated with that and AJ on the bench and was aware if you read the report, it's pretty clear AJ didn't endorse it and neither did Jeff. Neither one of them started this, but neither one of them did anything about it. And that's how we came to the conclusion. I know that you said at the start that you've accepted what baseball has done. Do you feel like the punishment fit the crime?

[00:04:04.01]
Listen, it's it's the stiffest penalty that any team has ever taken or given. And we accept that we're going to move forward in a positive way. I'll let the commissioner determine how he handles the rest of it.

[00:04:20.03]
He'll stay in order. Kim, your next. Jim, can you talk about how soon you think that all the changes you'll be able to be up to speed as an organization? How much of a drop off, if any, you expect with this? I've been sitting in a few meetings last week in particular on the mediation and the contracts we don't have signed. So I don't think it's going to take long. We've got a short window here. We've got to get ready for spring training February 15th or sooner.

[00:04:54.07]
We'll work very hard to try to take care of the team first and then and then look at the baseball operations. As I said, we've got good leaders in a number of those spots. And so just a matter manner of organizing and managing that staff for the next 30 days. And hopefully we get someone to take the point. Okay, Bob. Jim, does this taint the World Series championship or what do you what do you say to the fans right now?

[00:05:20.02]
Well, I think absolutely not. I think, you know, we've had a very good team for a number of years before 17. We were turning the corner 18, 19. We have a very good team on the field this year. You know, I think we'll have a great season. Got a lot of a lot of great players still. And I don't think it tainted Jake.

[00:05:43.09]
And then throw Jim in the report.

[00:05:47.04]
Rob Manfred, describe the culture of the baseball operations department as very problematic. What was your reaction to reading that assessment?

[00:05:56.04]
I think, you know, I don't I don't agree with that. I think we've got a lot of people here. We've got a lot of great people. We have over 400 people working here and they work hard. And I think there were some isolated situations that that led to that. We have one of the best business operations in baseball. And, you know, I think if we did have any problems, we'll quickly define those problems and move forward in a very positive way.

[00:06:26.01]
I don't think there's anything difficult. We had one of the best baseball operations and, you know, in the business and got a lot of great results. So that didn't happen with one or two people. That happened with a lot of good people. And so we'll move forward to handle that in a very professional manner. And it's not an extremely big organization. So I think it's there's any problem or root amount and we'll fix it.

[00:06:51.00]
Jerome and cases didn't you always said you take pride in doing things the right way and having an organization that runs in a certain way? And you've also talked about A.J. and Jeff as two of the greatest hires and what they meant to you. How personally disappointed are you in that they allow this to go on?

[00:07:11.05]
Listen, when I when I found out, I was I was very upset. You know, we want to be known as playing by the rules. We broke the rules. We accept the punishment and we're going to move forward. It's very unfortunate. As I said earlier, if you read the report, neither one of those guys implemented this or or pushed it through the system. It really came from the bottom up. It's pretty clear in the report how that happened, but neither one of them did anything about it.

[00:07:42.04]
And that's unfortunate. And the consequences are severe. OK. Hey, Suzanne and Brian. Jim, you're a self-made man. Your organization rose from the top almost in your image. How how disappointing was it to you that they did take these shortcuts that season? I didn't hear the last part of how this point is it to you that they did take these shortcuts in that season that you want that you did the title? Well, it's it's upsetting.

[00:08:13.00]
I think, you know, there's there's nothing there that's clear to suggest. It affected the outcome. I think you could be all over the place with this. But listen. It's again, as I said before, we we've got a great team. You know, I feel we have the best team on the field. Then I thought we had a great team at 18. Things didn't fall away. We got down to the last game in the World Series and that didn't fall our way.

[00:08:38.02]
So baseball was tough to win. And again, I think we we have a great organization. We have a great team still. We'll continue to work on that. But listen, none of this is fun. And I'm not happy that it happened, but it happened and we're dealing with it.

[00:08:53.09]
Okay, Brian. Jim, about your search for a manager, do you expect to have a love, a full time manager by the time spring training starts? Or could you have an interim manager up to that or what? Well, think that could go either way? It just depends. You know, as I said, I really haven't worked on that. We've been focused on visiting today and getting this behind us. It could go either way. I mean, certainly we have a bench coach that's capable.

[00:09:16.08]
We'll certainly look outside. But we know we're going to have somebody in charge when we go to spring training. So that could be interim. I don't have the answer yet, but we'll make it work.

[00:09:26.01]
Adam, get a jet ski. Jim, did Brent did the Brandon Taubman incident and the fallout from that have any playing factor in the dismissal of Jeff?

[00:09:36.00]
No, I think those are totally two separate incidents. You know, Brandon was here. We dealt with that one when that story went down. It was unfortunate. We didn't have all the facts when we made a decision. We apologize for that. And Brandon is no longer an employee. OK. Christine. Going forward, do you think there can be anything like an accountability system or any anything you're gonna implement? So something like this can never happen again?

[00:10:04.07]
Yeah, I think, you know, with the with the technology coming into the dug out, as it did with the replay system, you know, that kind of triggered some of this. And with the replays very close and sometimes even in the dugout, we're going to put some checks and balances in. We're gonna study the rulebook and we're gonna have a compliance program in place to make sure, as I said earlier, that this doesn't happen again.

[00:10:28.02]
Okay. David Channeler, there's a reference in the reports of several junior employees who may have had knowledge of this scheme. Are you will any discipline be taken for them or has any discipline been taken in that in that regard against them? Um, we're still reviewing that, you know, lower level employees where we're taking direction from senior either players or coaches. And so it's you know, my opinion is going to be difficult to hold them to the same standard we hold to the leaders.

[00:10:59.03]
But we'll review that after today and and deal with that shortly. Okay. Challenge. Jim. Jeff, hi. Jeff hired a lot of the people below him in the organization. Same with AJ on his coaching staff. Given the drastic action you took with those two, does that make it for lack of a better word, would you want to clean house? Would you want to just start with a brand new foundation to kind of get rid of everything that transpired?

[00:11:22.03]
Well, I don't think it's a big number of people in the baseball operations that were engaged with that on a daily basis. So I don't think it's a housecleaning. I think if you want to talk about housecleaning, I don't think the manager and the general manager have gotten fired in the same day. So I think that's a pretty big housecleaning. And we'll work from there.

[00:11:42.03]
Go, Francisco, next. Mr. Craig, you talked about the fact that this is obviously not a very happy day for you and your organization at a personal level, but at same time being that Mr. Lono was an architect of this transformation and almost bringing this team from the National League to the American League, does it also concerns you about the uncertainty that the future has in the immediate future of the Astros? And if so, why? And if it doesn't concern your wife, why is it concern you?

[00:12:09.07]
Well, certainly it concerns me. I'm losing to two key people that are very bright and did a lot of great things here. Whatever you want to say, you know, A.J. had five unbelievable seasons here and you put into foundation. It really changed how baseball operations work around the league. And, you know, people can talk about the people that left or weren't hired back. But there's also a lot of people out there that got promoted into GM jobs that came out of this environment.

[00:12:38.04]
So I don't think it was all bad. I think it was a lot a lot of good and some unfortunate things that happened here when you really bring it down, didn't make a lot of sense to to why we were even doing it. So I'm optimistic. Listen, as I said, this this thing is deep here. A lot of smart people here. I think we'll have a speed bump here. I'm not not to make this late, but this is a tough day.

[00:13:06.06]
But can we recover? Absolutely. And we'll have a great team next year.

[00:13:12.01]
Jim, there's been other situations for it over here. There's been other signs, stealing allegations, lobbied against this team. Did you ever ask Jeff and AJ about those and at those at those times? And what did they say to you about them?

[00:13:27.06]
Well, first of all, there was a lot of interviews done. I wasn't in the interviews. I think there's a lot of information out there that this was a problem within baseball. Commissioner put out a warning in twenty seventeen. There was a couple of teams find, listen. It's clear when you hear the guys talk that, you know, they were doing, you know, talking about what other teams did and this, that and the other. I have no proof of any of that.

[00:13:56.06]
And it's not my job to investigate that. The commissioner assured me that, you know, every team and every allegation will be checked out and he'll conduct the same investigation he conducted on us. And I'm focused on the Astros. And that's all I'm.

[00:14:12.04]
We'll talk about Marco here. Jim, and all your business dealings prior to owning the Astros, knowing the Astros. Is this your toughest day ever?

[00:14:24.07]
This is tough day. I've had a lot of tough days over the years. But yeah, this is this is definitely OK. Come back here. Jim, you've had askedto fans that have been with you since the rebuilding. The whole process of getting back up. What do you say to fans today to encourage them about hanging in there during this transition that our fans are great?

[00:14:58.02]
One of the reasons we're successful is we've got great support from the community, from the sponsors and the fans. You know, so far we haven't seen any change there. I think we're addressing the problem. We apologize to our fans and all of our sponsors and the city in general, and we're going to move forward. We cleaned house. It's behind us. And we're to make this right. And we're gonna play baseball come spring. A couple more different things.

[00:15:27.09]
Jim 1, when the commissioner put out the directives a couple of years ago with the memorandum about the electronic sign stealing, did you have an organizational meeting or did you have a discussion with AJ and Jeff at the time? Yeah, I generally get all all the the memorandum from baseball. I did talk to Jeff at that time. I think it's in the report and said, listen, I hope we're not doing any of this. If we are, you guys need to knock it off.

[00:15:56.04]
So I did I did warn warning and it's in the report.

[00:16:03.03]
OK. Last one, Jake. Jim, for you, for your next GM, it sounds like from what you said earlier, you haven't ruled out the possibility of someone who's already here hiring internally. Is that accurate? Yeah, we're going to sit down with the team and go over the organization. I mean, it's it's not a big organization. You know, there's there's a lot of people there and all of a matter and all of them have skills that someone evaluate them and see what we have inside and we'll start looking outside.

[00:16:30.00]
I think it's a very good job. I think a lot of people would want to come in here and step into that position.

[00:16:35.00]
Okay, Lynn, wrap up now, folks. Thank you, Jim.

[00:16:37.04]
Thank you, guys.