Posted on: February 26, 2012 4:58 pm
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- It takes time to judge a new owner, but the Jim Crane era with the Astros seems to be off to a good start.
I'm not talking about on the field. Crane's first Astros team figures to be every bit as terrible as Drayton McLane's last, and that team lost 106 games.
But Crane is doing things you want an owner to do, and suggesting that he won't do things you want owners not to do.
He showed up Sunday for the Astros' first full-squad workout, spoke to the team about turning the Astros back into a winner and turning the organization into a family. He shook hands with players. He posed for pictures with fans. He thanked the media for caring enough to cover the team.
He was pleasant, but he wasn't overbearing.
"We'll stay out of the way," he said. "And we'll help any way we can. . . . I'll fade more into the sunset as the season starts."
The suggestion from Crane and his people is that he's also prepared to spend money when it can make a difference. The Astros have a new television deal that will see their rights fee double starting next season, and new team president George Postolos talks about how Houston is the country's fourth-largest city, and about how the Astros' revenues (and thus spending) should eventually reflect that.
For now, the Astros are concentrating heavily on scouting and development, both here and internationally, and that's as it should be. One of the failures of the late McLane years was that an insistence on never going "above-slot" in the draft kept the farm system from producing. The new collective bargaining agreement limits draft spending, but as Astros people remind you, they'll be allowed to spend the most money of anyone, simply because they'll be drafting first.
Crane seems to understand that it will take a while, quite a change from McLane, who always wanted to irrationally declare that his team would be in the playoffs.
And Crane seems to understand that since the team is unlikely to win this year or next, he needs to do other things to show fans that he cares.
To make season ticket holders feel appreciated, Crane and his people are trying to meet with them. To make all the fans feel better, the Astros lowered some prices, and made a commitment to have $5 beer on sale at every concession stand.
They talk about things like changing the uniforms, and Crane reminded people Sunday that because the Astros are changing leagues at the end of this season, they're the only team in baseball that will host each of the other teams over the next two years.
Just as important, the Astros are open about what their plan is.
"We're not going to try to create wins in the short term at the expense of being able to compete in the mid- to long-term," new general manager Jeff Luhnow said.
It shouldn't be a surprise that Crane seemed so prepared for this. He and his people have been trying for five years to buy a baseball team.
They tried for the Astros once before, and they tried for the Rangers, Cubs and Padres, as well. Crane even looked into becoming an investor in the Cardinals, although he wouldn't have had control, there.
The team he really wanted, though, was the Astros, which is why he called Sunday "a special day."
"It was really a life goal," said Bill Morgan, the principal investor in Crane's group.
The life goal includes winning, and we can't really judge Crane's ownership until he's had a chance to show if he can do it.
For now, all you can say is that he seems to be off to a good start.
Posted on: May 16, 2011 12:57 pm
Edited on: May 16, 2011 1:15 pm
This time, it seems, Drayton McLane is really going through with it.
The Astros have called a 3 p.m. ET press conference to officially announce that McLane is selling the team to local businessman Jim Crane. McLane nearly sold the team to Crane in 2008, only to back out after Crane thought he had agreed to a deal
McLane has owned the Astros for 18 years, a span that included the team's only trip to the World Series, in 2005.
The deal is still subject to approval by Major League Baseball, but it's very unlikely that it would be turned down.
While McLane has led the Astros to their greatest success, he has also delayed much-needed rebuilding. The Astros' current National League-worst 15-25 record is in part a result of McLane's refusal to rebuild several years back.
It's hard to know what kind of owner Crane will be. People who know him describe him as highly competitive, but also suggest he could become just as meddling an owner as McLane was.
"He'll be a Jerry Jones owner," high school teammate Bill LaMothe told the Houston Chronicle.
Crane, who is 57, played Division II baseball at the University of Central Missouri. He's a good enough athlete that Golf Digest ranked him as the top golfer among CEOs.
Posted on: May 12, 2011 6:21 pm
CHICAGO -- Drayton McLane has owned the Astros for more than 18 years. Lance Berkman played for the Astros for 12 of those seasons.
Now Berkman is an ex-Astro, and it appears that soon McLane will be an ex-Astro owner.
"It's kind of sad to see," said Berkman, now an outfielder with the Cardinals. "The individual owner of a baseball team is kind of going the way of the dodo. Drayton was kind of the last of a dying breed."
The Houston Chronicle reported this week that McLane's sale of the Astros to local businessman Jim Crane could be completed as soon as next week. But Berkman said even when the Cardinals were in Houston two weeks back, he felt like things had already changed.
Now, he just hopes Astros fans will appreciate McLane as he does.
"He's not a perfect owner, but I think you'd be hard-pressed to find an owner who wanted to win more," Berkman said. "He catches a lot of flak, I know."
Posted on: July 27, 2010 2:07 pm
Teams that have spoken to the Nationals about Adam Dunn believe there's a good chance Dunn will be traded by the end of the week.
They also think that the price Nats GM Mike Rizzo is asking for Dunn right now is ridiculously high. Rizzo has been telling teams that to trade Dunn, he would need to get a young starting pitcher who is either major-league ready or close to it.
How ready? Well, according to a source familiar with the talks, last week the Nationals asked the Rays for Matt Garza.
Obviously, that wasn't happening, even before Garza threw the first no-hitter in Rays history on Monday night against the Tigers.
While there's no way for them to know for sure, rival teams believe that Rizzo plans to move Dunn, who is in the last year of his contract. Because of that, they believe that Rizzo's asking price will eventually drop, and that a deal will get done.
The Rays and White Sox have shown interest in Dunn, but a scout from another American League team said he thinks it would be a mistake for an AL team to trade for him. Dunn has said many times that he has no interest in being a designated hitter, and the scout believes that Dunn wouldn't be happy with an AL team.
The Giants, who have also checked on Dunn, would seem to be a better fit. But Giants GM Brian Sabean has been reluctant to move any of his best pitchers, and it's hard to believe he would include them in a move for a rental player like Dunn.
In other trade talk Tuesday, opposing teams increasingly believe that the Phillies want to move Jayson Werth. The asking price for Werth has been similar to what Washington wants for Dunn: a young starting pitcher. Werth will also be a free agent this winter, and while there's believed to be little chance he'll re-sign with the Phillies, one scout said: "He should never leave that ballpark." . . . Other teams still don't count out the Phillies in the Roy Oswalt sweepstakes, even though it's well-known that Oswalt would prefer to be dealt to St. Louis, Atlanta or Texas. The Cardinals have interest, but some people who know Astros owner Drayton McLane don't believe he would send Oswalt to the Cards -- or to the Rangers. And the Braves have not shown interest.
Posted on: August 4, 2008 7:38 pm
I suppose you have to admire Drayton McLane's confidence, his determination and his willingness to spend money.
Or waste money.
It still makes no sense that the Astros were buyers at last week's non-waiver trading deadline. It still makes no sense that the Astros, 13 games out of first place and eight games out of the wild-card lead (with five teams in front of them) traded for Randy Wolf and LaTroy Hawkins, let alone that they didn't get a start on rebuilding an organization that badly needs it.
It makes no sense to me, I should say. Because after talking to McLane before the Astros' game tonight at Wrigley Field, I'm convinced that it makes sense to him.
"We never considered selling," he said. "It's not in my makeup. That was never in consideration. We had a lot of offers. You heard about (Miguel) Tejada. There was interest in Carlos Lee. Even Lance Berkman's name was mentioned. Roy Oswalt's, too. We wouldn't ever consider any of those things."
The natural question is "Why the heck not?" But McLane has an answer for that, too.
Quite simply, he expects this team to win. He still expects it.
"Absolutely," he said. "Look at 2004. We were in about the same position we're in now. In 2005, same thing, and we went to the World Series."
So he thinks the Astros are going to win in 2008?
"Yeah, I think we're going to make a great run for it, and I think we have the capacity to win," he said.
Sorry, but I still think it's nuts. I do, however, admire his confidence.
Oh, and for the record, on Aug. 4, 2004, the Astros were 14 1/2 games out of first place and five games back in the wild-card race, which they ended up winning. A year later, they were nine games out of first place, but were already leading the wild-card race (which they won again enroute to the World Series.