Tag:Jim Crane
Posted on: February 26, 2012 4:58 pm

New Astros owner Crane off to a good start

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: November 28, 2011 1:44 am

After 35 years, Astros fire Smith by phone

Nobody uses fax machines anymore, so the Astros fired Tal Smith by phone.

I suppose they could have sent him a text, or tried to direct-message him on Twitter.

Look, it's hard to blame new owner Jim Crane for wanting a fresh start. As one long-time Astros person said to me Sunday night, Crane needs to look forward rather than back, and needs to start building something new.

Hiring George Postolos to replace Smith as club president and hiring a new general manager to replace the fired Ed Wade (Rangers assistant Thad Levine was a hot name Sunday night) are defensible moves, even inevitable moves.

But why do these firings have to be so messy?

When I heard from a source that Smith had been fired by phone, it brought back memories of August 1992, when Mike Ilitch officially took over the Tigers from Tom Monaghan.

Monaghan's last act, reportedly ordered by Ilitch as part of the same, was to fire club president Bo Schembechler and longtime club executive Jim Campbell.

Campbell, if I remember it right, was fired by phone. Schembechler (I'm sure of this) was fired by fax.

Campbell was 68 years old, and he had been with the Tigers for 43 of those years. Schembechler had been with the Tigers just 2 1/2 years, but he was a legend in the state.

Smith is 78. He just finished his 35th year with the Astros. He doesn't need to be club president anymore. But you'd think a new owner and new president might want to sit down and talk to him about the challenges ahead (who knows more about baseball in Houston?).

You'd even think that they wouldn't mind having him around in some capacity as the Astros celebrate their 50th anniversary in 2012.

Smith was there at the start, when they were the expansion Colt .45s. He was there when the Astrodome opened, and when the Astroturf went in, and he was there when Minute Maid Park opened.

He was there in 2005, when the Astros won the National League title for the only time in their history.

Now he's gone, and that's fine. Nobody deserves a job forever.

But anybody who did all that Tal Smith did deserves more than to be fired on a phone call.

Posted on: May 16, 2011 12:57 pm
Edited on: May 16, 2011 1:15 pm

Astros to announce sale to Jim Crane

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.

Category: MLB
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