Houston Astros: 7 Reasons New Owner Will Help the Astros
About two weeks ago, local businessman Jim Crane agreed to purchase the Houston Astros from Drayton McLane for a huge price tag of $680 million. This was Crane's fourth attempt to buy a major league team and the second time he tried to purchase the Astros.
His persistence paid off as it looks like he will be the new owner of the Astros, once it is approved by the other team owners. This is great news for the Astros organization and the fans, as the organization no longer has to sit in a holding pattern, and with a new owner can start planning for the future.
Now, some may believe that a new owner really has no bearing on the product on the field, but it effects it more than you think. Here are seven reasons Jim Crane will help the Astros.
New Leadership Means New Ideas
Drayton McLane owned the Astros since 1993 and the team was successful for a number of years. However, things that worked in 1993 don't necessarily work in 2011 and getting new ownership can bring in fresh ideas and a different way to look at situations.
That is what Jim Crane can bring to this team and one of the reasons Astros fans should be excited. I am not saying all his ideas will work, but the direction McLane has taken the Astros the past few seasons has not worked either, so new ideas can't hurt.
Jim Crane has made his fortune and lived in Houston for some time. If there is any owner that can relate to the people of Houston and bring the community back to the Astros, it's this man. The Astros have seen attendance drop over the past few years, but I think that had more to do with the product on the field being below average because McLane cut payroll drastically.
The people of Houston will come back to supporting the Astros once the team improves, but I think Crane can bring fans back quicker being local and hopefully using that to relate better to them.
You don't pay the second biggest price tag for a MLB team if you don't love baseball. According to ESPN.com, the Astros were sold for more than the Boston Red Sox and only trail the sale of the Cubs two years ago that went for $845 million. Not to mention this was his fourth attempt in purchasing a team.
I can't see Jim Crane settling for anything less than the Astros being one of the top teams in MLB again, and will do whatever it takes to get back to that point. Having an owner with that kind of passion can only help an organization.
Bring in New People
Jim Crane has not wasted any time bringing in new people into the organization to start shaking things up. It has already been reported that former Houston Rockets president George Postolos will become the new Astros' CEO. I think this is a good move as Postolos has already worked in Houston and brought the Rockets back to relevance by helping them move to a new arena and played a key role that got Yao Ming to Houston.
Start Spending on Free Agents
It seems for the past few years the Astros have only been interested in aging veterans who can be a stop gap for a year or two. Some have worked, like Brett Myers, but the majority of the moves have not worked out well for Houston. Pedro Feliz, Clint Barmes and Bill Hall have been signed by the Astros to short contracts as a way to keep payroll down, but have not really affected the product on the field.
Hopefully Jim Crane can get back to making smart, calculated moves in the free agency market to bring some talent to Houston. Now, I am not advocating him to go out and over spend for the top free agents every year, but I feel the Astros can bring in better talent than a Pedro Feliz or a Bill Hall, especially with Carlos Lee's contract coming off the books in less than two years.
Start Locking Up Younger Stars
The Astros started to do this a little bit before Crane took over with the contract extension of Wandy Rodriguez, but Crane needs to start locking up the younger talent to long term deals. Players like Michael Bourn, Hunter Pence and Brett Wallace are just starting to enter their primes, and by giving them long term deals, the Astros will actually save money.
They won't have to worry about them entering the free agency market and trying to outbid the bigger market teams, like the two New York clubs and Boston. The Astros are no longer handcuffed in keeping payroll down for the potential sale, and can now start to spend some money.
Building Through the Draft
Jim Crane has already said that his No. 1 priority will be to rebuild the farm system. He was asked how he plans to build a good franchise and he said, "it starts in a couple of weeks with the draft. The successful teams build depth at the bottom...you have to have a very good farm system."
The Astros got away from this philosophy the past few years and it will be refreshing to get back to this. However, Crane will need to make sure to lock the players up to long term extensions when they start contributing at the major league level, and support them with a key free agent here and there, and I think he understands that.
The Astros are at a low point right now sitting in the basement of the NL Central, but the first step to get back to the World Series has already taken place with Jim Crane taking over ownership of the Astros. It can only go up from here.