See how some of these scenarios strike you…
“I don’t think I should be held accountable,” the owner of the Floridian National Golf Club said after the clubhouse restaurant was caught watering down drinks.
“I don’t think I should be held accountable,” the owner of Modiant said after the software company was found to have stolen trade secrets from an industry rival.
“I don’t think I should be held accountable,” the president of Eagle USA Airfreight said after an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission report alleged racist and sexist hiring practices at the company.
The last story is one that actually happened, although the president of the company did not hold a press conference and say that he did not think he should be held accountable. That same company president, though, did say just those words – “I don’t think I should be held accountable” – in relation to the baseball team he owns having been caught cheating its way to the 2017 World Series title.
Jim Crane doesn’t just own the Houston Astros, he owns a range of businesses. Could he expect, in any of those other fields, to escape responsibility for actions that brought his firm into disrepute? Well, yes.
Let’s go back to 2011, when Crane was buying the Astros for $680 million, and The New York Times noted that, “unlike the E.E.O.C. case, which described some of Crane’s actions and remarks, the Justice Department’s prosecution of the war profiteering, kickback and price-fixing cases (at then-Crane owned Eagle Global Logistics) do not name him.”
So long as he wasn’t named, he can’t be responsible, right?
“Crane’s spokesman, Bill Miller, called the E.E.O.C. investigation ‘a shakedown,’” the Times report continued, “and said the other incidents ‘involved two rogue employees out of a 10,000-plus workforce.’”
Oh, really? Two rogue employees? Kind of like how the Astros have gone out of their way to pin their sign-stealing scheme on Alex Cora and Carlos Beltran, who conveniently happen not to work there anymore?
At least we can now answer a question raised by that Times report nine years ago.
“How much weight M.L.B. will give the Eagle incidents as it assesses Crane’s offer for the Astros is not known. Gabe Feldman, a law professor at Tulane University, said character was more critical than ever in judging team buyers. ‘Leagues have learned that it’s important to do your due diligence up front to avoid issues where an owner isn’t a good fit financially or in terms of his personality,’ he said.”
Zero. Zero weight is the answer.
“I welcome Jim Crane and his group as they prepare to become the new stewards of the Astros,” Bud Selig said in the statement announcing the sale of the Astros. “I thank them for their patience and determination throughout a long but necessary process, which allowed us to accomplish our due diligence.”
Bang up job, Bud. Hall of Fame-worthy work, as always.
Due diligence is a real thing. What was it that the EEOC report said again? Ah, yes, “Crane also warned managers not to hire women of child-bearing age because their productivity would be low. And top company officials told employees that women aren’t suitable for management positions because male managers won’t work with a woman.”
When the Astros fired assistant general manager Brandon Taubman in October for his misogynist behavior toward reporters while celebrating the American League pennant, Houston’s since-suspended and fired general manager Jeff Luhnow insisted, “This is not something that’s endemic. This is not a cultural issue.”
It was, it is, and it starts at the top. Crane doesn’t think he should be held accountable, and you can see why: He never has been. It’s time to start.