Surely Bill Brown Will Still Broadcast Astros Games Next Season. Right? Right?

Last week the Houston Astros attempted to give us Weekend at Bernie's involving Joe Niekro. Then they misspelled Jim Deshaies's name in the post about Niekro. And in wake of the erector-set billboards blocking the views in left field, one can only wonder what the Astros are going to botch next.

What's that, Bill Brown might not be part of the TV broadcast crew next season? There's no way the Astros are that stupid. Seriously, no way. Oh, so that's what Bill Brown said. Damn.

"I'm just going to be really open to whatever happens," Brown told David Barron of the Houston Chronicle yesterday."It's difficult to know what plans are. Until somebody expresses interest, there's nothing I can do. I need about a month to think, and I think that by that time, things will crystallize a little bit. I'll be fine with whatever happens."

If you've followed the Astros for a while, you're aware of the Bill Brown/Jim Deshaies team, perhaps the best broadcast duo covering baseball -- Vin Scully's one-man show in Los Angeles is still the best thing going. And you're no doubt aware that the best reason to watch the Astros on television the past several seasons has been to listen to Brown and Deshaies call the game. They've got great chemistry and listening to them is like sitting next to the smartest and funniest person you've ever known.

They don't talk down to fans. They don't try to pretend like the current Astros product is the greatest thing since the invention of sliced bread. Their criticism is fair, and it's not over the line. They're not homers, but they take joy when the team's successful.

And now, according to Brown, who turned 65 yesterday, there are changes being planned for the TV broadcasts, and one of those changes may involve Brown in some role other than that of play-by-play voice. And that would suck.

"I need some time to think after the season," he told Barron. "It's hard to say right now. People are telling me, 'You would not be happy' (without calling games), and I get that. I think there's a lot of truth to that."

This is the first time in my memory of Brown's time in Houston that he's ever spoken about his situation with the Astros. So for him to come out with this now makes me think that the Astros have come to him with their new plans, and he's not happy with these new plans.

The story also states that Comcast SportsNet Houston and Astros management have had limited contact/conversations with Deshaies, Patti Smith, Greg Lucas and Bart Ennis regarding next season. That's kind of important given that the Astros are the majority owners of Comcast SportsNet Houston along with the Rockets and Comcast. So one would think that maybe the Astros would have opened up some type of talks.

A spokesman with Comcast SportsNet told Hair Balls that that group is currently under contract with Fox Sports, and that it would not be proper for Comcast to be talking to them while they are under contract. That's fine as far Lucas, Ennis and Smith are concerned. They broadcast and cover other teams and sports for Fox Sports Houston/Fox Sports Southwest. But Deshaies covers just one sport, baseball, and just one team, the Astros. And he's listed on the team Web site under Front Office personnel along with Brown and the radio broadcasters, so one would think that the Astros could have some more involved contact with him regarding next season.

(Kevin Eschenfelder, who hosts the Astros' pregame and postgame shows for Fox Sports Houston, was not named in the story. That could be because he did his last broadcast yesterday. And it's also probably because, as Eschenfelder tweeted, he's moving to Comcast, so he'll probably be working Astros games in some capacity next season.)

The worrisome issue, though, is Bill Brown and his future with the team. Astros fans have put up with a lot of crap these past several seasons. There's been the front office ineptitude that marked the last several years of Drayton McLane's ownership. There's PR blunder after PR blunder -- remember Fenway South last season? There's the upcoming move of the Astros to the American League. And there's that damn erector-set billboard in left field.

Astros fans can only take so much. And with Bill Brown announcing yesterday that his time in the booth might be over, the Astros might finally be approaching that point where they've just totally lost what's left of the fan base.

But this is the Astros. And if there's a way to screw something up, then these Astros are definitely going to find that way.

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