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Jim Crane

Crane sues McLane

This ought to be fun.

Jim Crane’s Astros ownership group filed a state court lawsuit Thursday against former Astros owner Drayton McLane, Comcast and NBC Universal, accusing them of fraud and civil conspiracy and accusing McLane’s corporation that owned the Astros of breach of contract in conjunction with Crane’s 2011 purchase of a 46 percent interest in the parent company of Comcast SportsNet Houston.

The suit accuses McLane, who sold the Astros and his CSN Houston share to Crane in 2011 for $615 million, of selling “an asset (the network) they knew at the time to be overpriced and broken.” It also says Crane was “duped” when he bought McLane’s network interest based on what have been proved to be “knowing misrepresentations” and “falsely inflated subscription rates.”

“Ultimately, fans of the Houston Astros have been injured because defendants’ misrepresentations leave (Crane) with an impossible choice: accept the broken network as is and deprive thousands of fans the ability to watch Houston Astros games on their televisions, or distribute the game at market rates and take massive losses out of the Houston Astros player payroll – thereby dooming the franchise for years to come,” the suit adds.

[…]

Crane’s suit alleges McLane and Rockets owner Leslie Alexander demanded in 2010 that Comcast charge a base subscriber rate for CSN Houston in Zone 1 – the area around Houston where Astros and Rockets games can be seen – that Comcast said was too high. In fact, the suit said, the rate was so high Comcast feared it could not convince other distributors to carry the network.

Comcast eventually agreed to the inflated base rate, the suit said, in return for a most favored nation clause, which ensured Comcast it would always pay the lowest base rate of any distributor.

Faulty business plan

Crane, according to the suit, was not aware of these facts when he was negotiating to buy the team in 2011 and that Comcast, NBC Universal and McLane agreed to “conceal material information” about the network’s business plan.

The suit also accuses Jon Litner, group president of the NBC Sports Group, of making false and misleading claims the CSN Houston business plan was achievable, even though they were based on what the company knew were inflated subscriber rates.

Crane became aware of the 2010 demands by Alexander and McLane, according to the suit, during a December 2012 meeting in New York City, about a year after he bought the team and three months after the network launched.

The suit asks that McLane’s McLane Champions corporation be ordered to repay Crane’s group for losses that have resulted from alleged breaches of the group’s purchase agreement – including, presumably, more than $30 million in rights fees the Astros failed to receive in 2013 and what Crane says is the “artificially inflated price” he paid for McLane’s network share. Court testimony indicated CSN Houston was valued in 2010 at $700 million, with McLane’s share valued at $326 million.

I haven’t followed it here on the blog, but CSN Houston has been plagued with problems, mostly stemming from the fact that nobody other than Comcast carries it. That limits its reach to about 40% of Houston-area viewers, which also limits ratings and ad revenues. Mayor Parker has tried to facilitate talks between Comcast and other carriers to resolve this, but has had no luck. The infamous game nobody watched probably didn’t improve Crane’s mood about the station. The Astros have been trying to get out of this deal but aren’t on the same page as the Rockets, who are also stakeholders in CSN Houston. Four Comcast affiliates have filed for bankruptcy stemming from that action. It’s all a big mess, is what I’m saying. I have no idea what happens from here, but I’ll be watching. Sports Update and Hair Balls have more.

On the Astros’ Wives Gala

What Nonsequiteuse says:

I’m really upset that the Houston Astros have left the Houston Area Women’s Center in the lurch as far as the gala this year. I know the people and the programs that will suffer without those funds, and let me tell you, it will hurt.

I’d like to suggest some constructive next steps the parties involved in this meltdown might take to not just repair the damage, but to launch a new partnership that is beneficial to each party and the larger community.

You can read the basics at KHOU (which broke the story), CultureMap (and an update here, with comments from the Astros), the Houston Press (which brings in some additional elements of recent developments with the ball club), and undoubtedly many other places. Great, long history and details on the Houston Chronicle. But the quick history:

  • The Astros, through their Astros’ Wives organization, traditionally held a black-tie gala benefiting theHouston Area Women’s Center, our region’s oldest,  largest, and exceedingly well-respected nonprofit organization supporting survivors of domestic and sexual violence and educating the community on how to create a world free of such violence.
  • The gala has happened for so long, and been so well-received by the community, that the proceeds have become a key line item in the agency’s annual operating budget.
  • The ball club just announced that it is “officially” disbanding the Astros’ Wives, and that the club will redirect its charitable focus toward troubled youth and inner-city baseball programs.
  • KHOU broke the story [Tuesday] morning.

My thoughts, which I hope might form the basis for constructive move-aheads:

Fill the Gap
The immediate need is making sure HAWC has the funds they need to finish their budget year. Making do without the gala proceeds is like asking a team to play without a shortstop.

Let’s not wait for the team to act. You can donate here. Share the link once you’ve kicked in your bit, and remember, even $15 or $50 helps.

You should read the full post by Nonsequiteuse for a number of ways that this can be fixed or mitigated. The HAWC does great and necessary work, and it doesn’t deserve to be left hanging like this. While the Astros Wives Organization is a separate non-profit that is not affiliated with the ballclub, surely Jim Crane could have given the Women’s Center more notice about this change in policy. Maybe one last gala for old times’ sake, then part ways with plenty of time for the HAWC to plan for the next year. Failing that, there are some fine ideas in NS’ post, so check it out. I hope we can all come together and find a way forward for the HAWC this year.

UPDATE: More this morning, on the Astros’ response and what could have been done about the things they brought up.

UPDATE: Sean Pendergast piles on.

Mills and Clemens

Enjoy your paid time off, Brad Mills.

General manager Jeff Luhnow and owner Jim Crane see no reason to wait until the season ends to begin the search for the next Astros manager after Brad Mills was fired and replaced by interim skipper Tony DeFrancesco.

Some candidates might not become available until after Oct. 3 — or after the World Series should their employers advance far enough — but the search begins now and interviews will likely start during the season for those unattached.

“Right now, we’re at the very first stage, which is gathering information,” Luhnow said Sunday. “Once we get past that stage and determine which candidates we want to speak to, there’s going to be a lot of factors involved in that.

“There’s no reason to wait, so we’re going to move as fast as we can.

“We’re going to be working diligently on that for the remainder of the season and into the offseason or however long it takes.”

Crane said the Astros have four or five candidates in mind but have not compiled a list, which is expected to be larger than that once phone calls start today.

That Mills was fired isn’t a surprise. Changes in ownership almost always mean changes in management, and it’s not like Mills has a long record of managerial success to mitigate against that. Of course, it’s hard to imagine any manager from John McGraw to Casey Stengel to Bobby Cox getting a whole lot more out of the talent on hand. Still, I am curious what the actual case against Mills was, since no one is saying anything bad about him and I don’t recall seeing anyone argue that he’s been a failure. When a club is in complete tear down and rebuild mode, you need a manager that’s good at teaching and who won’t unnecessarily risk the health of his players to win a game that in the long run doesn’t mean much. I don’t know if Luhnow and Crane didn’t like what they saw with Mills or if they just wanted to get their own guy in there. Not that it really matters, as whoever they bring in is unlikely to still be there when the team finally turns it around. That’s usually the way these things go in the process, and with the Astros years away from being competitive, I’m pretty sure that’s how it will go here. Best of luck to whoever will be nurturing them in the interim.

Then there’s Roger Clemens.

Roger Clemens, whose remarkable 30-year baseball travelogue has taken him from Houston to Austin, Boston, Toronto, New York and points in between, will make his next stop in Sugar Land.

Clemens, 50, the seven-time Cy Young Award winner who last pitched in 2007 and was last in the public eye for his acquittal on federal perjury charges earlier this year, will return to the mound on Saturday night to pitch for the minor league Sugar Land Skeeters.

Clemens threw for about 90 minutes Monday morning at Sugar Land’s Constellation Field and pronounced himself ready for his comeback against the Bridgeport Bluefish, which along with the Skeeters plays in the independent Atlantic League.

[…]

“It is a fun, local, one-time kind of thing,” said Clemens’ longtime agent, Randy Hendricks. “The hitters will let him know Saturday if he should pitch another game.”

Whether it is indeed a one-time curtain call or a return to action that could at some point lead to Clemens’ return to the major leagues, it is an unexpected swerve in the career of one of baseball’s most charismatic yet polarizing athletes.

“We’re going to take things one game at a time and see where they lead us,” said Michael Kirk, operations manager for the Skeeters. “I am fascinated to see what happens this weekend, and we’ll take it from there.”

I think a little Pete Townshend is appropriate here:

“After the fire, the fire still burns
The heart grows older, but never ever learns
The memories smolder, but the soul always yearns
After the fire, the fire still burns.”

There’s two ways for an athletic career to end: For the athlete to accept that it’s over and move on, and for the athlete’s performance to make it clear to anyone who might think of hiring said athlete that it’s over. Neither has happened yet with Roger Clemens. As long as he’s got the fire, and until the objective evidence says otherwise, I say what the heck. For all we know he may still be a viable option for the Astros a few years down the line when they’ve finally put together a team that can win again. Or perhaps sooner than that, as Campos speculates.

So here’s the deal. If he does OK in a couple of outings, the ‘Stros will pick him up for three games in September when they can expand the roster. The ‘Stros will let him start against three non-contending clubs at The Yard – Cubbies, Phillies, and San Luis (soon to be non-contenders) – and they will let him pitch four or five innings and sell out The Yard. It is gate money the team wasn’t counting on. They will pay The Rocket the minimum but since he’ll be an MLBer, he’ll be knocked off the Hall of Fame ballot for the next five years and won’t have to face the humiliation of not getting the votes next January to join the Hall of Fame. By 2018, some of the old school BBWOA members won’t be around to leave The Rocket off of their ballot and the most recent Rocket memory will be of the 2012 Comeback at The Yard. That’s not a bad strategy if you ask me. Plus, at least it would be something to look forward to at The Yard this September.

That actually makes a lot of sense, for all involved. We’ll see how it goes.

No more Not-Stros

Glad we got that settled.

New owner Jim Crane ended a week of speculation and rare attention on a national level and anticipated backlash among Houstonians, saying he would not change the name of the club – a possibility he floated last week.

“You asked for change and we added several fan friendly initiatives last week and we hope you like them,” Crane said in a video message to season ticket holders. “We will continue to listen, and to look for additional ways to improve on and off the field.

“One thing that we are not going to change is the name. We received strong feedback and consensus among season ticket holders and many fans, and we will not change the name Astros. The Houston Astros are here to stay.”

Crane said he would consider the franchise’s second name change last Monday at a press conference to announce lower ticket prices and the end of the ban on outside food at Minute Maid Park.

You can watch the video here. I had said this wouldn’t go over well, and an unscientific Chron poll confirmed that fans were strongly against the idea. Of course, if the real idea was to remind people that they did still care about the Astros, then mission accomplished. Just don’t do it again, OK?

The Houston Not-Stros

Oh, hell no.

Even more drastic changes could come next year, when the [Astros move] to the American League.

Possible transformations include new uniforms and logos, changes to the playing field and “Tal’s Hill” in center field, and even a re-evaluation of the name “Astros,” which the team has used for the last 47 years of a 50-year history.

“We’re taking a look at everything,” [new owner Jim] Crane said when asked about the potential name change. “We’re going to do a study on it. We’re going to study the information, both from our fans and from all sorts of marketing people. I’m not saying we’re going to change. We haven’t made a decision. If the change is going to come, it’s going to come next year.”

I assure you, this will not go over well. Many people are already upset at the forthcoming change to the American League. Save yourself the money on the study.

Yes, I know, the team changed its name once, from the Colt .45s to the Astros, back in 1965. That was a long time ago, and it was a three-year-old franchise updating its name to fit a brand new, first of its kind stadium. That team had no history to leave behind, and the move into the Astrodome made the name change make sense. There’s no parallel here. Besides, the other time a team changed leagues, the Milwaukee Brewers kept their name.

Geek that I am, I got to wondering how often teams changed names. Often, the name change was accompanied by a relocation – the Expos became the Nationals, the Senators became the Rangers (and an earlier version of the Senators became the Twins before that), the Pilots became the Mariners, and the Browns became the Orioles. For teams that remained in the same place, the name changes I could think of were:

The Tamps Bay Rays dropped the “Devil” from their name in 2008.

The Oakland Athletics became the Oakland A’s in 1970, but then reclaimed the “Athletics” name in 1981.

The Cincinnati Reds were briefly known as the “Redlegs” during the 1950s. Yes, this was a craven response to McCarthyism and the hysteria over Communism.

The Boston Braves, which had numerous other nicknames early on, were known as the Bees from 1935-39, before becoming the Braves again. They remained the Braves through relocations to Milwaukee and then Atlanta, as the Athletics kept their name after moving from Philadelphia to Kansas City and finally to Oakland.

In 1933, the Brooklyn franchise officially became the Dodgers after previously being known as the Grays, the Grooms, the Bridegrooms, the Superbas, and the Robins. Let me just say now that I will drop my own opposition to an Astros’ name change if Jim Crane agrees to call the team the Houston Superbas, if only because I would love to know what a Superbas team mascot might look like.

Go back further and there are more and more examples of name changes. Even the New York Yankees were once known as the Highlanders, a name that was supposedly hated by New York’s many newspapers because it was impossible to fit into a headline. There’s plenty of examples of name changes, but none that I can see for a longstanding franchise that isn’t going anywhere. I personally would prefer the Astros make history in other ways than that. Hair Balls, which focuses on the positive things that were said like lower ticket prices, cheaper beer, and the ability to bring your own food and beverage into the stadium, and Greg, who’s with me, have more.

Sports Authority will not impede Astros move to AL

One of the odd side stories that came out after MLB officially approved the sale of the Astros to Jim Crane was this contention by attorney Kevin W. Yankowsky of Fulbright & Jaworski that the Astros’ lease at Minute Maid Park required them to be in the National League. At the time, Sports Authority Chair J. Kent Friedman said it was an “interesting analysis” and that he’d have their legal beagles look it over. It didn’t take them long to kick it out.

On Tuesday, McLane and Crane completed the transfer of the Astros.

[…]

Crane said he will attend the winter meetings. One thing he won’t have to deal with is any challenge from the Harris County Houston Sports Authority over the Astros’ move to the AL. A partner from Fulbright & Jaworski L.L.P. last week said a move to the AL would violate the terms of the lease at Minute Maid, but the HCHSA said in a release that its legal team has a differing opinion. Withholding consent for the Astros playing as an AL team, the HCHSA determined, would be “unreasonable.”

Here’s the Sports Authority’s full response:

The Lease provides in Section 5.1(a) that the Astros have the right to use the Stadium for “the operation of a Major League Baseball franchise.” There is no reference in this Section to league affiliation. Further, as defined in the Lease, the term “Major League Baseball” expressly includes the National League, the American League and all Member Teams. In addition, Section 5.1(a) of the Lease expressly uses the uncapitalized word “franchise” instead of the capitalized, defined term “Franchise.” Only the capitalized, defined term “Franchise” is limited to a National League franchise. The uncapitalized term “franchise” is not so limited. Finally, the reference to “Baseball Home Games” (basically defined as Astros baseball games as a member of the National League) in Section 5.1(a) of the Lease is not a limiting phrase. Rather, it is used as an example of a use incidental to the use of the Stadium for the “operation of a Major League Baseball franchise,” not as an exclusive use. This interpretation is confirmed by the use of the phrase “including, but not limited to,” which precedes the phrase “Baseball Home Games.”

Accordingly, the Astros are permitted under the Lease to operate a Major League Baseball franchise in either the National League or the American League and to play their games in the Stadium attendant to such operation. Therefore, the Sports Authority is not in a position to prevent Major League Baseball from potentially moving the Astros to the American League.

The Astros transfer to the American League does require a minor change to the Non-Relocation Agreement to confirm that the Astros cannot play any home games outside the Stadium in violation of the Non-Relocation Agreement. The Astros have agreed to this minor change.

Even though the Astros cannot assign their interest in the Lease or mortgage their leasehold estate in most instances without the consent of the Sports Authority, the Sports Authority may not unreasonably withhold its consent. The Sports Authority’s withholding of its consent based solely on a potential Astros move to the American League could be considered unreasonable and therefore a violation of the Sports Authority’s covenant not to act in an unreasonable manner in this regard.

I don’t know, I have a hard time believing this will be the end of it. I just have a feeling that there’s a lawsuit out there to force the issue. I certainly could be wrong, I have nothing more than my gut to go on, but this is what I think. What do you think?

MLB approves Astros sale

It’s official.

Jim Crane’s $610 million purchase of the Astros from Drayton McLane was unanimously approved by Major League Baseball’s owners this morning.

All that remains is a formal closing of the transaction, which likely will take place early next week. At that point, McLane’s 19-year ownership of the club will end.

As we know, this not only means that the Astros will be changing leagues, but that the MLB playoff format will change as well.

Two wild card teams will be added to Major League Baseball’s playoffs no later than 2013, the same year the Houston Astros will begin play in the American League.

Commissioner Bud Selig announced Thursday that baseball’s owners unanimously approved Jim Crane as the Houston Astros’ owner. As part of his agreement to buy the club, Crane will shift the Astros to the AL after 2012, creating two 15-team leagues.

“It’s a historical day,” said Selig, whose new format ensures that an interleague game will be contested “from opening day on.”

Selig did not offer specifics on the schedule or playoff format, but said his committee for on-field matters favors the one-game playoff among wild-card teams in each league, saying it would be “dramatic.” The additional wild cards could be added for the 2012 season, but will be in place by 2013 for sure.

I’m not a hidebound traditionalist by any means, but count me among those who thought the current system, which as noted before produced two of the most compelling playoff races we’ve seen in a long time, was working just fine and didn’t need any further tweaking. But never let it be said that MLB and Beelzebub Selig are letting moss grow on them.

A potentially troublesome, or at least potentially hilarious, side item here has to do with the Astros’ lease at Minute Maid Park.

An Astros move to the American League could violate the team’s lease agreement with the Harris County Houston Sports Authority, according to a local attorney.

Kevin W. Yankowsky, a partner at Fulbright & Jaworski L.L.P., outlined his findings from a review of the lease in a Tuesday letter to J. Kent Friedman, the Sports Authority’s chairman of the board.

Yankowsky, an Astros fan since the 1970s, will make a presentation at the Dec. 1 Sports Authority Board of Directors meeting urging a strict enforcement of the Astros’ lease to play their home games at Minute Maid Park. The wording of the lease agreement, Yankowsky said, spells out that the Astros cannot play at Minute Maid as anything but a National League team without receiving prior consent from the Sports Authority.

[…]

“My position would be: (The Sports Authority) simply ought to refuse to renegotiate their lease,” Yankowsky said. “All they have to do is stand on their rights and let Major League Baseball know that come 2013 they intend to stand on their right. Then it’s up to baseball.

“Baseball can either sue the Sports Authority or give in. The Sports Authority doesn’t have to sue anybody. They can sit back and say, ‘We’ve got a valid lease, and this is what it says, and we’re going to enforce it.’ ”

Citing provisions from a 2000 agreement that expires at the end of 2029, Yankowsky said the terms spell out that the home team — the Astros — be a National League franchise.

[…]

“In the simplest form, what this means, in my judgment, is come opening day of 2013, the Sports Authority can refuse to let them play because it’s not a permitted use of the stadium,” Yankowsky said. “They can quite simply lock the doors and say, ‘No, it’s not a permitted use.’ The play of Major League Baseball games, by definition, are limited to games in which a National League team is the home team.”

Friedman called it “an interesting analysis” and said he has asked the Sports Authority attorneys to review the matter.

“We’ll take a hard look at it,” Friedman said. “If there is a legitimate legal position to be taken by the Sports Authority that benefits the community, we ought to take it. If it’s a stretch or if it’s something that ultimately doesn’t benefit the community, then that’s not what we should be doing. But that’s easy to say. How to sort through all that remains to be seen.”

While I applaud the outside-the-box thinking here, I have a hard time seeing this as anything more than a minor annoyance for MLB and the ‘Stros. Let’s be honest, this is the sort of problem (if it really is one) that is solved by whacking it with a checkbook until it dies. There’s a negotiated settlement in someone’s future, if it comes to that. I hope I’m misunderestimating Attorney Yankowsky’s interpretive skills, because I love me some misdirected chaos, but I’m not holding out much hope. Greg has more.

Astros almost to the AL

It’s happening.

Prospective Astros owner Jim Crane and his group of investors have reached an agreement with Major League Baseball that would shift the franchise to the American League, two people with knowledge of the situation confirmed Friday.

One person familiar with the situation said the transfer of the team from Drayton McLane to Crane is on the agenda at next week’s owners meetings in Milwaukee, but negotiations over the final details likely will continue until then. The Associated Press, citing two people who spoke on condition of anonymity, also reports the sale is on the owners’ agenda and that part of the sale agreement would involve the Astros moving to the AL effective in 2013.

The AL agreement would appear to be the final hurdle for Crane to close a deal he and McLane announced May 16. The Chronicle reported Nov. 4 that the $680 million purchase appeared to be headed for approval Thursday, with the AL negotiations being one of the final sticking points. The Astros have been in the National League since 1962 and the Central Division since 1994.

Spokespersons for Crane and MLB declined comment.

“If it’s on the agenda, then the deal is done,” one person with knowledge of the situation said.

“They usually don’t get this far unless it’s something that’s going to be acted on,” another person with knowledge of the situation said.

Assuming no further delays, it ought to be made official this week. I still don’t understand why anyone wants to have an odd number of teams in each league, and I don’t understand why I haven’t seen more about how this will drastically affect scheduling. I guess we’ll know more soon.

Astros to the AL update

I remain puzzled by this.

Major League Baseball is discussing with prospective Astros owner Jim Crane possible compensation for agreeing to move the team to the American League.

Three people familiar with the negotiations said on Thursday that MLB has broached the subject with Crane, who in May reached an agreement to purchase the team from Drayton McLane for $680 million. One industry insider said MLB representatives floated $50 million as a possible compensation package for Crane and his group of investors to move the team from the National League. It is not known if MLB has formally offered the $50 million, or if such compensation would come from a reduction in the sale price or by other means.

The discussions would suggest that MLB commissioner Bud Selig has moved past vetting the Crane group and will attempt to finalize the sale.

“Baseball seems very interested to cause this to happen,” an industry insider familiar with the negotiations said on Thursday.

That would constitute a significant shift from August, when MLB removed a scheduled vote to approve the sale from the owners’ meetings agenda. A person familiar with top MLB officials’ thinking said concerns about past business practices of Crane’s companies remain a point in contention in approving the deal.

Another industry insider contends MLB has been using past EEOC complaints and settlements involving war profiteering as “a bargaining chip” to leverage Crane into accepting a move to the AL as a pre-condition to taking over the team. Selig and the MLB Players Association have stated a desire for two 15-team leagues that will allow for the addition to two wild-card playoff teams. One of the 16 NL teams would have to change leagues for that to happen, and there have been no volunteers. With a pending sale, coming off the worst season in franchise history (56-106), the Astros would appear to be susceptible to persuasion to sever ties with the NL that go back to 1962.

Let’s put the question about the extra playoffs aside for the moment. It’s ironic that this is being discussed at the end of the season that featured the two most dramatic playoff races of the wild card era, but the shift in emphasis from the regular season to the postseason is a ship that sailed so long ago it’s on its third round trip by now. What I don’t understand is why 15 teams per league, which will necessarily mean interleague play year round, is considered desirable. If you want balanced divisions, I’d rather make like the NFL and expand to 32 teams with four four-team divisions per league and no wild card, or two eight-team divisions with the top two from each making the playoffs. Failing that, if interleague all the time is where we’re heading, then let’s drop the pretense of having separate leagues, essentially a fiction these days given that there are no more league presidents, and adopt saner schedules as folks like David Pinto have advocated. That would mean coming to a decision one way or the other on the DH – as a lifelong American League fan, I’m for it as I’m sure the MLBPA would be too – but that’s a debate I’m willing to have and to lose if it comes down to it. The current proposals are to me the worst of all possible worlds, which means I’d better start getting used to it. At least having the Astros in the AL would mean I’d get to see the Yankees every year. Even for me that’s not worth the ridiculousness of it all, but you take your silver linings where you can find them.

Astros sold

With everything else that’s been going on I’ve only been peripherally aware of the ongoing sale of the Astros to a new owner, which is now official.

Jim Crane stood behind the microphone Monday afternoon at Minute Maid Park, in his first moments as the new owner-to-be of the Astros, and spoke from his heart about dreams coming true, of his love for baseball and of his determination to produce a winning product for Houston fans.

And then Crane headed to his seat, only to be hooked back to center stage, with evident glee, by outgoing owner Drayton McLane.

“Don’t leave,” McLane said. “You’re just getting started. You’re just beginning, but this is the fun part right here.”

If he didn’t know it, that was Crane’s first hint that life in Major League Baseball will be considerably more high-profile than his role over the past three decades as broker of supply chain services for business and industry.

Crane, 57, had few specific answers for Astros fans because he will not take the keys to the franchise until the $680 million acquisition is approved by MLB owners. But he indicated he will apply the lessons he learned as a pitcher at the University of Central Missouri in the 1970s and as the founder of two successful companies, most recently Houston-based Crane Worldwide Logistics.

“Baseball teaches you a lot of values, and I tried to use a lot of those values, especially in how we ran the business,” he said. “We try to operate as a team. We weren’t afraid to work harder, harder than the other guys, and we stay persistent. The harder you work, the luckier you get.”

Welcome aboard, Jim Crane, and best of luck getting the Astros’ ship pointed in the right direction again. My guess is that we’re looking at three to five years minimum, given the still-barren (though better than it was) nature of the farm system. Hope the honeymoon lasts long enough to tide him over till then.

As for outgoing owner Drayton McLane, I think Sean Pendergast summed up his tenure pretty well. Let’s just say that I hope Crane builds on the good things, of which there were quite a few, and leave it at that.