Tal Smith spent 35 years with the Astros as a top baseball executive and played a major role in the constructions of the Astrodome and Minute Maid Park.
“In the terms of the front-office duties, he is the key man in the history of the whole franchise,” former Astros manager Larry Dierker told the Houston Chronicle.
So, how is it possible that Smith will receive only two weeks’ severance pay from the club, according to major-league sources?
Because the Astros’ previous owner, Drayton McLane, did not arrange a more enticing golden parachute for Smith with the new owner, Jim Crane.
Smith’s contract as president of baseball operations expired on Oct. 31, sources said, but he continued working for the club as an at-will employee. McLane was unable to extend Smith’s contract after entering into his initial agreement with Crane on May 16.
The sale of the team became official Nov. 22. The new ownership announced the terminations of Smith and general manager Ed Wade six days later.
Wade left with far greater financial security than Smith – the GM was under contract for 2012, and when he was still GM on Oct. 1, a clause in his contract also guaranteed him his salary for ’13.
Smith, on the other hand, received the equivalent of one month’s salary when McLane awarded bonuses to Astros’ employees upon the closing of the sale, sources said.
That bonus, plus the two weeks’ severance, is all he will receive after serving the Astros in all five decades of their existence, including the past 18 years under McLane.
Smith, 78, has been in baseball 54 years. He plans to continue work with his consulting firm, which has advised teams on salary arbitration cases since 1981.