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Why I Love the Playoffs, But Not Drayton McLane: An Astros Hot Stove Rant

As I stated in the comments section of a post the other day, I love MLB’s playoffs.  Yes, they haven’t involved my team for the last few years, but the thing about the playoffs that I love is that there’s so much character to the games that gets amplified by the stage.  Sure, they’re short series with little actual merit to the true talent of teams, but they're entertaining and they generally teach us a lesson or two about how to construct an organization; which is what this post will be about.



Let’s start with everyone’s favorite bandwagon since 2004, the Boston Red Sox.  Never in the history of man have so many fans popped out of nowhere as when the Red Sox managed to win game four of the ALCS that year.  My bias towards their newbie fans who don’t understand that their newly anointed saints spent the better part of a century finding new and more humiliating ways to screw things up withstanding, the Red Sox are a model organization.  The ownership and the management have one goal: winning as many baseball games as possible.  They’ve hired some of the best and brightest minds and spent money on the free agent talent needed to shore up the gaps in their talent while paying what has been needed to build one of the stronger farm systems in the game.  No expense has been too much and now corner has been cut.  While it’s necessary to include the caveat that they also have one of the largest markets possible, the message they send to their fans is that they’re going to ensure you have something worth rooting for.



The Tampa Bay Rays.  Jesus.  Where do you even begin with this?  This team defined atrocious for a decade.  In spite of all the top draft picks and the big name free agents and managers, they just couldn’t put together a winner.  They looked like the Pittsburgh Pirates without a hay day.  Then, the organization put together a truly top notch front office with a belief in both traditional and sabermetric analysis anchored by the likes of Andrew Friedman and Gerry Hunsicker.  A few tweaks in the line-up, some addition by subtraction via the Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett for Delmon Young and Brendan Harris trade, and viola: the Rays had a winner.  This organization exemplifies the desire of a team to be bold and use its limited resources as judiciously as possible.  It took them awhile to get the formula right, but I don’t think anyone in New York or Boston is going to enjoy the next four or five years as all of the Rays’ players enter the peaks of their very young and promising careers.



I’m just going to stick with the AL, because the NL teams almost remind me of the cluster fuck they we’ve got here in Houston (the Dodgers mainly).  We have an owner whose sole interest is the bottom line.  He ran a talented GM out of Houston who according to The Book On the Book, was the fourth best general manager in 2003, the year preceding our most successful seasons. An owner who has consistently refused to spend those last few dollars to tip the scales and take this team from good to great (2004 and 2005 withstanding).  An owner who cannot possibly be interested in exploiting every possible avenue to ensuring that the players he invests in will provide the performance he expects -- how I’m so sure of this: Preston Wilson and Randy Wolf.  An owner who neglected to invest in a farm system for too many years because it would have cost an extra million or two -- apparently he also doesn't understand Net Present Value.



He’s a man who’s gotten lucky; no more so ever than this year.  Somehow, the addition of Randy Wolf and LaTroy Hawkins just happened to coincide with the Astros offense and pitching as a whole turning on after being dormant for two months.  In retrospect, his comments that he wasn’t going to blow the team up and that he’d keep spending what he had to have a winner make him look like a saint.  So how is the saint going to follow it up? Well he’s not going to sign the one piece of talent that this team needs if it’s going to do more than win just enough games to seem good.  



It’s despicable.



In 2007, Forbes estimates that Drayton saw a net operating income of $20.4 million, a substantial portion of which was derived from the 3,020,405 attendees to Astros home games.  Assuming that that most of the revenue a team receives is tied to attendance, I’m going to roughly estimate that in 2008, Drayton will realize a operating income of $18.4 million (there was 7.9% drop in attendance in 2008, but ticket prices also dramatically increased, making my assumption not as ludicrous as it seems).  In essence, Drayton will have banked $35 million dollars+ over the last two seasons.  Somehow though, there’s just not room in the budget for the addition of Ben Sheets or a comparable top tier FA starter.  Word on the street is that Sheets, in his highest hopes, is looking for four years.  Assuming that the going rate is a generous $15 million a season, on average, Drayton already has over half of that covered from the last two years worth of profit alone.  



This is the team we have to root for.  The cut corners, plays gung ho for the media, but apparently don’t give a damn behind closed doors cheap-skate, Drayton McLane.  Every time I watched Matt Garza deliver a pitch the other night, Dustin Pedoria be gritty, or Dice-K walk his tight rope, a part of me died.  If Drayton holds back in forking over the cash it takes to make this team a winner, it will really be hard for me to want to root for this team and that’s a shame.