If the Astros lose 100-plus games again this season, and nobody can see them play those games, do the losses really happen? If the Astros lose 100-plus games again this season, and nobody can watch it happen, will anybody really care?
That's a bit of an exaggeration. People will be able to watch the Astros this season. Fans living in the TV-territory of the visiting team will be able to watch the Astros lose. Those few people receiving free tickets will be able to see the team lose. And of course, anybody who has Comcast will be able to see the Astros lose.
But the fact is that most a large majority of the TV households in the metropolitan Houston area do not have Comcast, which means they do not have access to Comcast SportsNet Houston, the new home of the Houston Astros and the Houston Rockets. Most of the state of Texas also does not have access to Comcast SportsNet Houston. And if you live anywhere in the state of Texas or Louisiana, you can't even watch the Astros if purchase MLB's Extra Innings cable package or on MLBTV.com.
So if nobody can watch the Astros play, and knowing how bad the Astros are going to be, come baseball season, is anybody really going to give a damn about the Houston Astros?
Jim Crane might not want to hear this, but the Astros are verging on irrelevancy to fans of Houston sports teams. The Texans might bomb in the playoffs, but at least they're winning games. Plus this is Texas where football rules. The Dynamo also win games, and they're building a devoted fan base. The Rockets are still crappy, but at least they've got some dynamic players on the roster.
What do the Astros have? The Astros have an awful on-field product that is being rebuilt from the bottom of the farm system upwards. The Astros have no radio broadcast team. The business office is a walking PR disaster full of people who know absolutely about baseball.
Not to forget, the Astros own the largest percentage of a regional sports network that most of the city can't access. And it's not because the people of Houston don't want to access the network. It's because the Astros have an inflated sense worth and think that, come the start of baseball season, the demand for their product will be so high that the area's various non-Comcast cable and satellite distributors will have no choice but to acquiesce to the Astros desires.
But if nobody gives a damn about the Astros, or cares about the product the Astros have to offer, then why should U-Verse, Direct TV, Dish Network, Time-Warner (for those in other parts of the state) be willing to agree to a deal? Especially if it's a deal that would see the subscriber fees to carry the network rise from the $2.50 a month it was under the Fox Sports Net deal to the $3.40 a month that the Astros/CSN are seeking?
The Astros brass probably believes that once the team starts winning, then the fans will return. Odds are that the casual fans will start to return once that happens. But until the Astros start winning, the Astros are going to have to rely on die-hard baseball fans, and die-hard Astros fans to attend games, buy merchandise, and keep the team in the conversation. And with Jim Crane and his crew seemingly finding new ways to piss off the die-hard fans each week, one can't help but wonder whether Crane really gives a damn.
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Most of the fans understand that the team had to be imploded. They support the rebuilding project because they know that the Astros had become a very, very bad team. But while they'll support the work of the baseball guys to rebuild the team as long as there is some sign that it's working, what they don't want is for the team to treat them like crap.
But since taking over, Crane has fired just about everybody who was associated with the team and who made an attempt to reach out to the fans. The social media department has been destroyed. The radio guys were let go, and with spring training games a month away, there's still nobody in the booth into replace them. The view out of left field was destroyed by the placement of a huge billboard. And not only is there no TV deal for the Astros games, but as the Press reported last week, the Astros are preventing the city from being able to watch the Rockets.
(Yes, David Barron "reported" that that wasn't the case. But if you read Barron's story, he doesn't really do any reporting. He just transcribes a few statements from the Astros, Comcast, and the Rockets dismissing the report, and there's no indication that he did anything else to refute the Press story.)
It's hard for the Astros fans to keep caring about the team when Jim Crane and his minions give no sign of caring about the fans. Even if the Astros start to win again, there's no guarantee that the fans will return. But hey, if the Astros lose 100-plus games again this season, it's not like anybody's going to be able to watch them do it.