After the Astros lose to the Chicago Cubs this afternoon, the 2011 MLB season will be one-third complete. And while it was expected the Astros would be bad, being the worst team in the National League was not expected -- an injury-depleted Minnesota Twins are the only thing keeping the Astros from having the worst record in baseball.
This is the team that Jim Crane's buying in a highly-overpriced and highly-leveraged deal from Drayton McLane. The deal's not yet official, but awaits only the official approval of the 29 other members of the exclusive MLB ownership club. So with a team this bad, Crane's going to have to make a lot of changes to shake things up and make people want to attend a game.
So that said, here are some suggested moves for Crane to make upon becoming the official owner.
1. His first act upon being officially approved as owner should be to send security to round up Ed Wade and Tal Smith and escort them out of the building. Yeah, some members of the media claim to support Wade, but despite his so-called best efforts, the team's farm system is still one of the worst in baseball and his free agent signings have become some of the biggest jokes in baseball.
2. Seeing as how Crane's had a lot of problems in the past with women and minorities, perhaps he should contact his new BFF Bud Selig and see if he can hire Kim Ng to be the team's interim GM. She was an assistant GM for years with the Yankees and Dodgers, and she played a key role in helping to rebuild the Dodger farm system while handling arbitration and contract matters. If things don't work out during this extended "interview" process, then she can return to her current position working with Joe Torre in the MLB office. But either way, bringing her onboard, even temporarily, should keep the minority groups off of Crane's back for awhile, not to mention that, unlike Wade, she might actually know what she's doing.
3. The next step should be to finally end the misery of all fans who have to listen to Astros games on the radio. Dump Milo Hamilton and find out how much it will cost to lure Alan Ashby away from Toronto. And see if Larry Dierker might be interested in a return to the radio broadcast booth. The team on the field might suck, but there's no reason the broadcasters in the radio booth have to suck as well, and Milo Hamilton lost his fastball back in the 1960s.
Bring back Ashby to the radio booth.
5. Pitching means good pitching. Not failures coming off career years like Brett Myers or pitchers like Wandy Rodriguez who are in their 30s and still living off of that whole "potential" thing. Myers and Rodriguez would be, at best, third starters on decent pitching staffs, and it's questionable whether either of those guys could even crack a good pitching rotation like that of the Giants or Phillies.
6. There are no untouchables on this team. Hunter Pence is a good player, but he's not the type of guy you build a franchise around. If some team should come calling for Pence or Michael Bourn or any of the poor excuses for baseball players that the team's trotting out to second base or short, then make sure the GM takes the call and works out the best deal possible.
7. Caveat to the trade talk: make sure that the Phillies aren't the first/only team contacted.
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8. Bulldoze Tal's Hill. The Astros are supposed to play in a ball park, not an amusement park. It's amazing that 29 other teams can play in stadiums that don't make a fielder navigate an obstacle course to make a play.
9. DFA Bill Hall and Carlos Lee. Yeah, they have large contracts, but if you really want to win the support of the fan base, these two moves, along with dumping Milo Hamilton, will do the most to earn you the good will of what's left of the Astros' rapidly declining fan base.
10. Sit in a suite and stay off the radio. The only thing more distracting during the game than watching rich people pay homage to Drayton in his seats behind home plate is listening to Drayton try and act like he understands baseball when he goes on the radio and chats with Milo. The best owner is a quiet owner.
11. Go back to the future. Bring back the old uniforms, not the rainbows, but the old shooting star uniforms of the late '60s and '70s. They can wear the blue at home, the orange on the road, and for the alternates, they can wear the Colt 45 uniforms.