Thad Levine declines interview for Astros’ GM opening

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The Astros’ hunt for a new general manager began Monday when freshly-approved owner Jim Crane fired Ed Wade. It’s early, but so far the hunt has not been fruitful. In fact, it’s even been a little embarrassing.

Crane and Co. have reached out to Rays executive vice president Andrew Friedman, but most insiders believe that to be a longshot. The ‘Stros have also made contact with Rangers assistant GM Thad Levine, but that’s not going to happen either.

According to Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Levine declined an interview for the GM opening in Houston despite being granted permission to seek employment outside the organization by the Rangers’ higher-ups. He deemed his current job, as an assistant to Rangers general manager Jon Daniels, to be a better situation than a chance to become a primary decision-maker in Houston.

Perhaps Crane is setting the Astros’ sights too high. Friedman is a highly-regarded businessman with a personal interest in the Rays and a track record of success, and Levine is one of the top front office talents in the sport with a comfortable gig in an organization that has made consecutive trips to the World Series.

The Astros have a nice stadium and a new ownership group that seems serious about improving the overall product, but they have much rebuilding ahead and a farm system short on elite prospects.

With the Winter Meetings set to begin early next week, it might be time to begin bottom-feeding.

Sandy Koufax to be honored with statue at Dodger Stadium

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Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times reports that Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax will be honored with a statue at Dodger Stadium, expected to be unveiled in 2020. Dodger Stadium will be undergoing major renovations, expected to cost around $100 million, after the season. Koufax’s statue will go in a new entertainment plaza beyond center field. The current statue of Jackie Robinson will be moved into the same area.

Koufax, 83, had a relatively brief career, pitching parts of 12 seasons in the majors, but they were incredible. He was a seven-time All-Star who won the National League Cy Young Award three times (1963, ’65-66) and the NL Most Valuable Player Award once (’63). He contributed greatly to the ’63 and ’65 championship teams and authored four no-hitters, including a perfect game in ’65.

Koufax was also influential in other ways. As Shaikin notes, Koufax refused to pitch Game 1 of the 1965 World Series to observe Yom Kippur. It was an act that would attract national attention and turn Koufax into an American Jewish icon.

Ahead of the 1966 season, Koufax and Don Drysdale banded together to negotiate against the Dodgers, who were trying to pit the pitchers against each other. They sat out spring training, deciding to use their newfound free time to sign  on to the movie Warning Shot. Several weeks later, the Dodgers relented, agreeing to pay Koufax $125,000 and Drysdale $110,000, which was then a lot of money for a baseball player. It would be just a few years later that Curt Flood would challenge the reserve clause. Koufax, Drysdale, and Flood helped the MLB Players Association, founded in 1966, gain traction under the leadership of Marvin Miller.