It's been ten years since Jim Crane purchased the Houston Astros from Drayton McLane, and if you recall, that $680 million sale price noted above actually became $630 million once Crane agreed to move the team from the National League to the American League, amidst much uproar from the diehards in the Astro fan base. So Crane was paddling upstream right out of the gate as owner of the team.
5/16/2011: The #Astros announce the sale of the ballclub to a group of investors led by Houston shipping magnate Jim Crane. The reported price is $680 million. The sale awaits the approval of the other owners before becoming official. https://t.co/Lg0Q7d6v3h pic.twitter.com/g9KAEePLkm— Astros Daily (@AstrosDaily) May 17, 2021
For the next two seasons, the Astros put a product on the field that would go largely ridiculed, if not ignored, by the city, in no small part because most of the city couldn't see it because of a carriage dispute between the partially-Crane-owned Comcast Sports Net and various distributors. If we had asked the question in 2013 "Give the Jim Crane ownership era a grade," it might have gone like this:
Needless to say, things got significantly better, but it still hasn't been all peaches and cream. So let's relive the good, the bad, and the guly of the Crane Era of Astros baseball:
World Series win, and four straight trips to the ALCS
The obvious good, and the biggest part of any grade for Crane, is the sustained on-field success, going back to the Astros' first postseason appearance on his watch in 2015, and thriving through four consecutive ALCS appearances, including the franchise's only world championship in 2017.
Salary spending and resources
You don't keep a title window open this long without investing big resources. Since arriving in 2011, Crane has always given his front office and coaching staff the necessary tools to remain at the forefront of analytics and video study. On a purely salary-related level, the Astros have consistently had one of the highest payrolls in baseball, and Crane has not been afraid of green lighting deadline deals for big money pitchers in Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke.
Hiring George Postolos as team president
Early on in Crane's tenure, the losing wasn't the only thing that was miserable. If you talked to Astro employees from the early Crane years, it was fairly miserable behind the scenes, too, and that had a lot to do with then-president George Postolos. Crane recognized this and hired Reid Ryan, a descendent of Houston sports royalty, and a much more pleasant person.
Firing A.J. Hinch and Jeff Luhnow
MLB dished out its punishment for sign stealing back in January 2020, suspending Hinch and Luhnow for a year. Crane took it to the next level, firing both of them permanently. We will see how Dusty Baker and James Click ultimately fare as their replacements, and there are plenty of rumors out there that firing both men was part of a wink-wink agreement between Crane and MLB, but undoubtedly Hinch and especially Luhnow were two of the best in the game at their respective jobs.
Brandon Taubmen’s existence, and the smearing of a journalist
While Luhnow was very good at his job, one blight on his tenure (and on this era of Astros baseball) was Luhnow's right hand man in 2019, Taubman, reportedly going up to a group of female reporters in the clubhouse after the Astros won the ALCS and going out of his way to flaunt Roberto Osuna's role in the team's success. Those reporters (among many others) had been critical of the Astros the year before when they traded for Osuna, who was serving a 75-game suspension for domestic violence at the time. Even worse, the team put out a statement the next day smearing one of the reporters, saying she lied about the incident, when it turned out, she did just the opposite. Not a great look for Crane's P.R. staff.
Sign stealing contrition (or lack thereof)
You won't ever be able to separate Crane's ownership tenure and the sign stealing scandal of 2017. Even worse, Crane will never live down the horrendous job he and the organization did in attempting to show contrition for the mistakes they made.
CRANE OVERALL GRADE: A-
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