Never meet your heroes

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OK, I’ll grant that absolutely no one considers Steve Clevenger to be their “hero.” At least I hope not, and would have hoped so even before last night (dream bigger, kids!). But his racist comments on social media last night, followed up by his non-apology apology, do provide a good opportunity to remind us that, for the most part, we’re better off not getting to know sports figures, entertainers and anyone else who is famous all that well. At least not beyond the reasons for which we pay attention to them in the first place.

Jeff Passan of Yahoo gave us a reminder of why that is this morning, at least with respect to ballplayers:

Passan has talked to more ballplayers in the last couple of weeks than I ever have in my life, but based on my modest amount of interaction with players, and based on what other ballwriters and people who work in baseball have told me, this is dead-on. Baseball draws from rural areas and white burbs way, way more than the other major sports do. When you combine that with the cloistered world in which professional athletes often find themselves — traveling with and spending time in clubhouses with the likeminded — it’s not at all surprising that you’re not only going to get opinions like these but that the holder of the opinions will think there’s nothing wrong with broadcasting them. Most don’t, of course, because, as Passan notes, they have a modicum of sense when it comes to public relations and public perception. Clevenger must have called in sick on media training day.

What Clevenger thinks about race relations in the United States isn’t all that important, of course. He’s just a dude with his opinions and he’s got a right to hold them. It does remind us, though, that just because someone is good at something — and Clevenger is good at baseball compared to most other mortals on Earth — doesn’t necessarily make them wise about anything else. We forget that when what an athlete is saying is inoffensive or comports with our own views of the world, but the situation remains the same regardless.

Which isn’t to say we should ignore or totally discount what an athlete says. They have a right to say whatever they want and we have a right and, sometimes, an interest, in reacting to it positively, negatively or otherwise. It’s simply to say that just because they’re famous or notable doesn’t mean they’ve got any kind of special insight into anything than that for which they are famous or notable. This goes for Steve Clevenger just as much as it goes for Bono or Scott Baio or anyone else.

Brown hired as general manager of Houston Astros

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HOUSTON — In joining the World Series champion Houston Astros, new general manager Dana Brown’s goal is to keep the team at the top of the league.

“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 was hired by the Astros on Thursday, replacing James Click, who was not given a new contract and parted ways with the Astros just days after they won the World Series.

Brown spent the last four seasons as the vice president of scouting for the Atlanta Braves.

“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, 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.”

The 55-year-old Brown becomes the only Black general manager in the majors and joins manager Dusty Baker to form just the second pairing of a Black manager and general manager in MLB history. The first was general manager Ken Williams and manager Jerry Manuel with the White Sox.

Brown said he interviewed for GM jobs with the Mets and Mariners in the past and that MLB commissioner Rob Manfred told him to stay positive and that his time to be a general manager would come.

“It’s pretty special,” he 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.”

Crane was asked about having the league’s only Black general manager.

“Certainly, we are very focused on diversity with the Astros,” he said. “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 doesn’t have a lot of connections to the Astros, but does have some ties. He played baseball at Seton Hall with Hall of Famer Craig Biggio, who spent his entire career with the Astros and serves as special assistant to the general manager. He played against fellow Hall of Famer and special assistant to the general manager Jeff Bagwell in the Cape Cod league during a short minor league career.

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 worked for the Blue Jays from 2010-18 as a special assistant to the general manager. From 2001-09 he worked as director of scouting for the Nationals/Expos. He began his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates, where he spent eight years as their area scouting supervisor and East coast cross checker.

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 big-name players like Stephen Strasburg, Ryan Zimmerman and last season’s National League rookie of the year Michael Harris, 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.”