The news some have dreaded and others cherished is soon to become reality - the Astros will become the property of Jim Crane and destined to join the American League for the 2013 season. For agreeing to move, Richard Justice reports that the Crane group will receive a $70 million "discount" off the original $680 million sale price - with half to be surrendered by outgoing owner Drayton McLane and half to be paid by Major League Baseball.
Crane: Now the work begins
(c) Associated Press
Not uncoincidentally, the deal will be consummated in Milwaukee, another sign of Commissioner Bud Selig's power over the sport. It was Milwaukee that moved from the American League to the National League in 1997 to create the imbalance that now forces the Astros to abandon 50 years of National League history and switch to the other league. But the Brewers are Bud's team and he's not about to force them back into the inferior league.
Many Houston fans yearned for the day when McLane would no longer own the club but will Crane's reign be any better? Certainly not in the beginning. The Astros are committed to providing another 100-loss team in 2012, shelling out big bucks only to failures they can't unload at any cost.
Speaking of failures, how long does Crane stick with Ed Wade as General Manager? Wade had an impossible task trying to keep a competitive team going with an ever-shrinking payroll but, other than Wandy Rodriguez, he's now out of trading pieces with which to upgrade the club. Jon Heyman recently tweeted that the Astros might relent and sign a free agent or two. If they think they will win back any fans signing more players on the level of Bill Hall and Ryan Rowland-Smith, they should think again.
As one writer put it, Crane will not receive the honeymoon that most new owners receive. He's walking into a buzzsaw of anger, resentment and indifference for which $70 million may not soon seem like enough. Major League Baseball did him no favors either by painting him as a bigot and a war profiteer so as to "soften him up" for a league switch. As the club continues to lose at a record clip, does Selig think Houston fans will ignore these allegations just because MLB eventually did? There's going to be blowback for playing the race card.
Then there's the year-long 50th Anniversary celebration which will be a daily reminder next summer that Crane and his cohorts are spitting upon that very history as they scramble to find a designated hitter and sell American League baseball to various cable outlets. Let's just say this year will be dripping in awkwardness. I'm curious if any of the invited Astros alumni will refuse to take part.
The joy and celebration of 2005 now seems like 100 years ago. Lance Berkman summed it all up in one word - travesty. Of course, Lance can say that because he's now a Cardinal and he now has a Worlds Championship, something Houston won't be seeing for a very long time.
- Bob Hulsey