First time posting here on TCB – I'll try to avoid making this the longest first post ever, but it doesn't look promising!
I had the opportunity yesterday to attend a private Q&A with team president Reid Ryan. The Q&A ran close to 2 hours and was part of the Houston SABR chapter's monthly meeting. (Just an aside – I think many of you would be interested in seeing what SABR is all about. Ignoring the fact that sabermetric concepts come up on this site about every 10 seconds, the speakers at the monthly meetings are pretty incredible. Front office guys, ex-ballplayers, etc.)
It's obvious why Reid Ryan was chosen as the new public "face" – he's a highly entertaining guy and I could have listened to him talk about the team all day. Here are a few of my highlights from his Q&A:
- On the radio shuffle: Getting bumped from 740 to 790 was a Clear Channel decision based on the amount of money they make from syndicated programming (he pointed to additional changes Clear Channel has made, like moving to the Jay Mohr show, as evidence of a continued shift away from less lucrative local content). One possible approach Ryan mentioned to deal with the fact that 790 has so much less signal strength is to sign more affiliate deals. He said he'd like to see it like in the old days, when Milo had to go through like 50 affiliates at the top of the hour. Anyway, the point is that he thinks the team can patch together a radio network with good coverage across the area even without 740.
- Interestingly, he tacked onto the end of this thought that a similar approach might be able to be used to deal with getting games onto people's TVs. Unfortunately he moved on from this very quickly so I'm not exactly sure what that means. In hindsight, I wish that I or someone else in the room was a better/real journalist and would have pegged him down a bit more on that. Very cryptic. I'm sorry for failing you, TCB!
- He spoke at length about CSN, but unfortunately there's just not much new ground to cover here. He did say that he expects to be able to pay free agent salaries when the time is right regardless of whether CSN happens. The difference is, if there's no CSN we become the Rays or A's and have more of a revolving door focusing on more value-type guys. If CSN does happen we have the ability to become more like the '90s-'00s Astros with recognizable long term faces in the lineup (but with a better plan behind the scenes).
- Don't expect to see George Springer in Houston at all this season, even after the MiLB playoffs. The main reason is the Rule 5 draft (reading between the lines, it seemed like the chase for 40/40 matters and gaining playoff experience really matters, but he really spoke at length about Rule 5). The FO expects the team to be a big Rule 5 target this year and so they need to protect as many guys as possible. Since Springer isn't Rule 5 eligible yet there's no need to protect him and therefore, no 40 man spot until next year. BUT next year, "expect to see him on the field every day".
This thought process was actually the motivator behind bringing up Cody Clark when Stassi went down. Not to take anything away from him achieving his big debut, but Ryan said he just happened to be the right guy at the right place at the right time. Once Corporan and Stassi come off the DL, Clark will be put on waivers and removed from the 40 man to clear up another Rule 5 slot. (It will be interesting to see if Corporan or Stassi stays up after coming off the DL – my money's on Stassi based on how Rule-5-focused they seem to be.) They felt comfortable adding Clark to the 40 man because they're confident nobody else will claim him when he's removed.
So in light of the fact that the Rule 5 is a big motivator behind the team's September callups this year, any bets on who those callups will be?
- This probably should have been more of a Luhnow question, but I asked what the story is with Kyle Weiland (dropping off the face of the earth, then just showing up again at AAA like everything's cool). His response: "Honestly, I don't know. I was at that game at OKC and I was pretty surprised too." My hard-hitting investigative journalism career is about to take off, I can feel it!
- He expects Japhet Amador to be in uniform starting today at OKC. He seemed almost giddy about watching him play.
- His opinion is that a minor league team in The Woodlands is a bad idea. He said his dad Nolan doesn't like having the Rangers' affiliate in Frisco because he feels it directly competes with the parent team. For the Astros, having a AAA team in New Orleans would be ideal because there's no direct competition and – more telling – it opens up another TV market. It all comes back to $.
- One person asked if the team had considered adding an Astros museum to MMP. Interestingly, his response was "it's funny you should mention that. We were just talking about ideas for this the other day. I don't like how everything's spread all over the park. There should be a centralized Astros museum in the park. But where to put it is the challenge. We actually have a large space available now on the Club level where the ticket office used to be, but how do you keep visitors from just walking out into other people's seats?" Very interesting and unexpected conversation. I wonder a) where everyone reading this thinks it should be, and b) what it should contain.
That's about it! This is all from memory, so if you have any specific questions about what he said or whether he talked about certain topics, ask away – it may have slipped my memory as I was typing this up.