The Astros Start Play On Sunday: Does Anyone Really Care?

The 2013 season begins for the Astros on Sunday night when they host the Texas Rangers on ESPN. And frankly, I'm at the point with Jim Crane and flunkies that I really don't give a damn.

Is anyone really excited about this Astros season? The team is going to be bad. The owner and his minions keep pissing off the fans. There's the price gouging for opening day, the lack of a television deal, and George Postolos crapping all over Larry Dierker. There are the games being moved to a radio station with a weak signal while the games are called by a minor league broadcaster.

So as the season starts, I thought I would express a few thoughts on a few things regarding the Astros that are really, really pissing me off.


More shots were fired in the great CSN Houston battle last night. CSN Houston president Matt Hutchings once again fired out with his standard line of bull that it's all the fault of unreasonable cable and satellite providers without actually offering up any legitimate evidence to support his claims. Then Jim Crane opened his mouth and said the Astros wanted a rights fee that is competitive with the Rangers and the Angels. The problem with Crane's logic, of course, is that he's not actually offering up a product that is competitive with the product the Rangers and the Angels are providing to cable and satellite providers.

CSN Houston is still not available to most of the viewing public in Houston or in Texas. The commercials on TV and radio make it sound like all the evil cable and satellite providers are taking the Astros away from the public. Hell, there was even a spokesman for the mayor falling for this line of crap the other day. But it's a lie. And it's a lie that needs to stop.

The Astros, and the Rockets, are the ones who are responsible for you not being able to watch their games. They're the ones who decided to form a venture and start up a sports cable network from scratch. And they're the ones who decided not to renew a contract with Fox Sports Southwest, available throughout Houston and Texas, for a new network that can only be seen by people who have Comcast, and frankly, signing up for the awful service provided by Comcast in order to watch a bad Astros team just isn't worth the cost, just as it's not worth it to Direct TV, Dish, U-verse and Time-Warner to pay the same amount to Comcast to air the Astros as regional networks in California have to pay to air the Dodgers.  

Remember this the next time someone blames the cable providers; just remind them that the Rockets had reached a deal to air games on Direct TV, only to have the Astros veto it.

3. STOP GOING BALLISTIC TOWARDS THOSE CRITICIZING THE PLAN I saw somebody accuse Peter Gammons of being a troll the other day. And some Astros fans went ballistic on Buster Olney. Peter Gammons is one of the great baseball writers and voices. He doesn't need to act as a troll. And he wasn't acting as a troll.

Just because the national media questions what the Astros are doing doesn't mean the media is wrong or being trolls. I like the plan. I've been advocating a massive rebuild for years. But a rebuild like this has never really been done before. If it works, Jeff Luhnow is a genius. If it doesn't work, the Astros are the new Pittsburgh Pirates and Kansas City Royals. If it works, then mock Gammons and Olney, but let's see if the plan actually works.

I personally don't think Luhnow and the team are tanking the season for the draft pick. But truthfully, I wouldn't put that thinking past Jim Crane and George Postolos. And hey, I'm from Houston, I know how well tanking a season for draft picks works because I remember how the Twin Towers were assembled.

2. MONEY, MONEY, MONEY Jim Crane says the team has been losing money. He says this while landing his helicopter on practice fields before popping off to play golf with Tiger Woods and President Obama. The team failed to order enough baseballs for the Houston College Classic back at the start of the month, then blamed it on the college teams. And Crane's constantly changing statements about when he'll spend money don't help -- he was holding the money for when the team needs it, and now he says the team doesn't have the money to spend.

One reason there's no TV deal is that Crane really needs to get the highest price possible on the deal, and the reason that radio booth is manned by a guy who most recently was doing a post-game call-in show is because the professionals won't work for peanuts. Then there's the so-called dynamic ticket pricing that isn't really dynamic pricing because the price isn't being set by the market. Some would call what the Astros are doing premium pricing. Others would properly call it price gouging (seriously, $20 for SRO tickets).

1. SCREW THE ASTROS The Astros pushed my last button when George Postolos attacked Larry Dierker last weekend (I know Dierker has forgiven the Astros, but I don't know if I can be so forgiving). I hope Luhnow's plan works. I like what he's doing. But I have no faith that, even if it works, Crane will have the money Luhnow needs to retain players, to get free agents or to make trades. And the business folks running things seem to think the fans are a bunch of idiot sheep.

So screw the Astros. The Rice Owls and Houston Cougars are playing some fantastic baseball. The tickets are affordable. The seats are better. The on-field product is definitely better. And if a foul ball is hit into the stands, the fans get to keep the ball. So why not go someplace where you're appreciated?

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