Why John McMullen, Not Drayton McLane, Is the Best Owner in the History of the Astros

I could spend lots of time bitching about the Astros pitching. But I won't. I’ve got something else I want to discuss.

Once again, we go back to the Chron, specifically to the Astros FanBlog, which apparently is written by just some fan. The Chron’s even slapped a disclaimer on it stating that this is the guy’s own opinion and that the he’s not edited by the Chron – and seeing how Jesus Ortiz is with the facts, it doesn’t appear that the actual staff writers are edited either.

But I’ve been sidetracked.

I’m writing because this guy states that, without question, the best owner in the history of the Houston Astros is Drayton McLane – and while he may not be edited by the Chron, that seems to follow the same editorial line as the rest of the writing staff.

Everybody always says that Drayton McLane is the best owner the Astros have ever had. It’s a given. There’s no doubt. No one could argue that fact.

Well, I can.

Drayton McLane is not the best owner in the history of the Astros. The best owner in the history of the Astros is John McMullen.

Yeah, I know, it’s easy to hate Dr. McMullen. He was a Yankee. He fired Tal Smith. He hired Milo Hamilton. He fired Gene Elston. He let Nolan Ryan split for the Texas Rangers.

But put that out of your minds. Let’s think of the good things that McMullen did.

John McMullen saved the Astros by purchasing the team from the Ford Motor Credit Company. He purchased it because no one in Houston, no one in Texas, wanted anything to do with the team. And he purchased a team that was on the verge of being very good. The 1979 team, which he purchased, was in the hunt for the playoffs right down to the last weekend of the season. But McMullen wasn’t satisfied. He went out and gave Nolan Ryan a record contract. He signed Joe Morgan to handle second base. He worked on the Dome to make it habitable.

Yes, Dr. McMullen let Ryan get away. But Dr. McMullen did something more important. He gutted the team in 1990, trading away veterans and fan favorites and building the team from scratch. He did this using the farm system that his people, led by Bill Wood and Bob Watson, revitalized. And the veterans were traded for rookies and youngsters, so that the Astros were one of the youngest teams in baseball.

Now, the Chron and the sports talk guys love to tell us all how Drayton’s Astros have one of the best records in baseball over the past decade. But think, for a moment. Do you know who’s really responsible for that? Yep, John McMullen.

The team that John McMullen sold to Drayton McLane during the 1992 season featured the 1991 NL Rookie of the Year at first base. A young kid named Jeff Bagwell. At second base was a member of the 1991 NL All-Star team, some kid named Craig Biggio. Third base was manned by Ken Caminiti. Steve Finley was the centerfielder, and some young kid named Luis Gonzalez was in left. All-Star Pete Harnisch was the cornerstone of the pitching staff, and Darryl Kile was in his second big league season. Eric Anthony was in right field. Relief pitcher Todd Jones was a rookie. Future starting rotation mainstay Shane Reynolds would split the season between Houston and AAA Tucson. Bobby Abreu was in his second minor league season – he was an infielder at the time. Richard Hidalgo was about to start his first season in professional baseball.

Look at that team. That’s a hell of a team. This is the team that John McMullen left for Drayton McLane. All because John McMullen knew that the team was aging and had to be rebuilt.

Ken Caminiti and Steve Finley would be traded for Derek Bell, who would become a mainstay of the late-90 playoff teams. Eric Anthony would be traded for Mike Hampton. Todd Jones would be supplanted by Billy Wagner. Luis Gonzalez would become a World Series hero for the Arizona Diamondbacks. And Bagwell, Biggio, and Reynolds would be Astros heroes for much of the 1990s and early 2000s.

So, I ask you, who’s the better owner?

John McMullen begged for improvements to be made to the Astrodome, it took Bud Adams threatening to move the Oilers to get those done. Drayton McLane blackmailed the city to build him a new stadium.

John McMullen let Nolan Ryan get away. Drayton McLane let Darryl Kile, Randy Johnson, Carlos Beltran, Roger Clemens, and Andy Pettitte get away. McMullen essentially let his baseball people make the baseball decisions. Bob Watson went to the New York Yankees because he would have less interference from George Steinbrenner than he was getting from Drayton McLane.

John McMullen let his people trade Larry Andersen for Jeff Bagwell. And he let his people trade Glenn Davis for Steve Finley, Pete Harnisch, and Curt Schilling. Drayton McLane let his people let Johan Santana escape from the Astros farm system. And he let them trade Mike Hampton and Derek Bell for Roger Cedeno and Octavio Dotel. He had Billy Wagner traded for nothing because Wagner spoke out. And let’s not even get into the Jason Jennings trade. John McMullen wanted to improve on a rotation of Ryan, Niekro, Forsch, and Ruhle and signed Don Sutton. Drayton McLane wanted to improve on a rotation of Oswalt, Hernandez, and Sampson and signed Woody Williams.

Now that Biggio is retiring, let’s ask, what kind of team does Drayton McLane have? This team is all Drayton’s. There’s Lance Berkman, who’s been mediocre this season. There’s Roy Oswalt. Yeah, he’s good. And there’s Carlos Lee, who often looks like he’s more interested in his ranching than he is in playing left field.

John McMullen wasn’t a well-liked man by my fellow citizens. But I worked for both of them, and I preferred John McMullen. But my feelings aside, I think that the facts are clear. John McMullen was the best owner in Astros history.

Without a doubt.

Suck on that, Drayton. -- John Royal

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