Monday, November 28, 2011

Olney: Wade isn't entirely to blame

Buster Olney's (Insider-only) column this morning addresses how Houston gets back to relevance.

He links back to Houston media quite a bit, but does warn this:
There are a lot of industry-wide questions about the direction of the organization, about what kind of owner Crane will be, and until that becomes clearer, some folks who have alternatives may choose to wait rather than join the Astros.

And on Wade's legacy:
(For many years) Houston was among the small handful of teams that honored the slot recommendations from the Commissioner's office, and in recent years, owner Drayton McLane drastically cut the Astros' budget. Wade wasn't given a lot to work with and has had some dead money to work through, and the sudden shift to austerity is the root cause for the disintegration of the franchise. (Note, Richard Justice says Wade's legacy is complicated).

Let's be clear about something, and remember this carefully, because we Astros fans are a little too close to the situation to be completely objective: these positions (GM and, potentially, manager) are not exactly the most attractive positions in baseball. Why? I don't think it needs to be explained but let's take a look at the challenges the incoming front office will be facing:

1. Depressed, angry fan base.
2. Transition between leagues.
3. Weak major-league roster, comparatively.
4. The fruits of Ed Wade's labor in trades/draft, won't be realized for at least two more years...if at all.

And that's just off the top of my head. Buster Olney talked to a "really smart executive" (yes, that's exactly how Olney described them) who said that the Astros were 4-7 years away from respectability. That's a really long time in my view, but it should tell you how far the franchise has fallen from being the toast of the National League. And even when they were the best team in the NL, the Astros weren't doing anything to keep them in that position. It's like they tried to out-Marlin the Marlins, and failed so, so miserably.

This is Drayton's legacy. Does the fall of the franchise - and the time it will take to rebuild it - outweigh the "glory years?" In my estimation, yes. Would you rather be in a solid band for 15 years, or a one-hit wonder? As of 2012, the Astros' "glory years" were a one-hit wonder.

Through this whole regime change, remember this sad fact: If the Astros are, as the super smart wonder executive says, 4-7 years away, what GM would want to step into that situation? Only two GMs in franchise history - Spec Richardson ('67-'75) and Gerry Hunsicker ('95-'04) - were given 7+ years at the helm.

This is an era in which GMs aren't given a whole lot of time to make their mark. Brian Sabean (1996), Billy Beane (1997), and Brian Cashman (1998) are the only GMs to take their places prior to 2000. What aspiring GM would want to take on a (potential) seven year project?