Major League Baseball owners unanimously approved Drayton McLane’s sale of the Houston Astros to Houston businessman Jim Crane Thursday. The final purchase tag on the Stros came out to be $610 million after McLane gave Crane a $70 million discount off the original price of $680 million if the new owner agreed to move Houston to the American League in 2013.
The approval marks the end of a six-month vetting process in which MLB commissioner Bud Selig investigated not only the background of Jim Crane, but that of his approximately 48 investors.
“It was a long vetting process,” commissioner Bud Selig said. “Sometimes in life you have to go through all that. We did. Spent an enormous amount of time. I’m very comfortable today telling you he has put together a really blue-ribbon group. There’s a great president (Postolos) who has a wonderful reputation in sports. I’m relieved it’s over. I’m happy. The group represents the entire Houston community, and I think they’ll do very, very well.”
McLane walks away from this sale sitting quite pretty. He made $493 million off his original $117 million purchase of the Astros in 1992. In almost 20 years, the franchise made the playoffs only six times, highlighted by a seven-game loss in 2004 and a barely-even-there sweep in the World Series the next year. Other than that, the Drayton McLane Era was plagued by mediocrity, frugal spending and, even worse, irrelevancy.
With the exception of the uncharacteristic splurge of all-time aces Roger Clemens and Andy Pettite and the Carlos Beltran trade, the Astros failed (or simply refused) to make the big-time moves to compete consistently, or at least to get the city talking. The 2005 pennant run capitalized off of Houston’s fair-weatheredness, but the team couldn’t keep the momentum as far as popularity and definitely not on the field, as the Astros sank all the way to the doldrums of the National League.
Now the Stros are less than two years from moving to an even more competitive American League, with a young roster, third-fiddle status in their own city (a strong case could be made for the University of Houston Cougars’ reemergence in big-time college football knocking the Astros out of their spot behind the Texans and Rockets) and a new owner in Jim Crane who comes in with the same long term strategy Drayton McLane laughably failed at in the last decade: building from the ground up, emphasis on the word “ground”.