Given what I’ve published prior, you might be saying, “Huh?” but I feel for Jim Crane. The man about to take over the Houston Astros may wind up with the shortest honeymoon period of any new owner in recent memory.
Crane is in a no-win situation. After several attempts to land an MLB club, barring some last minute snafu, Crane will finally do so on Thurs. when MLB’s owners vote to approve the $680 million sale from Drayton McLane.
The bad thing for Crane is, the sale has the added wrinkle of moving the Astros to the AL West as early as the 2013 season in the mix. Fans, incensed at the notion of the 50-year relationship with the National League is about to bid farewell have already begun booing Crane for “bowing to Selig” over the move.
To be blunt, that’s unfair.
Look, the Astros move to the AL is something bigger than Jim Crane. Truth me told, it’s something that not only the owners want to see, but so do the players as it balances the schedule out.
Never mind that we’ll get interleague daily, the Astros would be moving to the AL whether Jim Crane, Drayton McLane, or some mystery owner behind door #2 was in the ownership position. In that, Crane can’t win. He knows that if he wants the club, he has to make the move. The only question needing to be answered is how much his investor group would be compensated.
And look, at $680 million, Drayton McLane was probably right when he said there wasn’t going to be a better deal out there.
The bad thing is, while $680 million is good for McLane and MLB (even if there’s a $50 million compensation element for the move to the AL, it will be the highest sale price, ever), it may be bad for the Astros.
Crane has already been involved in furthering the “house cleaning” having approved of the Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn deals. That netted eight prospects, but the Astros might not be done, yet. It’s been rumored that Wandy Rodriguez could be next.
In other words, the Astros could be in the same position that they were in 2011 – dead last. The move the AL will cause a major shift in how Ed Wade (or whoever is the next GM, should Crane clean house on the baseball ops side, as expected) goes after building the team for 2013 and beyond.
So, give Crane some slack. He’s entering a situation that no other owner has had to deal with. Don’t cry that he “sold out” to land the Astros. Remember, the Astros were going to go the AL regardless. Give Crane some rope with extra slack. Next year at this time is when you really need to take stock in the direction that the Astros are headed. This season should be written off as “priming the pump.”
Maury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey, and is a contributor to Forbes SportsMoney blog.. He is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network (select his name in the dropdown provided).
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