Wait! Why Not The Astros For Organization Of The Year?

Image credit: Houston Astros (Harry How/Getty Images)

When the Baseball America editorial staff meets to discuss our annual awards, we spend the most time talking through Organization of the Year candidates.

Our discussion centers around how various organizations stack up in three criteria: MLB success, sustainability and stability. After all, this is an organizational honor, not merely shorthand for the major league team that had the best season.

The 2022 Astros clearly meet the first two standards, the ones pertaining to MLB success and sustainability. As to the former:

—Houston won the World Series in six games, capping a dominant 11-2 postseason run. It was the Astros’ second World Series championship in the past six seasons.

—The Astros advanced to an American League-record sixth straight Championship Series in 2022. 

—Houston won 106 games this season, more than all but 11 teams since the dawn of the expansion era in 1961.

—The Astros allowed 518 runs in 2022. The Dodgers allowed 513. Those are the lowest totals in a 162-game season in 50 years.

—Dating back to 2018, the Astros’ five-year winning percentage is .621, a mark bettered in the expansion era by only the 2018-22 Dodgers (.646), 1995-98 Braves (.626) and 1972-76 Reds (.621). 

The Astros accomplished all of the above despite running an Opening Day payroll that ranked 10th highest in baseball. They went head-to-head with the Yankees (third) and Phillies (fourth) in October and beat them, which brings us to sustainability. 

Houston appears to be in great shape for 2023 and has proven adept at making tough decisions, most notably letting homegrown stars George Springer and Carlos Correa walk as free agents. The organization surmised—correctly, so far—that it had replacement options on hand that would provide similar production at less cost. 

While the Astros’ farm system ranked in the bottom five when BA updated its talent rankings in August, Houston has continued to integrate young talent into its MLB mix each season. The club seemingly adds a new impact rookie each season, even as the MLB team keeps winning and the organization’s draft position worsens. 

Houston also lost first- and second-round picks in both 2020 and 2021 as part of the punishment for their 2017 sign-stealing scandal. 

But about those impact rookies. The honor roll includes shortstop Jeremy Peña in 2022, righthander Luis Garcia in 2021, righty Cristian Javier in 2020 and outfielder Yordan Alvarez in 2019. Outfielder Kyle Tucker and lefthander Framber Valdez both debuted in 2018. 

Those six players, all developed in the Houston system, accumulated nearly 26 WAR in 2022.

So the Astros are clearly overqualified for Organization of the Year based on their recent MLB track record and strong development success. Where they fall short is stability.

When MLB punished the Astros in early 2020 for their trash can-banging, sign-stealing scheme in 2017, owner Jim Crane was forced to fire general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch. 

Crane hired James Click, a former Rays executive, and Dusty Baker as replacements. The affable Baker helped blunt the sharpest criticism of the Astros and emerged as a feel-good story when he won his first World Series ring in 2022 in his 25th year in the dugout.

According to reports, Click the GM did not mesh as well with Baker or with Crane, who has a reputation as a hands-on owner. And when the World Series was over, Crane offered a one-year contract to Click, which the latter rejected because it was out of proportion with his accomplishments.

In his three years in Houston, Click had shepherded the Astros to the most wins in the AL, two pennants and a World Series title. Even setting résumé aside, a one-year deal would not have been in the best interests of either Click or the Astros because shorter contract terms for GMs necessitate shorter-term vision.

Ultimately, Crane wants things done his way in Houston. That is his prerogative as owner. 

It’s just not a way we feel conforms with Organization of the Year precedent.

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