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How Can Jim Crane Save the Houston Astros?

HOUSTON - APRIL 26:  Hunter Pence #9 of the Houston Astros hits a home run in the fourth inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at Minute Maid Park on April 26, 2011 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
HOUSTON - APRIL 26: Hunter Pence #9 of the Houston Astros hits a home run in the fourth inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at Minute Maid Park on April 26, 2011 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
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Attendance at Minute Maid Park is starting to look like a mixture of Florida Marlins games and Charlie Sheen's comedy tour.

Not pretty.

At what point did the fan base's confidence erode in the Houston Astros management?  Could it have been when we let Gerry Hunsicker go? What about letting Nolan Ryan leave for the Texas Rangers? Could it have been a bad mixture of bad free agent signings, not signing draft picks, bad promotions and poor advertisements? Survey says that it's probably all of the above and attendance thus far is showing. This could be the first season that the Astros fail to reach 2 million in attendance for the first time in the existence of Minute Maid Park.

It appears that Jim Crane is still in play to buy the Houston Astros according to MLB officials. So, if you're Jim Crane, how would you fix this train wreck of an organization? Would you fire Ed Wade and Tal Smith? Do you rebuild or simply think that you're a piece or two away from actually contending? What about marketing for the Astros? Jim Crane is going to have make tough decisions that may or may not be popular with the fans. I'm hardly a GM, but let's take a look at what decisions Jim Crane may have to make in the near future.

Do you fire Ed Wade and Tal Smith?

I think that Ed Wade has done a good job in certain aspects of running the Astros, but could simply be a victim of circumstance when a new owner comes aboard. Let's face it. Ed Wade was given rotten lemons and asked to make gourmet lemonade. He inherited the worst farm system in baseball, an aging roster, and a surplus of bad contracts. He talked Drayton McLane and company into committing to the draft and made a great move by hiring Bobby Heck as scouting director. Ed Wade convinced McLane and Tal Smith that is was time for this organization to get younger and shed payroll. He traded away players such as Brad Lidge, Lance Berkman, and Roy Oswalt in return received Michael Bourn, JA Happ, Brett Wallace, Mark Melancon, Jonathan Villar, and Jimmy Paredes. Wade has made some smart waiver claims such as Wilton Lopez, Jeff Fulchino, and Matt Downs. He made some under the radar trades for guys like Enerio Del Rosario, Angel Sanchez, and Jeff Keppinger. We could look at Ed Wade's complete book of work and at the end of the day he could simply be a victim of circumstance by the new owner. 

Does this mean that Jim Crane will automatically fire Ed Wade and hire his own guy? According to the Chicago Tribune, Jim Crane had this to say of his upcoming moves.     

Assuming he succeeds in buying the Astros from Drayton McLane, Jim Crane is expected to hire former Rockets president George Postolos to run his baseball operation. Crane reportedly is infatuated with the idea of prying GM Andrew Friedman away from the Rays. ...

 Infatuated? If you're Ed Wade and you hear that your new owner who has money to burn is infatuated with another potential GM suddenly your job security just went out the door like yesterdays trash. Crane could simply pry away Andrew Friedman with more money and the opportunity to have a higher payroll. I have a feeling that Crane is going to do just this and I wouldn't be surprised to see Andrew Friedman as the new GM of the Houston Astros.  Why? Money talks and having to trade away your best players every 5 years has to be painful as a GM.

What does this mean for Tal Smith? If reports are already surfacing that the potential new owner wants to hire former Rockets president George Postolos to run baseball operations then Smith is living on borrowed time. Smith is widely respected in baseball circles, but could simply be forced out to make room for Crane's handpicked choice to be the head of baseball operations. Tal stepping down is probably way over. It's time for the Astros and Tal Smith to turn the page and simply start a new chapter.

Who would you hire as the New GM of the Houston Astros?

Let's just say for argument sake that Jim Crane doesn't pry away Andrew Friedman to be the next GM of the Astros for whatever reason. Who should Jim Crane hire as the new GM if he fires Ed Wade? In a past blog I looked at candidates such as the Dodgers' Logan White, White Sox assistant GM Rick Hahn, Blue Jays special assistant Dana Brown and Red Sox assistant GM Allard Baird. If I'm Jim Crane I'm looking to make a splash to restore credibility to the Houston Astros. It's time for the Astros to do something bold! Now what would native_astro do? Glad you asked. Alright native, this is your time to shine. It's time for the Astros to do something bold and I would hire former Dodgers team president and current MLB Commissioners office employee Kim Ng. Kim Ng has been hovering around the GM position for over 13 years as an assistant GM. Ng previously worked in baseball's New York headquarters in 1997, as director of waivers and records for the American League. She served as an assistant general manager for the New York Yankees from 1998 through 2001, and then joined the Dodgers in the same capacity in 2002.

According to her Biography:

Ng's primary responsibilities are to assist General Manager Ned Colletti in player acquisitions and contract negotiations, coordinate player transactions, work closely with the scouting and player development departments, oversee the club\'s arbitration efforts, and manage the day-to-day operations of the baseball department including the medical, clubhouse and team travel divisions.

Considered one of the future leaders of baseball, Ng was recently tabbed one of "10 to Watch" by Baseball America in its 25th anniversary issue saluting the most influential people in the game. Additionally, she was featured by Newsweek during its year-end "Who's Next?" edition in 2006.

Ng's tenure at the Dodgers has been highlighted by dramatic improvement in scouting and player development, leading to numerous accolades including the most recent honor, as the Dodgers were named the 2006 Organization of the Year by Baseball America. The publication also called Ng a top general manager prospect in its "Best Tools" issue.

In 2004, along with her other duties, Ng assumed the interim position of Director of Player Development and was responsible for overseeing the Dodgers\' Minor League department, including developing and evaluating all players in the farm system, appointing minor league managers and coaching staff, and overseeing the club\'s winter ball participation and relationships between the Dodgers and their minor league affiliates.

Needless to say, she is more than qualified and would make a great addition to the Houston Astros front office. Ng would be a great hire for this organization and would give the Astros instant credibility around baseball again.

Do you Blow up the Roster and Simply Rebuild?

If I'm Jim Crane, I waste no time in ripping this roster down and starting over. The Astros simply need to continue to build their young core of players around Brett Wallace, Jason Castro, Jordan Lyles, and Hunter Pence. What about Michael Bourn? If I'm the Astros I sell high on Michael Bourn and unload him for two prospects and a fringe MLB player. What does having a gold glove caliber do for a team that has so many holes? The Astros are nowhere near contending as currently constructed and simply need to bring in as much talent as possible in preparation for when guys such as Telvin Nash, Mike Foltynewicz, Tanner Bushue, Delino Deshields Jr., Jonathan Villar, and Ariel Ovando reach the MLB roster.

It may hurt to see guys such as Brett Meyers, Wandy Rodriguez, Michael Bourn, Jeff Keppinger, and Brandon Lyon get traded but in the end it's what's best for this organization. At the time, Texas Rangers fans killed management when the Rangers traded Mark Teixeira to the Braves for Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Elvis Andrus, and Neftali Feliz. Saltalamacchia didn't work out for the Rangers, but Andrus and Feliz were key pieces for the Rangers and the organization reaching its first World Series appearance in 2010. With that said, not every trade is going to be as successful as the Josh Beckett or Mark Teixeira trades, but are key components for the future of organizations success.

How do you plan to market the Astros?

Let's face it! The Astros do a horrible job of marketing their team. From the game promotions to the TV advertisements it's just screams old and is simply awful. I live in the Bay Area and I've seen the Giants rise to the top first hand. The Giants do a great job marketing their team with funny TV ads and clever game promotions.

The Astros on the other hand do not. What in the world is "Price Day Matters?"

Looking for the best value in town? You can save over 50% on Astros baseball this season with Price Matters Days presented by HEB. Available every Monday through Thursday regular season home game, you score:

  • A View Deck II Ticket
  • Hot Dog
  • H-E-B Chips
  • 16-Ounce Fountain Drink

All for only $10!

Are you kidding me? Not a bad deal, but when that's you're go for promotions each week the fans are simply going to get annoyed and lose interest especially when the Astros are losing. Nobody cares that they got a game ticket, a dog, a bag of chips, and a Coca Cola for only $10 when they're team is participating in a live action baseball adaptation of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Now what about TV advertisements for the team? I cannot remember the last time that I saw a TV ad that for the Astros that made me at least laugh, excited, or give me any time of reaction that wasn't boredom. The ads are just simply boring and show how much of an old organization that this team is.

Now let's look at how the Giants advertise tickets to their fans with TV ads such as these (Click the Hyperlinks). See the difference. It's funny, it's edgy, and most of all it doesn't look like a 1960 ad for the Sears catalog. Come on Astros! Really? The Astros need to continue to get younger in every aspect of this organization. Do you really think that the fans care about "Dog Days at the Park" or my favorite in Texas "Bike to the Park" promotion ads? Why don't you have a "Vegan Day at the Park" on the 4th of July game?

Who know what changes Jim Crane may or may not make if and when he purchases the Houston Astros, but for the sake of this organization and the future things really need to change. Change is never a bad thing and for the Houston Astros and the fans it should be welcomed.