HOUSTON - JULY 30: First baseman Lance Berkman left of the Houston Astros talks with general manager Ed Wade during batting practice before the Astros play the Milwaukee Brewers at Minute Maid Park on July 30 2010 in Houston Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
With Jim Crane's takeover from Drayton McLane happening in the near future, that shouldn't be the end of the changes for the Astros
With Drayton McLane's sale of the Astros all but wrapped up, the organization will now face the specter of more change to trickle down from the top.
I think it's fair to say that the Astros have been a bad team for a while now. Not just bad, but boring. I don't know how much one can credit or debit from Astros GM Ed Wade's theoretical balance for having to deal with McLane, but the fact of the matter is that he simply hasn't done enough to survive. You can give Wade credit for a few things: turning around the scouting department with an emphasis on the lower minors, finding Brett Myers on the scrap heap, and acquiring Michael Bourn in the Brad Lidge trade. But they don't make up for the overall job performance he has done on the trade market or with free agents.
Wade didn't sign Carlos Lee to his awful contract, but he does deserve some blame for not being creative enough to do something about it when he had the chance. Chipping in some money before he fell off the cliff to move him to another team would've been a masterstroke. Instead, Wade has spent that money on a cascade of mediocrities. Brandon Lyon, Kazuo Matsui, Pedro Feliz, LaTroy Hawkins, Mike Hampton, Bill Hall, Ivan Rodriguez, Doug Brocail, Mark Loretta, and a heap of other veteran scrapmeat found themselves on the Astros roster over the past couple of years. Given a true ace to deal at the deadline, and with a willingness to pick up money in the deal, the Astros wound up with a first baseman who can't hit for power, a toolsy lottery ticket in Jonathan Villar, and a decent fourth starter. While picking up $10 million of the tab and not letting any teams not named the Phillies know that they would do this. Not to mention the disastrous trade for Miguel Tejada that was saved only by the players he gave up turning out to either be rubbish or birthers.
It's clear that Wade has some eye for talent--he hasn't botched every move the Astros have made since he took over, as some of his detractors would have you believe. The overall package just isn't impressive in the slightest though. He took over a stagnating Astros team and turned it into a stagnant Astros team. If not for the Oswalt trade, the most famous moment of his regime would probably be when Shawn Chacon nearly strangled him.
Obviously it's going to be difficult to hit the ground running should Jim Crane's group be approved before the All-Star break. Rumored targets like Andrew Friedman will still have jobs, there's the MLB Draft to think about, and it's not like every scout or member of the department is personally responsible for all the failures of the organization. Wade hasn't been an embarrassment to the city, and there is no PR gain in sending Wade away as if he's one of history's greatest monsters.
But by the end of the season, Crane should have a pretty good idea of who he can lure, who he wants to keep, and what the next directions should be for the Astros. Ed Wade should not be involved past that point, and the Astros should look to create a new direction for themselves with a fresh strategy. Crane's first test will be to show the fans that he knows that this team needs more change than just him taking the reins from Drayton.