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Frankly, it’s time for Jim Crane to own the Houston Astros


If the honeymoon isn’t over for Jim Crane, it will be at some point in 2014. It’s time for Jim Crane to own the Houston Astros.

You can inherit a mess, but sooner or later the keys, batons and reins are fully passed and the jalopy becomes yours.

It’s time for Jim Crane to own the Houston Astros.

Yes, Drayton McLane tore down the organization in his final years in an effort to create a lean product to sell. Any business owner slims down to make the bottom line more attractive.

In baseball, that primarily occurs in player payroll, meaning the final few years of the McLane era certainly weren’t the best. But for fans to say he did nothing after the ’05 World Series is bunk.

You can argue the Astros should have started the rebuild in 2006 or 2007, but you can’t make a valid argument that McLane and the Astros didn’t try to win.

Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens were back in 2006, Carlos Lee, Mark Loretta and Woody Williams among others joined for the 2007 season and the Lidge-Qualls-Wheeler bullpen was still in tact.

Yes, too many bad decisions including managers (Cecil Cooper, maybe Brad Mills and even the firing of Phil Garner) and general managers (Tim Purpura).

But I digress. You see, it’s no longer about Drayton McLane. It’s time for Jim Crane to own the Houston Astros.

Crane purchased the Astros in 2011, meaning he’s in Year 3 of ownership. McLane has retired to Temple and has largely been quiet and out of the picture. Still, Crane is blaming the former owner for nearly everything, especially the gone-awry Comcast deal.

Dude, you had months, even years to review the organization, ask all the questions, dig into the relationships, talk to the Rockets and others and make your own independent assessment. You could have balked, altered the deal or completely walked away. But if you’re gonna buy the house and you’re gonna invest a ton of money, you check for termites, take a look at the electrical and plumbing and you have a professional inspector come in to “investigate”. Once you buy the house, it’s yours.

Yes, it’s time for Jim Crane to own the Houston Astros.

The odd thing is that Crane is actually in a pretty good position right now. He’s righted the ship, seems to have a bit of money, and the organization seems to be moving in a positive direction. The minor leagues are looking good, some top prospects will make it to the major league level this year and next, a core is beginning to manifest and Crane has solidified his business and baseball teams (coaching staff, Nolan and Reid Ryan, George Postolos gone, TV/radio crews, etc.).

Is the rebuild moving as quickly as fans would like? No, of course not. But with so many prospects brimming at the top of the heap, one or two could break loose and it could get even more interesting if players like Mark Appel, Carlos Correa, Delino Deshields Jr., or Domingo Santana progress faster than expected.

Still, it’s time for Jim Crane to own the Houston Astros.

If Crane wants to endear himself to fans and media alike — and that’s a tough road — he’d jettison the past, including lawsuits, references and gripes. Obama blamed Bush for his problems way too long and it didn’t get him anywhere.

Crane should be proactive. Take the bull by the horns. Get into a closed door meeting with Comcast, the Rockets and the judge and insist on some type of deal before anyone can leave.

Make Minute Maid Park a great fan favorite and create some excitement and a reason for the fans to come to the park — other than just the on-field product.

Invite the national media to Kissimmee for a press conference. You’ve got a tailor-made opening week with the Yankees and Angels in town. Talk about spotlight! Bring your top prospects to town for interviews, showcases. Fireworks every night! Free hot dogs, dollar nachos!

Invent! Innovate! Inspire! Initiate!

Yes, nothing cures the ills like a winning team, but if a .500 season and playoff contention aren’t in the mix, what else can you do to create that fan attraction? Just do it!

No doubt, it’s time for Jim Crane to own the Houston Astros. He could come out of this situation smelling like the proverbial rose, but he won’t as long as he’s wrestling in the mud.

Some of you believe that Crane is a scoundrel, and you may be right. Time will tell. Frankly, I’m not worried about Crane. I’m focused on the product, and right now, the product is on the right track.

But it will get better quicker if Crane will own the Houston Astros.

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About Chip Bailey

Chip Bailey lives in Colorado Springs, CO, and is an author and former sports editor and sportswriter who has followed the Astros for more than 40 years. A native of Natchitoches, La., Chip enjoys watching baseball at most any level, especially pro and college. Several years ago, he worked as an associate of Pastor John Bosman, who enjoyed giving nick names to his staff. He came up with Chipalatta, and it’s stuck.

31 comments on “Frankly, it’s time for Jim Crane to own the Houston Astros

  1. Bo Weaver
    March 15, 2014

    Believe it or not, Chip, I 99% agree with all you penned (keyboarded). The bit about Crane “seems to have a bit of money” is not accurate at all, however, if not naive.

    How can the man have adequate money without a decent TV deal in place? It just does not compute (unless you believe bogus media-spun announcements that they are going to spend $100+ on Choo, that is).

    So with that said, the number one thing Crane needs to do is get a legit TV done yesterday. But the sad truth is the market demand won’t support such.

    Some fans (who are not naive) have realized the problem already. Others, it will take 4-6 years before it computes.

    Whatever, it’s going to take much more than a farm system chock full of talent, and a press conference or two chock-full of BS, to get it done, kind sir.

    Like

  2. rj1953
    March 15, 2014

    you hit the nail right on the head chip

    Like

  3. 1oldpro
    March 15, 2014

    I will try to condense this.
    If you watch the HGTV channels property shows you will find out that this world consists of a lot of people who live completely different lives on this planet. There are down-to earth people who could be called poor because we live paycheck to paycheck. But there are people who don’t have a clue how that works because they are encased in their world of luxury and perfection and have “The Life”.
    Jim Crane is one of those people. He runs in different circles sealed off from what we would consider normal baseball fanhood. He doesn’t love his players, he owns them. He doesn’t love his team, he owns it
    The reason Crane filed suit is because he was so focused on OWNING it, that he didn’t concentrate on BUYING it. Now that he owns it he finds out that it is owning him because he didn’t tear out enough walls to see how it was built and what it would take to make it successful. He doesn’t relate to our vision of his team because he doesn’t relate to us. his dream is dying because it was a dream and not a good puchase because he didn’t do his homework.

    Like

    • Bo Weaver
      March 15, 2014

      Well said old timer. Well said indeed.

      Like

    • Sandy
      March 16, 2014

      That is it exactly.

      Like

  4. Dan P
    March 15, 2014

    Lots of thoughts:
    – Totally agree this is now Crane’s mess to address.
    – Drayton’s did many good things along the way but he eventually poisoned the well. He wanted to appear to be all in for winning but he always backed away from all in like with letting Kent walk. I have no problem with owners working inside budget constraints but if the do they cannot refuse to draft and sign players and they cannot let the minor league system go to hell in a hand basket.
    – Crane – like Old Pro says must have been blinded by the desire to own to not do proper due diligence.
    – I know that Crane’s group cannot go forever without a decent TV deal – but I struggle with the immediacy of a multi billionaire somehow going broke when he is only spending $40 million on payroll and that is basically offset by national T V and attendance bucks.
    – I don’t like Crane trying to litigate his way out of this but it is certainly his right to chase it.
    – I like how the organization has turned around – even with a #1 pick still coming the talent rising in the minors is significant.
    – Crane has to own the situation and get the TV deal resolved. He has to keep Luhnow happy and here. And he has to do as Chip says – do things for the fans.

    Like

  5. devin_
    March 15, 2014

    The time for excuses is over. A three year tanking to stock the minor league system should be over. It’s time to start seeing results trickle up. The problem, as I see it, was that they were unwilling or unable to attract the top free agents to Houston. Some of that makes good business sense, but staring at another last place finish smarts. For this reason, it’s time to start promoting players that show an inclination of readiness and open the checkbook to extend them early. I fully believe that failure to do so will just cause those players to leave early for pinstriped pastures.

    Bad day for Harrell today. I saw Guzman got a hit, though. I think he’s up to 3 for the spring so far.

    Like

  6. BrianT
    March 15, 2014

    Let’s see, attendance last year was just north of 1.6 million. Say the average ticket was $40 (and that’d be cheap), then he made $64 million at the gate, plus money on food and drink, PLUS money on TV and the Chick-Fil-A Fowl Poles, PLUS money on revenue sharing and radio, PLUS …

    Bopert, if you think he didn’t gross $150 million last season, you’re nuts. He made MORE than enough to pay this team and raise payroll when the time comes.

    Like

  7. Bo Weaver
    March 15, 2014

    Dude. everything you say about gross revenues are spot on.

    But what you’re not digesting here is that’s not NEARLY ENOUGH for the team to be legit contenders. Oh, and the operating costs and expenditures and travel costs and scouting, and… and that gross income is not the same as NET income. Doh!

    Bottom line; YOU ARE WAY way off the mark, here. You’re so far off that you are not even in the ballpark, even in the ballpark, even in the ballpark (echo for cheesy dramatic effect).

    If Crane doesn’t get a TV deal done this year he could be toast. Or at least the beginning to the end.

    If he DOES get a crappy deal done – which is what I predict will happen – something in-line with the market demand for his product, then the team’s future outlook (ongoing mediocrity) will be easier to digest, no?

    Like

  8. Chip Bailey
    March 15, 2014

    Bopert, clearly you’re the expert here, but I’d also point out that the Astros are bringing in some revenue from the current TV deal now. Plus they are also realizing $15-$20 million in revenue sharing, not to mention other income from apparel, etc. Not to mention the tax write offs from all that interest and other “losses” they’ve accumulated in the first couple of years of ownership. They may not yet be spending the money on the major leagues just yet, but they doubled spending in the minors from 2012 to 2013. Of course, with the higher draft picks, the pool of money (which Houston spent) is also higher than the other 29 clubs.

    I’ve long doubted any of the owners were losing money year-to-year. Otherwise, they’d eventually go bankrupt. Does Crane have a ton of money? No. Will he have more money with a final TV deal and 2 million in attendance? Of course.

    But don’t make him out to be a pauper. And, oh, it’s in the interest of the Rockets and Comcast to get a deal done as well, so look for it to happen by summer.

    But, then again, you’re the expert, so perhaps you can better predict the final outcomes.

    Like

    • 1oldpro
      March 16, 2014

      Chip, I have to agree with Bo on the expense thing. There are huge expenses to running this club. All the spring training facilities, expenses, travel, salaries of employees besides the players. There are all the minor league salaries, expenses, travel, per diems, front office. scouting salaries, scouting expenses, utilities at all complexes, full time year round DR facility. I would not be surprised if all the expenses beyond the major league club salaries are above $70mil a year.

      Like

  9. Astro45
    March 15, 2014

    I think you guys gave Crane an extra year. Although he signed the deal in November, DMc was not dumb enough to let $680 Million walk by not consulting with Crane as far back as May, 2011. That being said, I don’t know how much or little money that Crane has, but Houston is a great city and supports its teams. If any owner would just quit “sticking a finger in the fan’s eyes”, he would have as much income as he needs to contend.

    Like

  10. Becky
    March 15, 2014

    I’d rather see the Astros on TV, rather than see Jim Crane’s face in the society pages. *IF* he can get that done, I don’t care HOW much money the dude has. He either has enough money (or partners) or he doesn’t.
    Simple as that. I’ll worry about my money……….I’ll leave the baseball
    stuff to the guy whose money bought this team. Man………we got our
    butts handed to us today, six runs in the first inning……Harrell sounded like the clone of 2013. UGH.

    Like

  11. Dan P
    March 15, 2014

    I will say this – the ways the various owners and GMs have run this team and built rosters has led to only 1 WS appearance in 52 years. The only time they tore down and built from scratch in 1992 they ended up with a fairly long stretch of success.

    Like

    • 1oldpro
      March 15, 2014

      and that is a good point!

      Like

    • BrianT
      March 16, 2014

      All without being one of the top spenders. Why? Because money is not how you win championships. Tampa Bay. Oakland. Minnesota. Even St. Louis. None of these teams is some free-spending version of the Yankees.

      The Astros, right now, can live in that financial world. At least I think so … I’m no expert.

      Like

  12. daveb
    March 16, 2014

    Crane needs to have a better year, and I’m not talking about what happens on the field. The minority partners will not be silent indefinitely.

    By the way, are we going to have five starters once the season starts? Wonder why Feldman has only thrown two live innings, and Peacock just one.

    Like

    • Dan P
      March 16, 2014

      Not been watching that close – have they pitched against minor leaguers which probably would not show up in the stats?

      Like

      • daveb
        March 16, 2014

        They’ve been throwing, in a limited basis, in inter squad games. We’re only two weeks from the start of the season. Seems to me they should be pitching against the tougher hitters in the game by now. Are they fully healthy?

        Like

  13. Dan P
    March 16, 2014

    Ironic daveb – Feldman and Peacock boh threw 4 IP today against the Nats

    Like

    • daveb
      March 16, 2014

      Dan, I guess it was time! would be nice to see five guys all throwing well at some point soon.

      Like

  14. Astro45
    March 16, 2014

    Any thoughts (or conspiracy theories) on Stassi first down to apparently OKC, now Heineman to CC apparently. So what happens to Garcia and Perez?

    Like

    • daveb
      March 16, 2014

      I figure Heineman and Stassi both get four starts a week behind the plate and then DH a time or two. Garcia and Perez will/should get the balance of the work.

      Like

    • 1oldpro
      March 16, 2014

      Last year, when Garcia and Perez both were in OKC they alternated a lot between catching and DH. I think one goes to CC with Heineman and one goes to OKC with Stassi.

      Like

  15. Chip Bailey
    March 16, 2014

    Conspiracy theories? Nope, barring injuries, expected both to start in the minors. Just solidifies Castro/Cocoran behind the plate, now that 1B seems to have a couple of decent contenders.

    Like

    • Astro45
      March 16, 2014

      That would be my expectation. But OKC now shows Garcia, Perez & Stassi, With CC showing Clements, McCurdy & apparently Heineman. That is a lot of bench time for somebody.

      Like

  16. Dan P
    March 16, 2014

    Maybe along with the tandem pitching they will use tandem catching rotations in the minors

    Like

  17. Chip Bailey
    March 16, 2014

    I wouldn’t put too much stock into what the rosters are showing at this point. Still a lot of juggling, shuffling and jockeying to go. Trades, injuries, releases, other acquisitions could play a key part between now and the final roster selection. Plus, remember they could easily choose to DH some of those to just keep everyone fresh. Still, with so many options, it’s a good problem to have at such a key position, no?

    Like

  18. Dan P
    March 16, 2014

    Maybe they could trade 2 catchers for one shortstop – haha.

    Like

  19. Sandy
    March 17, 2014

    I agree with Becky. I don’t care how much money he makes or loses, I just want a TV deal. Soon.
    That being said, I don’t see it happening. Uverse, Direct TV, Dish, Would be crazy to ink a deal at this point. They have kept their customers for two years now without a deal so why now? I’m sure they know there is only a handful of us still wanting to watch the worst team in MLB.

    Like

  20. Bo Weaver
    March 17, 2014

    Frankly, it’s time for Crane to fan up.

    Like

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This entry was posted on March 15, 2014 by in Astros.
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