You've probably checked out on the Astros already, at least you have judging by the attendance. But the Astros are busy making preparations for next season in hopes that they'll be able to grab your attention and get you back out to the ballpark.
They've fired most of the front office staff, and they're making changes in the business office. They're supposedly making changes to the ballpark -- no, that damn erector set thing in left field is here to stay. There are going to be new uniforms. They're already interviewing for a new manager. And then there's the big change, the move to the American League.
There are several other changes coming that the team really needs to focus on, and get right. These changes don't much concern the on-the-field product which is probably going to be bad for a more few more seasons, but they are changes that will impact fans, and if they're botched, then the Astros could actually be looking at lower attendance figures and lower television ratings than what they had last Sunday.
The Astros will be part of a new regional sports network in conjunction with Comcast and the Houston Rockets. And as part of this new network, it would be nice to see the Astros change the way they've been approaching things with Fox Sports Houston. Let's dump the roving reporter in the stands -- there's nothing more annoying than the game being interrupted so that Patti Smith or Bart Ennis can interview a so-called fan of the game, especially when, as happened this season, the fan of the game is actually the fan of another team.
The booth duo of Bill Brown and Jim Deshaies are probably the best in the business. So why take time from them so that a guy in the camera well by the dugout can relay trivia questions? This can easily be done by Brown and Deshaies themselves. And the bits where they have the guys who do the pregame and postgame shows pop into the booth or enter the discussion just distracts from the game. Vin Scully does a solo broadcast, and it's a thing of beauty, so just leave Brown and Deshaies on their own. They don't need a cast of sidekicks.
The changes in the radio booth are a long time coming, and will be for the better. Milo Hamilton, the longtime voice of the Astros, is retiring. Dave Raymond and Brett Dolan have done yeoman work in the booth, and they deserve a special type of reward for having to deal with Hamilton. But the one thing that will be lacking, that has been lacking, is a good analyst.
Those who listened to some of the Cubs games on the radio this week got a treat as Larry Dierker was filling in for an ailing Hamilton. And it just so happens that Dierker wants to return to broadcasting. So if Dierker really wants to come back, Jim Crane should ink him to a contract as soon as possible to work radio with Dolan and Raymond next season. Dierker's a fantastic analyst, he can also do play-by-play if needed, and there's no person around with a bigger link to every single decade of the Houston baseball team.
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The Astros might also want to find some way to get Shane Reynolds involved in the broadcasts, whether on the radio or TV pregame and postgame shows, or as a fill-in analyst for television or radio. He was in the TV booth a couple of weeks ago on the same night he threw out the first pitch. He was funny, intelligent, and just offered up a lot of insight into the player mindset.
The team's also getting rid of Junction Jack. That's no big deal as most team mascots are pretty worthless. The Astros say they're going to have a different mascot next season, and there are a lot of people calling for the return of Orbit. But here's a revolutionary idea: how about trying a season without a mascot? Seriously, what does the mascot do? Roam the stands and block the views of people trying to watch game. Walk around on the field before the game and point into the stands. They're worthless. So let's just not have one for once. What could it hurt?
These might all seem like minor things when it comes to the Astros. But there's nothing worse or more annoying than sitting through interviews with fans, or six voices trying to talk at the same time during an important part of the game, or an idiot mascot that adds nothing to the game experience. Let's keep it clean and simple. The fans will be thankful.