Why the Houston Astros Need to Mimic the Texas Rangers
If you're a fan of the Houston Astros you already know this is going to be a long season. Shoot most likely a long few seasons. As one 1340 employee simply stated, "The Houston Astros are the new Pittsburgh Pirates." Ouch, but I can't say I totally disagree with his statement.
You can look back and pinpoint a number of bad trades (read Jason Jennings) or dumb contracts (i.e. Carlos Lee's 100 million dollar deal and full no trade clause?), but to me it starts at the top, and by that I mean you Drayton McLane.
The Rangers appeared to be destined for baseball mediocrity for years until Tom Hicks did the one smart thing during his time as the franchises owner by hiring Nolan Ryan to run things. That was only the beginning of the transformation though for me as the culmination came when the Greenberg-Ryan group actually purchased the team.
That is what the Astros need more than anything. An owner who's not only passionate about the sport, but has the financial backing to make "smart investments" in players and isn't afraid to make a deal that's good for the franchise even if the move isn't popular with Commissioner Bud Selig.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with what I'm referring to, baseball draft picks have a numerical value assigned to the slot and round in which they are drafted, and in general that is just viewed as a guide line. Well in Drayton McLane's case those numbers might as well have been etched in stone because when he received that unpleasant phone call from Commissioner Selig expressing his dissatisfaction with Houston's choice to "over-pay" these kids McLane had the franchise pull the contract offers, allowing most of the Astros top draft selections to walk away and play a year of college ball before re-entering the draft. Maybe one of the most talked about names in the Houston area that walked away during this time is now the starting center fielder for the division rival and last season's National League Central Champions, the Cincinnati Reds. Drew Stubbs was a hot commodity out of high-school, but because of Drayton's fear of upsetting the commissioner he was able to attend the University of Texas to play and hone his skills before the Reds drafted him 8th overall in the 2006 amateur draft.
A combination McLanes inability to sign the organizations top draft picks and thinking he could continually sign mediocre veteran players has led to the franchises current state, and things won't change as long as he's the man stroking the check.
My only hope is that the Astros next owner takes a good hard look at how the Rangers and Giants built their World Series teams through their farm system with a mix of veterans sprinkled in that help to keep the young guys grounded whether the teams hot or cold.