At least one writer for our little site is considering giving up the Astros completely in the wake of Jim DeShaies taking a job with the Chicago Cubs. Another expected me to bring a level of outrage at the event that rivals how I felt about Carlos Lee.
For me, the outrage just isn't there.
I completely understand where Tim and all of you commenters are coming from, but to me, this is a story in two parts. I'm not upset that JD got a new job, because that's only the first half of a more complicated narrative.
DeShaies had been operating on one-year contracts for a long time. He was operating on one before Jim Crane and Co. came to town, so there was always a chance that the intelligent, witty analyst could jump ship to a better market. Sure, he'd played for Houston for a long time and developed a long relationship on TV with the Astros. Apparently, Houston thought that was enough to keep him around.
But, I also think that jumping to the Cubs will help his career immensely. For one, he got a multi-year contract, giving him some security in the future. He also probably got a fair raise, which the Astros matched with a "fair market offer," but he ultimately chose to go with the Cubs.
You can't really fault him for that, either. DeShaies is just starting out in his career and if he wants to go national at some point, he needs to get a higher profile that the Cubs can offer. I know Tim brought up the question of why Bob Brenly would leave the Cubs if it was a good deal, but I don't think they're a good comparison. Brenly already had national exposure, having worked on big-time TV broadcasts before. DeShaies hasn't been there yet, so he's going to a market where he can get that exposure.
I'm not outraged about this because I can't drum up any outrage over someone trying to advance their career. I'm happy that JD got the opportunity, even if I'll miss him on the broadcasts. If the Astros add Larry Dierker to the broadcast in JD's stead, or even if they add Dave Raymond (which Steve aka KevinBassStache suggested last night), I think most fans would be mollified.
Except that the JD news fits into a larger pattern with this team. It's another blow to fan confidence and familiarity and I'm not sure how many blows the Astros can sustain. When it comes right down to it, fans root for laundry. There's nothing that sets Houston apart from the Diamondbacks, the Mets or any number of teams besides the location they play half their games.
Houston hasn't had that become more evident than in recent years. With the loss of franchise icons that at least linked things together, this team doesn't have any long-standing ties with the teams that fans used to root for. Yes, they play at the same place, but that's about it.
Everything else is different.
That's why switching the uniforms and logo back to an older design was really an inspired move. This is a team that needs a sense of nostalgia more than ever. They need to remind fans why they root for the team in the first place, and if that's by reminding them of the old days, all the better.
While it's okay to justify trading away expensive veterans for prospects, the Astros are also robbing themselves of both recognizable names and wins. It's great they're finally committing to a full-on rebuild, but I'm not sure they also wanted to rebuild the fan base along with the team.
That's what's happening right now. The fan base is splintering and losing fan interest left and right. And it's splintering because of the loss of all that familiarity. It's not just the players, but the radio broadcast team, who reached fans in their homes and cars, the TV crew (which could be completely different next year), Alyson Footer, Zachary Levine, Bobby Heck and many more.
It's about a team that could be headed for a third straight 100-loss season. If the fan outrage this winter is any indication, I'm not sure they can survive another one. As it is, if they're that bad again, attendance might fall below 10,000 on average next season.
We've heard all the right things from this new front office and management team. We've heard Houston will spend money...eventually. We've heard that they value fans, but are cutting off fan favorites left and right.
Words are cheap. Actions matter.
Even if George Postolos says the Astros tried to retain JD, the action is that they let him leave. This new management team has no built up goodwill with fans. They have no history, so there's no way of knowing whether the Astros will turn into the new Florida Marlins or whether they are going to follow through with some of the promises they've made.
This next season has become very important. The Astros fan base is approaching a precipice. It needs to be nurtured through hope. That doesn't mean the Astros need to win 80 games, but they need to win. They need to have Jonathan SIngleton play in the majors as soon as he's ready without concerns for service time.
Show the fans progress in some way.
Give them hope. Give them familiarity. Turn those words into actions or don't expect them back.