Last weekend we went up to Conroe to hang out with the folks and celebrate my younger brother's birthday. And, of course, at some point the conversation drifted to the pathetic state of major league baseball in Houston.
My mom told me that a hairdresser friend of hers was cutting the hair of someone whose relative knew Astros' owner Jim Crane or who knew some relative of Crane's or something along those lines. Well, the gist of the story was that Jim Crane had always been a successful businessman (well, let's just forget about those EEOC problems and that whole war-profiteering mess) and that this man had faith that Crane would be successful in turning around the Astros.
My mom took this to be a sign of hope that one day the Astros might just contend for the playoffs again (or win more than they lost).
Not wanting to be the one to burst my mom's bubble I pointed out that there are two measures of success when one owns a sports team - making money and winning championships. Jim Crane would have to be one of the world's worst businessmen not to make a profit with the Astros.
I pointed out that the upcoming broadcast rights would be worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $40 million or so per team. And that's before selling a single ticket. I told her he had no incentive to go out and spend money on players because with the current payroll he stands to make millions a year doing absolutely nothing.
Now there's little chance the Astros will be as bad as they are now for the foreseeable future. They will improve over time - but don't count on Crane opening up the checkbook to buy free agent talent anytime soon. In fact, be prepared to see the best and brightest young players traded off before they become eligible for arbitration.
Yes, Jim Crane will be successful. He will make money hand-over-fist. Unfortunately, his metric of success isn't winning ballgames.