I believe that Drayton McLane is positioning the Astros to be sold in the very near future. Their value had dropped at the beginning of 2009 for the first time in 5 years, revenue is steady, player expense is consistent with an expected drop in 2010 and operating income hasn’t varied a full percentage point in 3 years. Given our current economic state and the fact that ticket prices are not going up, I foresee the veterans being shopped during the winter meetings. This would lower player expense, artificially inflating operating income; all of which would make the team more attractive. Drayton bought the Astros for 108 million and now the team if worth 445 million according to Forbes (2009 12th most valuable team in baseball). You have five solid sponsors in CITGO, Coke, Budweiser, AT&T and Continental Airlines with one minor being Methodist hospital. This is an attractive team for a prospective owner.
The Astros are #12 in revenue, 15th in operating income and 12th overall as a franchise. Drayton McLane is only making money saving moves at this point. He is not even attempting to improve the franchise. They are building the minor league system and there seems to be no expectations coming from the front office any longer. With McLane’s "favorites" (Bagwell, Biggio, Oswalt, Berkman, etc.) slowly retiring and it seems that the novelty of being a sports franchise owner is gone for Drayton and it’s become work. I believe the time is right for an ownership change and could completely change the face of the Houston sports market.
We have long been known as a "football city" but that couldn’t be further from the truth. We are a championship city; a bandwagon city if you will. When the Rockets were winning titles we were "Clutch City". When the Astros were going to the playoffs almost every year we were transforming into a "Baseball town" (evident by back to back 3million in attendance years). If the Texans can get to the playoffs this year we will once again be a football town. But, with all that said, its titles the Houston sports fan follows not a specific sport (apologies to the Dynamo who just don’t rate). With the right owner with the right mindset; the Astros could dominate this town like the Red Sox dominate Boston over the Patriots. I wonder if Mark Cuban would like a baseball team closer to home.