Nearly three years ago, with Hurricane Ike fast approaching Houston, Drayton McLane refused the entreaties of the MLB Commissioner to move a key series against the Chicago Cubs to a neutral location. McLane didn't want to give up the huge payday he would have gotten if this series was played in Houston, so he declined the offers of MLB to play the game in another city. Instead, McLane waited until after Ike had rendered it impossible to play games in Houston, leaving MLB with few options on where to play the games.
The Astros played the Cubs that weekend in Milwaukee, a move about which the Astros players bitched and whined and moaned and which became their excuse for choking away a possible playoff spot. They, and the fans, who didn't bother to read the dispatches from Richard Justice and the national media, chose to go along with Drayton and the players that it was all the fault of Bud Selig and that they should have never played the games in Milwaukee.
This really has nothing to do with the topic at hand except for one thing: When it comes to some important matters, Drayton McLane is more than willing to ignore the advice/suggestions of MLB and Selig. (In other important matters, such as player drafts and coach hirings, McLane has proved all too willing to listen.) So if the sale of the Astros to Jim Crane never goes through, of which that possibility seems to be growing every day, you might look back to Drayton once again ignoring Bud Selig when it really, really matters.
Richard Justice reported yesterday that the sale to Crane might be dead. The reasons for such being many: Crane's issues with women and minorities; Crane's issues with war profiteering; the funding for Crane's purchase making the funding of Frank McCourt's purchase of the Los Angeles Dodgers look solid; and a strong, general distrust by MLB and the other owners of Crane.
But the big deal of the story, to me, is this. Bud Selig told Drayton not to hold that press conference announcing that the deal with Crane had been completed and that the approval process would be fast-tracked because Drayton and Bud were good friends. But Drayton went on ahead and held the press conference, and from that point on, it really appears that he's checked out on the team and that Crane is acting as owner and pushing his mandates on Ed Wade and the rest of the front office.
What the Astros are now is a team owned by a guy who wants out, and wants out badly, and who is acting as if he no longer owns the club. The guy who wants to own the club, but who seems to be a rather despicable human being, can't get approved to buy the club, and the Astros and their fans are being held hostage because MLB won't act on the guy.
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It appears the main problem is simple: Nobody expected Drayton to pull the trigger on the deal with Crane, especially seeing as how Crane had backed out of an earlier deal to purchase the club. MLB may be using the excuse that they're having to vet all of the hundreds of millions of "co-owners" going in on the deal with Crane, but you've got to think that Justice is correct and that MLB is just hoping to see the deal "die of neglect" while someone more palatable swoops in to save the franchise.
But maybe that's where the deal involving the Astros and Ike comes into play with all of this. Drayton's a stubborn guy. And when he really wants something, he's just not going to easily give up on something. It took Ike wrecking the city for McLane to move the series with the Cubs to another location. By the time he signed off the other neutral sites that could have hosted the game, primarily Tampa Bay, were out of the question as they had games/events scheduled for Monday, so the only option was Milwaukee.
And with the sale of the club, Drayton sees one thing: $680 million. It doesn't matter that Crane might not actually have the financing together to buy the club. It doesn't matter that Crane is a magnet for lawsuits or that he's a war profiteer. It doesn't matter that Crane has gone back on his word before. It doesn't matter that MLB doesn't like the deal. Drayton sees only that $680 million.
One way or the other, Drayton's going to get his cash for the Astros. And even if it takes forever and means a new ownership group that can get MLB approval has to come in to buy the club, it's not going to matter to Drayton. The Astros of the future might be Carlos Lee, Brett Myers, J.A. Happ and a bunch of people who make Jason Michaels look like a major leaguer, but Drayton's going to get his money. And if the fans don't like the result, well, just like with Ike, he'll put the blame all on Bud Selig.