When the news broke that Jim Deshaies accepted the broadcast position with the Chicago Cubs, I went through Kubler-Ross’s Five Stages of Grief in a matter of a few hours.
…well, sort of.
At first, I denied it. “Footer is clearly yanking my chain. Clearly, Jim Deshaies is coming back. …right?”
Then I got angry.
Then I bargained.
Then I got very depressed.
…and, now, as I write this, I’m trying to accept the fact that Jim Deshaies will not be a member of the Houston Astros broadcast team in 2013. That’s an incredibly hard pill to swallow.
It shouldn’t have ended like this.
I felt resigned to the fact that Deshaies was as good as gone when the news broke that he interviewed for the Cubs’ position. After discussing the matter with a friend who is reasonably privy to the situation, I felt the Astros could not compete.
The Astros were out of their league.
We could have had something special in Houston. We could have had something that was distinctly us. As noted before, Jim Deshaies could have been synonymous with Houston baseball. We could have erected statues one day and celebrated a Ford Frick honor with him – really. But in the matter of a few weeks, the notion that Jim Deshaies could become a Houston baseball icon went up in smoke faster than Community Partner billboards going up inside Minute Maid Park.
The Astros is an organization without a single World Series win or a single player donning an Astros hat in Cooperstown. The Astros is an organization that is fresh off a widely unpopular transition into the junior circuit and an organization that is fresh off consecutive “worst season in franchise history” designations. In a year where we’ve been kicked around over and over and over again, we would have liked to have Jim Deshaies around next year. Jim Crane could have thrown us a bone.
Let’s face it: this was Jim Deshaies’ decision. I concede that. However, I will not concede that Jim Deshaies didn’t get nudged out the door.
The Chicago Cubs broadcasting position is an undeniably dreamy job. Chicago is a great city and, love ‘em or hate ‘em, the Cubs are a legendary franchise with a rich history. Wrigley Field is a beautiful field. Chicago is a great baseball environment. In my opinion, and likely Jim Deshaies’ too, Bob Brenly was crazy for leaving his job as the Cubs broadcaster for the same position with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
But Jim Deshaies could have had a long-term commitment with the Houston Astros well before Brenly left the Windy City.
So, what exactly happened?
I have no clue.
However, not for a second, do I believe that Jim Crane has earned enough equity as the Astros owner to warrant the benefit of the doubt. Nor do I think Crane is guilty of a temporary lapse in judgment. This was not an accident but rather a conscious decision made by Crane.
Make no mistake about it: this was a decision.
Time and time again, Jim Crane has shown us that he’s unprepared to own a major league franchise. And, to me, that statement is dripping with irony. He continues to play fast and loose with our franchise and it seems, at least in this case, it has come back to bite him in a severe way.
Jim Crane has a significant degree of responsibility in this matter, and he deserves to be held accountable. In my opinion, two things happened:
1.) Jim Crane opted not to offer Jim Deshaies an extension.
2.) Jim Crane created an environment that Jim Deshaies wanted no part of.
I cannot think of a single person that has been offered a long-term extension since Jim Crane took over. This is not entirely surprising. Generally, when someone acquires a business, they evaluate their current employees and make determinations on whether or not to retain their services. This happens in most businesses – everyone is evaluated, up from the senior vice-presidents all the way down to the assistant burger flippers.
Perhaps it is an ego thing, but the new guy always seems to believe he can run the business better than the old guy. The first thing a new ownership team does is look for avenues to streamline productivity and increase the bottom line. They want to cut fat and maximize profits. And, in order to do that effectively, they have to have a strong working knowledge of the resources they currently oversee. This means waves and waves of evaluations. Owners and managers want their own guys in key positions, and they want to operate under their own designed plans because they want to live or die with their own decisions rather than the decisions made by the previous regime.
Jim Crane was right to install his own people.
And, from everything we know about Crane’s business acumen, his staff had a very thorough evaluation process that was standard among each and every Astros employee – from the senior vice-presidents to the assistant burger flippers.
Crane was pretty straightforward when he announced that “everything is on the table.” I took this as meaning that everything was subject to evaluation and nothing was concrete for 2013.
In an unsavory under-the-radar manner, Jim Crane fired everyone – from the senior vice-presidents to the assistant burger flippers.
And,those who were left likely felt unsafe.
Obviously, Jim Deshaies was above this. As far as the Astros organization goes, he was likely the only person from the McLane regime who did his job significantly better than the competition. Deshaies likely felt that he was above Crane’s petty evaluation process because he was aware that he was significantly better than his competition. Deshaies had been in Houston for 16 years and is regarded as one of the best in the business.
Deshaies put in the time. He knew he was good at his job. Astros fans knew he was good at his job. The Cubs organization knew he was good at his job. Jayson Stark and other national reporters knew he was good at his job.
But Jim Crane needed an evaluation process to determine what everyone else already knew.
Jim Crane didn’t just forget to offer Jim Deshaies an extension. Crane put Deshaies through a process that must have made Deshaies feel uncomfortable and disrespected. Deshaies felt like he earned an extension and Jim Crane still needed convincing.
…and, once Crane figured it all out, Jim Deshaies was already leading the lovable losers in “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”
Realignment reared its ugly head, familiar faces retired, resigned or were fired, and Jim Deshaies was sitting in the booth wondering where everyone had gone. All the while, still wondering whether or not he’d be retained at the end of the year.
Jim Crane was so obsessed with his evaluation process and constructing his organization to his liking, that he dropped the ball in an area that should have been a very bright spot in his very dull franchise. The Astros said they offered “fair market value” and “made every attempt to retain him”; they were a day late and dollar short. Had Crane created an environment of goodwill, he wouldn’t have had to rely on offering Deshaies “fair market value” as a last ditch effort.
When Bob Brenly left the Windy City, the door flew open, and Jim Deshaies saw an opportunity. There was nothing holding him back – it was the perfect storm for the Houston Astros. But make no mistake about it: Jim Crane had every opportunity to ensure Jim Deshaies’ spot in Houston well before Chicago even became an option.
Jim Crane chose not to pursue a long-term contract for Jim Deshaies. Whether you believe my theory or not, Crane’s decision to remain inactive led to Deshaies’ departure.
Crane foolishly chose to play his own version of “businessman chicken” with one of his prized assets. And now that Deshaies has flown the coop for the Cubs, all that’s left for Crane is crow.