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It’s a Matter of Trust: The Business of the Houston Astros

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The Houston Astros have a fan retention problem and an employee morale problem. The addition of Reid Ryan has begun a turning of the tide, but they are a long way from earning back the trust of baseball fans in Houston.

Love him or hate him, no one can deny Larry Dierker's longtime contributions to the Houston Astros.
Love him or hate him, no one can deny Larry Dierker's longtime contributions to the Houston Astros.
Bob Levey

A lot has changed in the past week in the Houston Astros organization. George Postolos is out as President of the business side of the club and Reid Ryan is in. The club is buying their double A affiliate, the Corpus Christi Hooks, and Larry Dierker has been announced as a special assistant to the President.

Dierker’s role is one of ambassador and overall goodwill guy. This hiring raised my eyebrows a bit after the big to do and public temper tantrum thrown by both Dierker and Postolos a few month ago when the Astros legend rejected the predominantly fluff position he was offered, claiming he wanted a more substantial role within the Astros organization.

These changes have me wondering if the position Dierker was offered wasn’t the problem so much as who was offering it. It’s no big secret that George Postolos was anything but beloved by Astros employees. The turnover since his arrival both in firings and resignations had been substantial. Ask anyone who’s been around the club for a few years and they’ll tell you that the faces at Minute Maid Park have changed drastically.

Reid Ryan has quite a situation on his hands as he takes over a club that not only has a fan retention problem, but an employee morale problem as well. The baseball side of the club has done an excellent job of conveying their message – sacrificing wins at the big league level to reinvest in what was an ailing farm system to reinvigorate the club, stocking it with enough talent to feed the Major League team for years to come. The fans, to some extent, can understand that.

But what about everything else? What about that blasted Community Partners sign in center field? What about the subpar television and radio broadcasts (and how the beloved announcers of previous years were treated)? What about running out of food during games? What about the social media program that has been in a free fall since the departure of Alyson Footer? And, of course, what about the fact that a great deal of Houston has no tv access to games? All of these are issues on the business side of baseball, but have impacted fan expectations and tolerance for the efforts that are transpiring on the baseball side of the club.

Reid Ryan’s hiring was, without a doubt, a breath of fresh air. A man is now at the helm of the ship that understands not just business, but the particular brand of business that is baseball. But I’m afraid he has an uphill battle and a long way to go to get to place where fans trust the Houston Astros and employees of the club feel it’s an organization on the rise rather than in despair. It’s silly to think the name Reid Ryan and all that it brings with it is enough to mend fences. There is work to be done – a lot of work.

I am anxious to see the changes that Ryan initiates and how that will impact the fans of the Houston Astros over time, but no one person is a miracle worker and it will take significant effort to earn back the trust of the people of Houston – too much damage was done during the Postolos reign of terror.

As a long time fan of the Astros I am hopeful that this is a club that despite win/loss records can return to its glory days. It’s going to take a lot of work and probably a significant amount of time, but smoothing the relationship with an Astros legend tells me that Reid Ryan understands this much – when it comes to fans of a baseball team, it’s a matter of trust.