The Houston Astros report for spring training next week. The first spring training game is on Saturday, February 23rd. And yet the Astros still do not have a radio broadcast team.
Brett Dolan and Dave Raymond were dismissed the day after the 2012 season ended. In early October. And the topic as to whether or not their contracts should be renewed had to have been discussed before that. So one would think that Astros management would've put a little thought into their replacements before they fired Dolan and Raymond and that maybe they might have had somebody already lined up for the jobs.
But this is the Houston Astros. And logic no longer seems to apply with the Astros, at least when it comes to the non-baseball aspect of the Astros business.
There are currently two names being floated around to take over the radio play-by-play duties (there's only one name being floated around for the analyst spot, and that's Steve Sparks). Neither of the two names being discussed is that impressive, and neither seems to be the type to garner any excitement from the fan base, or to provide any sense as to just why it was necessary to replace Dolan and Raymond.
The first name, Wayne Hagin, is a longtime veteran, who much like Milo Hamilton, has bounced around from job to job. He was most recently with the New York Mets, and before that he called games for the St. Louis Cardinals, the Colorado Rockies, the San Francisco Giants, and the Oakland A's. The other name is that of Robert Ford who currently hosts the pre- and post-game radio shows for the Kansas City Royals, but who has no major league experience doing play-by-play.
I've never heard Ford, so I can't comment on his style. But hiring a talk show host with only minor league play-by-play experience doesn't fill one with confidence. Both Dolan and Raymond were hired from AAA to handle the Astros, but they'd done some major league games as fill-ins, and they were also paired up with the veteran Hamilton. It also doesn't fill one with confidence that Ford, the rookie, would likely be paired up with Sparks, another rookie who has mainly done studio work for the Astros while doing the occasional TV game when Jim Deshaies wasn't available.
I have heard Hagin call Mets games, and I wasn't really a fan. His play-by-play, to me, seemed too focused on explaining what just happened, after it happened, rather than walking me through the action as it happened. It's a fine distinction, but it bugged me.
But no matter which person is hired, they're being set up for failure, which is neither fair to them, or to those of who have to listen to the games on the radio because of the Astros failure to agree to a deal that will put CSN Houston on Direct TV, Dish, and U-Verse. They're being thrust into a job with little time for preparation. They're not going to be able to settle into homes in Houston because they'll have to report immediately to spring training to start learning the players and prepping for the games. They'll have to build chemistry with the analyst on the fly, and they're going to have to crash-learn the way Astros management wants the job done, which according to Dolan, isn't like most other teams.
Now put all of that together with an Astros business office sorely lacking in knowledge of baseball, and you're looking at a recipe for disaster. Couple all of this with what is looking to be a historically bad baseball team, a new flagship radio station that can't be much heard to the north and west of Houston, and a TV deal keeping a majority of the Houston viewing public from being able to watch the games, and the Astros might just be looking at the loss of any baseball audience for a long time to come.
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So the question has to be asked: was dismissing Dolan and Raymond really worth it? Especially if Hagin and/or Ford are the best the Astros could do. Not all of the Astros fans had yet fully embraced Dolan and Raymond, but they deserved a chance to show what they could do without the weight of Hamilton dragging them down. But instead of giving them a chance, the Astros seem hell bent on setting up two more men to fail.
The front office on the baseball side appears to be one of the more insightful, intelligent ones to come through Houston since the days of Bill Wood. Will what Jeff Luhnow and his group are trying work? That's something we won't know for a couple of years, but they have a plan, and that plan promises major dividends. But the folks on the non-baseball side don't really seem to have a plan. It's like they're making it all up on the fly, which is really strange seeing as how Jim Crane had been attempting to purchase a baseball team for several years before buying the Astros.
And in the end, the ones who are going to suffer the most for that lack of a plan are the fans. No TV deal, no radio broadcasters, a reduced radio signal. It's almost like they're deliberately trying to destroy the fan base. But that's not it, because that would mean there was a plan in place. And the Astros don't think far enough to even consider plans, much less make them.