Okay, let’s talk Jim Crane.
Yes, I realize only a few of you have an opinion about the Astros’ owner, but it’s the off season, so I’m thinking enough time has passed for a thought or two to coalesce about the man who has been in the news lately.
Crane inherited a mess of a situation, perhaps more of a mess than any other new owner previously has been asked to take on. He joined the Elite 30 already at a PR deficit. If the Astros had only been losing terribly, attendance was down and the organization was a shambles, it would have been horrific enough.
Add to that the move to the American League and Crane all but had one foot in the grave as far as a relationship with fans and the city.
Remember, he also inherited the Comcast deal. Would he have forged the same deal with the TV network had the decision been entirely his? Did Drayton McLane put together a paper tiger that dramatically increased the “value” of the team?
Crane’s been digging his way out of a deep hole since he signed on the dotted line.
Now, before you start typing, shouting or stop reading, hear me on this. At times, Crane has been his own worst enemy. He’s not made it easy to cheer for him. At one point, I wrote that he had taken the wind out of the sails of this Astros’ fan. In fact, he’s opened the door too many times to rant against him. Not only has he shot himself in both feet, he’s cut off his nose to spite his face as my dad used to say.
I’m as much annoyed at not being able to see my team on television as the next guy. It’s just as silly as a government shutdown. Just get in a room, order some pizzas, lock the door (from the outside) and don’t come out until there’s a deal.
Yes, it’s a business and Crane needs to protect his investment. No matter how you feel about the man or his business practices — and this is not a defense of him in any way — he should make the most of the deal. If the deal Comcast is offering doesn’t make business sense, he should make his case. Clearly, Comcast’s hands are not totally clean either, so just put everyone in that room.
On another matter, most fans believe Crane will not spend money. Frankly, there is absolutely no history or basis to believe he won’t spend next season, or in 2015 or any other season. Yes, he cut the budget this year. More importantly, he cleared the roster of players who didn’t want or need to be in Houston.
In black and white, he said the 2014 payroll could be in the $50-$60 million range, perhaps higher if the TV deal is completed.
But here’s the thing folks. It doesn’t matter if the payroll is $50 million, $20 million or $100 million. If the Astros aren’t signing the right players, it will leave the same empty feeling again and again. Ask the Yankees. Or the Angels. Or any number of other teams.
I predicted earlier that the budget would increase and I believe it will. But Jeff Luhnow has his work cut out trying to find a free agent who will fit into the reconstruction mix and make a healthy contribution — on and off the field. It won’t be Robinson Cano or Brian McCann.
The Astros will probably take a calculated shot at mid-range free agents (We’ll look at some of those later). And, it’s a virtual guarantee that Luhnow will include a low-risk approach a la Rick Ankiel or Erik Bedard or Jose Veras. I would, wouldn’t you?
The key is not the budget, but the approach. In that realm, the Astros are right on target. The farm system is bristling with talent and another set of high draft picks awaits next June. Yes, it’s the silver lining in a dark set of clouds, but it is the Houston Astros.
So, as the playoffs roll on (are you watching, by the way?), here’s a set of questions for you today. As I mentioned earlier, I realize you have not formed opinions on Crane, but would appreciate you taking a moment to interact.
- When you think of Jim Crane, what is your first thought (maybe 2-3 words will do).
- Who’s more responsible for the current mess the Astros are in: Crane or McLane?
- If you believe Crane will not stand by his comments and spend the $50-$60 million in 2014, what do you base that on?
- If it turns out Comcast is the real bad guy and Crane does spend raise the payroll significantly, will it change your opinion of the Astros’ owner?
- What should Crane do to win over Astros’ fans (no, “sell the team and move to Europe” isn’t an answer)?