I've written a lot of snark about Jim Crane in the months since he purchased the Astros. And let's be honest, I'll probably have a lot more snark in the days, months and years ahead. But let's be more honest, there's a lot that Crane has done with this team since assuming full control of the franchise that, as a Houston Astros fan, I'm very, very happy about.
I like what I've seen of Crane's philosophy, and it's something I've been advocating for this franchise for years. He knows that this squad is in sad shape. That it has gone about as low down as it can go. That it's going to take some time before the Astros are competitive again. That this is something that can't be fixed by throwing a lot of dollars at the likes of Prince Fielder (or Jack Cust).
The Astros yesterday announced a number of items which they're hoping will regenerate some interest in the franchise. No, they didn't announce any big free agent signings. They didn't name a new manager, or announce that they were bulldozing Tal's Hill. But they did announce some rather significant things.
They're reducing ticket prices by a significant margin in various parts of the stadium -- some field box seats will now go for $29, with some club level seats going for just $35. Full-season and 27-game ticket packages will receive five percent rebates if they renew by January 31.
Domestic beer can now be purchased for five dollars -- and if the Astros are anywhere near as bad as they were last year, then it's going to take a lot of beer to make it through the season. And the Astros will now allow fans to bring their own food and water into the ballpark -- the Astros have been the only team in MLB to forbid fans the luxury of bringing their own food into the stadium.
Crane also stated they are considering other ballpark matters, like changing outfield dimensions and possibly doing something about Tal's Hill. They're even considering changing uniforms, which is perhaps the best news to come out of Minute Maid Park since Ed Wade and Tal Smith were dismissed from the team.
The current uniforms have to be the most boring uniforms in baseball, and have long been an embarrassment to a team known for distinctive uniforms. While I doubt Crane's reading this, I want very much to advocate a return to the dark blue shooting star uniforms that the Astros wore in the late '60s. And since differing jerseys are the key to merchandising dollars, might I suggest going to the orange shooting star uniforms of the early '70s when the team is on the road -- and for alternate jerseys, try the old Colt .45 jerseys for Sundays and day games and the rainbow jerseys on Saturdays.
For all of the good that he did, Crane made a bit of a slip-up yesterday when he announced that he was considering changing the name of the team. This isn't an unprecedented move seeing as how the Astros were originally the Colt .45s and seeing as how Drayton McLane considered changing the team's name when moving from the Dome to Minute Maid Park.
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But that was then and now the natives are restless. Many of the natives are still pissed about the team moving to the American League in 2013, so maybe now's not the time to be discussing a name change.
I'm not too thrilled by the prospect of a name change, but I can understand the thinking. When a product is as bad as the Astros, nothing is sacred. And with the Astros moving to a new league in 2013, and with a new owner and a new management team, why not go with a new name. It's like making a brand-new start.
That said, it's very, very doubtful that Crane changes the name of the team, new league, new start aside. But it does make sense to consider it, to study it. To find out just how damn damaged the brand really is because of the neglect and incompetence of the previous owner and management team.
There's nothing to indicate the team's name is really being changed, and while I'm not in favor of a name change, exploring the topic does make sense. So let's not go into a panic. Not yet, anyway. Instead, let's focus on the positives: cheaper tickets, free food options, five-dollar beer and possible new uniforms.