Astros have a new owner, and you have a lot of questions. Let’s chat.
When Drayton McLane first announced he had sold the team to Crane six months ago, the pending new owner was still waiting approval from Major League Baseball. That handcuffed him in terms of how much he could say regarding the Astros and his vision for the future, because until the Commissioner and baseball’s 29 other owners signed off on it, the team wasn’t yet his. That forced him to keep his comments short.
This time, Crane walked into the room looking relaxed and, understandably, relieved. Although the process to get to this point had many difficult twists and it took a toll on everyone involved, in the end, Crane, persistent from the start, crossed the proverbial finish line.
We all know what transpired between the day the initial sale announcement was made in May and Thursday afternoon. Crane went through a long and somewhat grueling vetting process, one that ended with MLB giving Crane two choices: buy the team and move to the American League, or refuse a move to the AL and not own the team.
That was one of the first things Crane addressed at the press conference. “They made it clear to us that anyone who owned the team would be moving to the AL,” Crane said.
The Astros’ move to the AL West in 2013 was one of several topics Crane addressed during both his formal statements to the media and his more candid interviews he conducted with reporters during the hour-long press conference.
Among the notables:
On the negative fan reaction on the move to the AL:
“The fans are number one, let’s get that straight. Without the fans, none of us are here. We want to reach out to the fans. We’ll do some things for the fans immediately. We understand the tradition in baseball. We understand the NL and people are tied to that. That wasn’t an option for this town.
“With that being said, we’re going to make the best of what we have here and we’re going to put a winner on the field. I think the fans will come back. We want them to stay, we don’t want anybody to leave. We need their support. We’ll put a winning team on the field and hopefully the fans will embrace us.”
Pressed on the phrase “do some things for the fans,” Crane was asked if lowering prices was part of that plan.
“I think that’s probably one of the first things we’ll take a look at,” he said.
As Crane stated in May, his goal is to build a winning team through scouting and player development.
“We’re focused on developing talent and increasing our minor league depth,” he said. Crane pointed to teams such as the Rangers who built from the ground up and developed most of their own star players.
On the payroll:
“We’ll get the payroll lined up with the revenue that’s coming in and continue to build the farm system. I doubt you’ll see us as a big player in free agency this year.”
Asked if they might consider a logo and/or uniform change, Crane acknowledged that “Everything is on the plate.” He also noted that logo changes usually take a
year to complete so realistically, anything along those lines would probably be in conjunction with the 2013 move to the AL. And what about a name change?
“No,” Crane said. “‘Astros’ is here to stay.”
Questions I received from the Twitterverse:
@kevinwilson1011: Do you see MLB putting in the DH in the NL?
I can’t envision that happening. While it’s been established that there is absolutely no way the Players Association would ever go for the elimination of the DH, I think it would be just as hard to convince NL owners to adopt the DH into their league, mainly because designated hitters cost a lot more than bench players. If I ruled the world, I’d abolish the DH and increase rosters from 25 to 26. But there would inevitably be many who would be against that, for financial reasons (what else?). The NL owners would balk at adding the extra salary, and the Players Association wouldn’t want to take away the DH, who makes around $7 million a year, and replace him with a fifth or sixth outfielder, whom you can sign for $600,000 or so.
@travisctb: Ugh, not digging this move to the AL at all. By evening out the leagues, will it stop Interleague play?
No, actually, two 15-team leagues will require Interleague Play to take place every single day. I’ve read that each team could play up to 30 Interleague games a year with this new format, up from around 15.
@WyattBEarp: Starting in 2013 can the Astros at least play the Cardinals in Interleague Play?
I do know that there were discussions during the negotiation process to throw the Astros a bone and perhaps give them a Cardinals and/or Cubs Interleague series at home in 2013. I do not know if those requests will be granted. It would be nice if that did happen, and I don’t think it’s asking a lot for MLB to make it happen, given the number of Interleague games each team is going to have to play anyway.
@dais98: Did all the realignment talks start this past year? Wondering if Crane deal had happened in ’08, would moving have been required?
Good question. From what I have been able to gather, a handful of teams have wanted realignment for a while, but I’m not sure how far back it goes. One team really pushing for it came from the six-team NL Central (not the Astros). The teams that were opposed, not surprisingly, were in the four-team AL West.
As to what would have happened in ’08 if Crane had bought the team then, that’s anyone’s guess. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that this issue could have been a sticking point back then as well. There have never been any willing volunteers to switch leagues in the last decade, so baseball had to wait until a team was sold in order to make this happen. And the Astros ended up getting caught in the middle.
@20Becks09: Will Mr. Crane look to hire his own GM and manager?
TBA. I’m sure those meetings will start tomorrow as Crane and George Postolos, who will take over as CEO, dive into the decision-making process. We’ll have to wait and see who stays and who goes, if anyone.
@20Becks09: Do we also expect the Astros be future players in free agency going forward for after 2013?
It is my belief that the payroll will increase as the Astros improve, and that when it’s time to really be a contender, there will be money to spend in free agency. The first thing they have to do is produce their own Major League talent. Free agents do not turn a 100-loss team into a 95-win team. They’re added as the cherry on top to a team that already is sound from top to bottom: good pitching, solid defense and a strong lineup (in that order). To throw gobs of money at one player right now would do nothing but handcuff the team for years, especially toward the end of that long-term contract when the player isn’t productive anymore. That one player may be able to bring a team, what, 10 more wins? The Astros need a lot more than that.
I realize that what I call the Big Four — scouting, player development, International scouting and Latin America — aren’t the most exciting elements for fans. I get that. Really, I do. But it’s the lifeline of a team, and for the last two or so years, that’s where the Astros’ focus (and money) has gone. I’m cool with that. If done correctly, the Astros can get good, and, more importantly, stay good.
@castrovince: Will you now be known as ALyson Footer? … OK, that was lame. Sorry.
Ba-da-bum. I already saw some fans calling our second baseman NLtuve in protest to the move. That’s a little more clever, to be frank.
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