Drayton McLane Admits He Nearly Sold Astros: Could It Happen Again?

Richard ZowieCorrespondent IDecember 16, 2009

HOUSTON - APRIL 3:  Chairman and CEO Drayton McLane of the Houston Astros speaks to the crowd before the Opening Day game against the Florida Marlins at Minute Maid Park on April 3, 2006 in Houston, Texas. The Astros won 1-0.  (Photo by Bill Baptist/Getty Images)
Bill Baptist/Getty Images

Yesterday, Houston Astros owner Drayton McLane said something that gives 'Stros fans some hope for the future.

He admitted that in 2008, he nearly sold the team.

Ever since purchasing the Astros from John McMullen after the 1992 MLB season, McLane's Astros have been in the playoffs six times. Their last time was in 2005, when they went to their first-ever World Series.

That current four-year drought (which will probably turn into five and maybe even six years) is the longest streak under McLane.

Ever since that magical 2005 season, Houston's been free-falling. If Tom Petty's song "Free Fallin'" hadn't been about dumping his girlfriend and the geography of Southern California, I'd swear he had a crystal ball and saw Houston from 2005-2009 when he wrote it.

The Houston Chronicle reports that McLane acknowledged he almost sold the team to Houston businessman Jim Crane, who had also tried to purchase the Chicago Cubs and Texas Rangers.

What led to the deal falling apart? Reportedly, McLane decided on a price and asked Crane to pay that price.

One has to wonder if it was $445 million, the price the Astros are estimated to be worth by Forbes Magazine. Some might think that's a steep price to pay for a team that's never won the World Series and probably won't be in the playoffs this next season.

Be that as it may, I'd love to see McLane sell the team since he seems to be adopting his predecessor's habits: letting talented, quality players go and signing in their place those who aren't up to snuff in an effort to save money.

Yes, I know, ticket sales are down, so we must economize and get rid of expensive players or not pursue expensive players. Problem is, when you settle for cheap, second-rate players, you'll lose even more revenue in the long run. Just like you do when you spend lots of money and invest in a no-trade clause for players who turn out not to be worth the investment.

Here's a loose analogy: I tried to save money a few weeks ago by getting the dollar-store dishwashing liquid instead of Palmolive. Guess what? The dishes didn't come out nearly as clean. Some had to be washed again. And again.

On the flip side, people no longer called me "Madge" (if you were born after 1980, you might not get that 1970s commercial reference).

Whether it's Jim Crane, Frasier Crane, or a Whooping Crane, whoever owns the Astros next, I hope to see these two things:

1. A willingness to spend money. Let's face it: Major League Baseball's one of the worst businesses to get into if you're not willing to invest the money it'll take to field a good team. Taking a dollar-store approach to the game will ultimately lead to this conclusion: If you want cheap players, you'll get a cheap team.

A restaurant owner told me recently he invested $20,000 in a ventilation system. That might seem excessive, but it helps to suck out the disgusting, annoying cigarette smoke and allows the non-smokers to enjoy a meal in peace. Happy customers means repeat business.

Yes, I know some great players are available at incredible bargains. Sometimes they're that way for a reason, and other times they play too well, to where their market value skyrockets and a team willing to spend more snatches them up.

Other times, they do something else that makes them radioactive in the eyes of the Astros: They hire Scott Boras as their agent.

2. A savviness for baseball, or at the very least, a willingness to hire, listen to, and heed those who know the game. A business works best when you surround yourself with wise counsel.

Any owner who thinks purchasing a baseball team immediately makes him or her more knowledgeable than a crusty scout who's been around for 50 years and has seen and heard it all is more naive than a young Baptist on his or her wedding night.

I'll never forget the Texas Rangers signing Alex Rodriguez to a 10-year, $250 million contract. Yikes. Pay-Rod was obviously talented, but considering he was later traded to the New York Yankees and that the Rangers had to shoulder part of the contract until Rodriguez famously opted out of it during the playoffs a few years ago, one has to wonder if it was really a good investment for the team.

And yes, to beat that dead horse yet again, I'd love to see the team lose those ugly uniforms. I'm a sucker for those blue-and-orange, 1960s shooting star uniforms and for those blue hats with the white H superimposed over the orange star.

So, now we'll sit back and see if Drayton McLane is serious about selling the Houston Astros or if it's some sort of scheme to drive up interest in the team.


Richard Zowie is a Bleacher Report blogger and a longtime Astros fan who's looking into writing a series of "Where Are They Now?" posts on former Astros players. Contact Richard at richardzowie@bleacherreport.com .