Ending Spoiled As Crane Gets $70m Discount, Astros Move To American League In 2013

Jim Crane did not try and sugarcoat the state the franchise finds itself in.

Expecting a revelation today, fans of the Houston Astros got exactly what they expected: Jim Crane approved as owner, a nice golden hello, and a one-way trip to the American League West the year after next. What happened to you Bud Selig you used to be cool. 

Well, no, you never were. Instead he has poisoned whatever legacy Drayton McLane thought he was going to leave the franchise, and ensure that the new man faced a seething, if not hostile fanbase. 

All that is left are the MLB hacks to fire off a few apologetic reems of copy:

But the Astros, of course, are the casualties of correction, for they and their fans will have to adapt not only to a new league but a more daunting one.

"It's going to be tougher," said Joe Torre, MLB's executive vice president of baseball operations, "to go from the National League to the American League."

Put it this way: There are plenty of AL executives who would be happy to do the reverse.

Great. 

Of course there are things to look forward to. A ficticious Astros-Rangers rivalry for instance. Pam Gardner staying in her job, Tal Smith aimlessly wandering the corridors, George Postolos leaning over Ed Wade's shoulder and breathing down his neck. Potential moves after thanksgiving, but not moves of the blockbuster variety. Oh no.

But, hopefully we will have something a mite more inspiring than the slew of non-roster invitees Wade has been piling up on us in recent weeks. Scott Moore, an infielder, is the latest addition, having played 80 major league games for the Cubs and Orioles

Steve Campbell of the Chronicle seems to think, and this may be more in line with Crane's thinking than mine, but I would assume Crane would be looking at Wade's job performance before Brad Mills. However, Campbell lists Mills' future at number three on his top five priorities for the offseason. Unless he is intending to make a splash like the Cardinals did for MIke Matheny and hire someone like Brad Ausmus, totally out of left-field, then I am happy for Mills to stay in 2012, and give a new revamped front office the time to search for a long-term successor. 

Other things to look forward to: an end to hard slotting. Everyone's favourite bugbear over the McLane years will hopefully be put to bed as the Astros get first pick in every round in June, and potentially a compensation pick if Clint Barmes leaves for greener fields. 

The mood was rather somber during the press conference, even with the rather psychopathic laughter when Crane tried to crack a joke. Rather than being a celebration of a new owner, a new chapter, a new leaf turned over, this one felt like a wake. The version of baseball and the Astros that we knew and loved slowly died as rumors about the ownership switch emerged over the past few months. Today the corpse was laid out for all to see. 

The franchise is a mess, there is a lack of major league ready talent within the organisation. They are sitting on a few bloated contracts that need to be disposed of. The farm system is improving, but still not ideal. The front office is a joke. And we are heading to a league which is far tougher than the one we will be saying goodbye to in 2012. 

But we should not be ones to cry over spilt milk, and if there are those of you who find over time that you cannot muster the same amount of passion you found to support the Astros in the AL as the NL, then I fully understand. Heck, in a few years I may even find myself in that position. A lot of use might. 

But right now I'm dying to hear whether Crane will fire Boffo immediately or allow him to deal Wandy Rodriguez. Whether he will get rid of Carlos Lee, try and get Brett Myers moved. Spring a couple of surprise moves, rename Tal's Hill, change the uniforms, or consign Junction Jack to the annals of sporting history where he belongs.

On the people who said they would not be renewing their tickets Crane said that he and his team:

"needed to convince them we are going to put a good product on the field."

How quickly he can do that will supersede every other question a battle-weary Astros fan might have about the franchise's future.  

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