This is a pretty big news story for the Chronicle. J.J. Ortiz writes that Drayton McLane admits that he had a handshake deal to sell the Astros to businessman Jim Crane last year. However, the deal fell through as the economy hit the rocks. Interestingly, we had read rumors that the Astros were for sale, but McLane continually denied the rumors...and it really seemed like just rumors. Ortiz's article highlights the fact that McLane now admits something he once said was false.
Richard Justice also gets in on the action, talking about the telephone call from Drayton McLane admitting that the sale had almost occurred. One wonders which reporter got this scoop, and how it got parceled out, since Ortiz has the copywrighted news article on the subject. Justice says he "almost passed out" when Drayton told him that he had a deal to sell the Astros. Drayton had a nice line for Justice:
''I've never sought a buyer,'' he said, ''but I listen. Wouldn't you listen if the New York Times called?''
Justice's article reminisces on McLane's tenure as owner almost as if McLane is already gone. Apparently he justifies that tact by saying that, if McLane was willing to sell the club then, he will be willing to do so in the future. I'm not so sure about that. Justice also claims that some of the team executives quickly signed contracts to protect themselves in the event that a new owner wanted to bring in new employees.
From the fan's perspective, this leads you to ask "what would have been?" last off-season if the team had been sold. Maybe Randy Wolf gets signed instead of Hampton. Justice wonders if McLane's ordered budget cut is an effort to strip the team's expenses to make it more attractive to buyers. Note, however, that McLane was only selling 51% of the team; he apparently would have remained as part owner. And, in the last two years, I have wondered if Astros' fans would be better off if McLane had a new partner who might bring additional money to the table. The frustrating thing about the McLane ordered budget cuts is that the 2009 budget only needed $10 - $15 million to be much more competitive--and interesting.
Oh, and in a related news, the Greenberg group (which includes Nolan Ryan) was selected over the Gilbert-Crane group to negotiate for purchase of the Rangers. And, yes, that's the same Crane who wanted to buy the Astros.