Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Justice's (pretty decent) case for McLane

Do you want another owner? Change is always exciting, but is it necessarily good? In Justice's new column we hear a pretty good case being made for keeping McLane as owner.

He has led the Astros through their best times — a nine-year stretch in which they went to the playoffs six times and were in contention until the final days of the season two other times. Few other baseball franchises were more successful during those years, and if it's fair to criticize him for the recent failures, it's appropriate to praise him for the successes.

He has been hammered as the Astros have fallen from contention and as they've made poor decisions. Some of those decisions can be traced to McLane.

If you take two steps back and a deep breath, you probably will agree the Astros have been a well-run operation in the 17 seasons since McLane arrived...

...They're being rebuilt from the ground up as general manager Ed Wade attempts to piece together a competitive franchise until the minor league pipeline begins to flow again.

How could a new owner do better? Will he raise the payroll? The Astros had baseball's eighth-highest payroll in 2009, so it's unlikely the new owner is going to spend more.

Will a new owner know what McLane doesn't know? Will he understand that spending $1 million on five five-tool draft prospects is smarter than spending $100 million on a two-tool outfielder?

No, he won't. He'll come in and want to make a splash, and he'll end up committing hundreds of millions to aging players. And then he'll realize he's losing his shirt and end up cutting the player development budget.

Soon, the Astros will be right back in the mess they're in now. We've spent so much time training this owner it would be frustrating to have to train another one.

Personally, I enjoy going to Astros games and seeing Drayton walking around the concourse. If the Faceless New York Conglomerate takes over ownership of the Astros, who will we know who to throw baseballs at? I don't have a problem taking shots at Drayton from the comfort and anonymity of this blog, but with a Conglomerate running things, I'll be less comfortable. I'll be afraid that hooded, creatures shrouded in a cloud of fog will bust my door down and pour boiling hot acid down my throat. Or on my hands, whatever. Drayton brings a sort of comfort to the Astros, and I'm not sure another owner would do a better job.

Can blame be laid at Drayton's feet for seasons 2006-2008? Sure. But will we be as critical in 2011 and beyond when this franchise has (hopefully) turned it around?