Drayton McLane and the Future of the Houston Astros' Ownership, Home City

Richard ZowieCorrespondent IJanuary 14, 2010

HOUSTON - OCTOBER 15:  Owner of the Houston Astros Drayton McLane (R) greets a fan before the start of Game Three of the National League Championship Series against the St. Louis Cardinals at Minute Maid Park on October 15, 2005 in Houston, Texas.    (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
Brian Bahr/Getty Images

I remember sometime in the mid- to late-1990s the horrible rumors swirling around Houston: Drayton McLane was so tired of not being able to get a new stadium that he was about to sell the team to a faceless group of investors who would then relocate the 'Stros to Northern Virginia, where they'd become known as the Virginia Fury.

To deal with the possible stress of losing my favorite team, I joked with one Astros fan that if they relocated to Plymouth, Mass., perhaps they could be known as the Plymouth Fury. One would wonder if Stephen King might even have become an investor in the team.

So now, the Astros have a 10-year-old stadium in Minute Maid Park. We remember it used to be called Bankruptcy Ballpark, back when Enron had the corporate sponsorship.

Some worry now that if the Astros are sold, the new owners might move them.

Well, considering Houston's in the 10th season of a 30-year lease in Minute Maid, it's highly unlikely they'll be relocating anywhere anytime soon. Not when prospective buyers would have to pay the Houston Sports Authority $150 million to break the lease (or $125 million if they wait until 2013 to leave).

Does Major League Baseball really want potential buyers of the Astros to relocate the team from the nation's fourth-largest city to a much smaller city like Portland, Ore., Las Vegas, Buffalo, or Durham, N.C.? Somehow I doubt it. I especially doubt the team relocating to Montreal, where baseball has failed (even with the Expos having a gargantuan fan in Pee Wee Herman).

Yes, I suspect the Astros will be in Houston for years to come. No need for me to focus my loyalties on a new NL team (such as the Los Angeles Dodgers) or in my favorite AL team (the Kansas City Royals).

That being said, we must now wonder if the team will be sold.

If and when McLane sells the team, is it possible that fans (including yours truly) will have "sellers' remorse" and regret the new ownership?

I'd like to see Houston sold to someone in Houston rather than someone in another state. But it doesn't ultimately matter as long as the owner's competent. McLane's predecessor, John McMullen, was based out of New Jersey, but what troubled me about him wasn't his being from the Garden State but his allowing great players to leave and replacing them with has-beens and never-will-bes.

We've learned now that McLane is trying to sell the Astros for $650 million, and that prospective buyers are apparently balking at that. McLane may have two options: 1. Keep the team and hope it has some sort of renaissance that makes fans forget how much they wanted to see McLane sell, or 2. Lower his asking price.

What's more, Forbes magazine (according to the $650 million link) listed the Astros' value in 2009 at $445 million. Prospective buyers will have this hard question for McLane to answer: Considering the team's been in a steady decline since its only World Series appearance in 2005, why should we pay $195 million more than what your team's valued at?

Whether McLane keeps the team or whether someone buys it, I wish only that the management employs common sense and entrusts baseball decisions to people who know baseball instead of people who think they know baseball. Here's an excellent example, according to the Baseball Hall of Shame:

Back around the 1929 season, Judge Emil Fuchs, owner of the Boston Braves, decided to try his hand at managing the ballclub. In the latter innings of one game, the team had a runner on third base with only one out. Rabbit Maranville, a longtime shortstop for the team who'd been around baseball for many years, suggested to Fuchs that they use a squeeze play to get the runner home.

Fuchs replied: "I'll do nothing of the sort. We'll win this game honorably or not at all."

Richard Zowie is a Bleacher Report Featured Columnist for the Astros. Post comments below or e-mail richardzowie@gmail.com.