A Bill Of Particulars

added 5/17/2011 by Patrick Hajovsky

There have been several posts in the Forum speculating what Jim Crane is going to do with the Astros once he's officially the team's new owner. I've now seen the Monday's press conference and I can safely say I have no idea. I do have a very strong feeling that, based on that performance, Crane is some kind of horrible public speaker. But that's OK. Let me state for the record that if I ever purchase the Houston Astros, I will be stumbling through that speech like a first grader at a poetry recitation.

Another thing I learned from watching the presser is the unmistakable fact that Jim Crane “loves baseball”. It makes me wonder if this will be the new tagline to replace, “Are you ready to be a champion??”

Crane to Brad Mills: “Hello.”
Mills: “Hello. Glad to meet you.”
Crane: “You know, I love baseball. Don’t you?”
Mills: “Well, sure. You going to get me some players?”
Crane: “I hope so because, well, I love baseball.”

Mills to press: “I had a great meeting with Mr. Crane. I can tell you, he loves baseball.”

I'm really glad that Crane loves baseball, because so do I. In particular, I love the Houston Astros. In that vein, here is a Bill of Particulars against the Houston Astros that I would like him to address. My charges are not weighty or grave, but I, as a lover of baseball, need these to be remedied.

First, the uniforms need some updating and retrofitting, all at the same time. I'm fine with the Astros logo and all, but the pinstripes HAVE GOT TO GO!!! Those things stink. They’re non-Houston. The Saturday uniforms are the way to go. The bright white with the line down the side and the red hats are the best uniform of the current bunch. Mr. Crane, if you love baseball, you'll get rid of the pinstripes.

Second, bring back the cap logo with the starred “H”. It just so happens that the Astros belong to “Houston” (starts with H), not Crane (starts with C). The starred “H” cap logo has been around since 1965 and, despite Drayton's best attempts with the slanted star and then the current open star, it was never killed. So the starred “H” with the red caps and the Saturday uniforms are necessary to redress the uniform mishaps of the McLane Era.

Third, and this goes back to the Judge, through John McMullen and now through Drayton McLane, please permit fans to bring food into the stadium. I personally think Minute Maid Park provides one of the best fan experiences and is one of the most beautiful ballparks in the game. However, the one glaring omission is ownership's prohibition on bringing food to the park. Mr. Crane, you said you want to have the best product you can for the fans. If so, this would be a dramatic step in the right direction.

Fourth, you need to convene regular outreach sessions to fans. Yes, I realize that if you're not careful, these sessions could bring out all the yahoos who expect you to sign Albert Pujols for a Houston discount. As I said, I like the current fan experience, but increasingly fans are made to feel like they are merely cash cows. Increase their personal, intellectual stake in the product and the process and you can only benefit.

Fifth, work with Jo Russell to turn the annual Houston Baseball Dinner into a day-long baseball fan fest event. So often in prior regimes, if a group of fans wanted to do something, the team would say, “Fine. Go ahead. We’ll be over here.” Support these efforts! Waiting until after Opening Day to have Fan Fest is not the way to stoke interest in the offseason. That event could be the capper of a long day of autograph sessions, baseball seminars, etc. And make the event free. Charge for the dinner, of course, but make the day-long event free.

Sixth, I've seen your presser and you are obviously reluctant to talk publicly, but ownership of a Major League baseball team is a public speaking role. The more you stay away from fans, the more they will consider you less invested in the product. This is not a role that you can pawn off to George Postolos. Show up at the baseball dinner, do interviews, mix with the fans (who happen to love baseball just as much as you do). People are reasonable, generally speaking. If you explain the path back to contention, they will want to follow you. Recognize your duty here.

Seventh, and perhaps most important, don't expect every event to be a money-making event. I realize that you have investors who are not at all interested in baseball. I get it. But, owning a major league baseball team is as much a public trust as it is an investment. For example, websites like AstrosDaily.com are dependent on the Astros (who have been more than supportive so far) to permit them to operate with licensed logos. That needs to continue, for free.

As well, the Astros in Action Foundation has been great, but the Astros as a team can produce so many more community outreach events. Do you know how many little leagues there are around town? There is no excuse that the Astros should not be engaged in some meaningful way with each and every one of them.

Eighth, and finally, do not stop the rebuilding process that the Astros are currently on. It does mean that attendance will sag for awhile. But this process is an investment in the future. The fact is, the Astros are not very far away with their young players. Do not approve middling contracts for aged players such as Bill Hall when you can promote younger players like Tommy Manzella.

The Drayton McLane Astros brand consisted of Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio. Your brand will be the new stars – Brett Wallace, Jason Castro, Hunter Pence, etc. Keep building it up, and the wins (and the fans) will come.

Of these eight items, there's a reason that only one of them, and the last one at that, had to do with the product on the field. You, Mr. Crane, are an owner, not a GM. You’re a successful businessman because, no doubt, you put the right people in the right roles and let them do their jobs. You can certainly screw up their jobs, but if the right people are left alone, they do the right things and not you.

I'm excited about you being the fourth real owner in Astros history, and everything suggests you’ll be successful. While I've been sarcastic, telling the fans you love baseball is a good start, especially compared to Drayton not knowing a durn thing about it when he bought the team. So if you address these charges, we’ll know you’re serious. Why? Because we love baseball, too.