Last Reflections By John Royal

The Astros won it all, and I'm not going to try and top that.
The Astros won it all, and I'm not going to try and top that. Photo by Jack Gorman

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The Astros won it all, and I'm not going to try and top that.
Photo by Jack Gorman
I have decided my time at the Houston Press is at an end. Thank you all for reading over the past several years. It’s been something that I’ve enjoyed doing, but sometimes, things just have to end.

Before I go, however, I just had a few things I wanted to say.

1. For many, many years, I have said that Bill Wood was the best general manager in Houston sports history. Wood took over as Astros GM in 1988, was the guy who traded for Jeff Bagwell and who was the mastermind behind moving Craig Biggio from catcher to second base. It was the drafting and trading of Wood that built the Astros squad that became a playoff fixture in the late 1990s, and Bagwell and Biggio played key roles well into the 2000s.

But I must now say that Jeff Luhnow is the greatest general manager in Houston sports history. He took over a Astros squad that had been stripped of all parts by Drayton McLane. The farm system, was barren of talent, is now one of the best in baseball. The major league is a marvel comprised of some of the most enjoyable to watch talent in any sport. Then there’s the basic fact that the squad he assembled just won the World Series.

2. The Houston Cougars whine about the lack of fans that come out for basketball games. The low attendance is disappointing, of course, because this current UH basketball team is perhaps the most talented team since Pat Foster was head coach. But damn it, you have to give fans a reason to come out and watch the team.

Houstonians are a fickle group (for every team but the Texans). The Cougars have to start scheduling some big names schools so that the team can draw some attention. It’s nice to win games, but when your home schedule consists of McNeese, University of Incarnate Word, New Orleans, Fairfield, and Prairie View, then nobody is going to care. Especially when this is what the UH non-conference home schedule looks like year after year after year. Ooh, is that Arkansas on the schedule? When was the last time Arkansas was relevant? Rice usually plays a tougher non-conference than the Cougars, and TSU definitely plays a more difficult schedule. So you want fans, play a schedule worthy of fans showing up.

3. Bud Adams was a better owner than Bob McNair. Yes, it’s okay to hate Bud for bilking taxpayers for Astrodome renovations, then for trying to blackmail Harris County into building a new stadium while still paying off the Astrodome work. And he’s a huge villain for moving the Oilers to Nashville. But damn, did anybody ever doubt that Bud wanted the Oilers to be a winning football team? There’s no way that Bud would have kept a mediocre coach like Bill O’Brien around for as long as McNair has — I would blame Jeff Fisher’s longevity in Nashville on Bud likely losing power over the team.

The Texans are a boring team with a history of mediocrity, and this seams to be okay. McNair seems not to care, but it’s not like it matters because his team sells out every game and fans continue to pay tons of cash for Texans merchandise.

4. John McMullen was a better owner than Drayton McLane. The Astros made the World Series under McLane, but then McLane destroyed the team, stripping it of talent on both the major league roster and in the minor league system, and he left it up to Jim Crane and his staff to rebuild from the wreckage.

John McMullen let Nolan Ryan get away and sign with the Texas Rangers. He also fired Tal Smith. And he had Bill Wood trade away many of the players that helped the Astros win the NL West in 1986. But McMullen gave Bill Wood the money to build an outstanding farm system, and the team that McMullen sold to McLane was poised for success.

5. I miss hockey, and I will never forgive Les Alexander for running off the Houston Aeros, and for torpedoing the NHL’s attempts to come to Houston. And spare me the BS about hockey not being able to work in Houston. Hockey’s a success in Dallas, and anything that Dallas can do, Houston can do.

6. The best place to watch a sporting event in Houston is at Reckling Park. The Rice Owls baseball team is generally good, so that’s a help, but the stadium is has a great view of the Medical Center and located in a very idyllic part of Rice University. If you ever have the chance, go out there and see a game.

That’s it. There is no more. Thank you for reading.
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John Royal is a native Houstonian who graduated from the University of Houston and South Texas College of Law. In his day job he is a complex litigation attorney. In his night job he writes about Houston sports for the Houston Press.
Contact: John Royal