Jim Crane first attempted to become a major league baseball owner in 2008, when he approached Drayton McLane, Jr. about buying the Houston Astros.
He backed out at the last minute, before even a handshake deal could be made.
I suppose this happens.
Somehow though, it doesn’t sit well with me.
Never mind the variables: price; timing; conditions; approvals, etc…
There’s something about Crane.
He made bids to buy a team in both 2009 (Cubs) and 2010 (Rangers), but neither effort bore fruit.
In May 2011, Crane reached an agreement to purchase the Astros from McLane for a reported $680 million.
He was unanimously approved by MLB on November 17, 2011.
Then-MLB Commissioner Bud (Light) Selig mandated that Houston change divisions–and leagues–from the six-club NL Central to the four-club AL West, presumably in the interest of balanced numbers.
Crane’s balance sheet recorded this accordingly: $35 million bumps from both McLane and MLB, in exchange for this league-change stipulation (previously committed to by McLane, in fairness).
That would be $70 million off the top.
When Crane purchased the team, they stunk to high heaven.
In 2011, the ’Stros won 56 games.
As in 56–106.
Over time an epic, if not monumental, turnaround ensued.
Three consecutive 100-win seasons (2017–2019); two World Series championships (2017; 2022); and 106 regular season wins in ’22, the second-highest total in franchise history.
(In 2019, they won 107).
Appearances in 4 of the last 6 WS.
A tainted WS title would be to vastly understate the happening.
The Houston Astros cheated.
The franchise’s 2017 sign-stealing scandal rocked the baseball world and produced massive fallout.
Suspensions from the game.
Jeff Luhnow, AJ Hinch, Alex Cora, Carlos Beltran, the organization…
Roadkill in some cases.
Crane was there, though not exactly front and center.
Certainly, by his design.
He promised that the team would hold a press conference at spring training when all the players were together to “apologize for what happened, ask for forgiveness and move forward.”
HE never apologized.
Dallas Keuchel did.
He was the first member of the 2017 Astros to do so.
Marwin Gonzalez also publicly apologized.
Hitting coach Dave Hudgens did too but threw Beltran under the bus along the way.
In December 2019, Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci reported that the investigation had mushroomed and would cover the 2018 season.
He divulged that MLB investigators were combing through 70,000 emails and had conducted 70 interviews.
Fast forward to January 13, 2020, when Commissioner Rob Manfred announced the results of the investigation.
Confirmed was that the Astros had illegally used a video camera system to steal signs in the 2017 regular season and postseason, and in parts of the 2018 regular season.
Only hours after MLB announced its findings, Crane fired Luhnow and Hinch, remarking that, “Neither one of them started this but neither one did anything about it.”
Crane said he was trumping baseball’s sanctions by firing the two, because he had “higher standards for the city and the franchise.”
Bobbin’ and weavin’.
Manfred and Crane??
Crane and Manfred??
Manfred had cleared Crane of wrongdoing at the beginning of his report, saying that Crane was “extraordinarily troubled and upset” by the revelations and had fully cooperated.
On February 13, 2020, the Astros held that news conference at their spring training facility in West Palm Beach, FL to address the scandal.
Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve expressed genuine remorse.
The players were sent back to the clubhouse for media availability while Crane and new manager Dusty Baker took questions from the media core.
Yet again, Crane hardly distinguished himself; he was widely panned by journalists who described him as “tone-deaf” and “embarrassing.”
Which brings us to the present.
The Houston Astros won the 2022 World Series with but a handful of personnel left over from the years before.
Manager Dusty Baker finally won a WS as a manager — after 25 years in the dugout.
He signed up for one more go at it in 2023.
After all, he is 73.
GM James Click, recruited by Crane in January 2020 from the Tampa Bay organization, where he had spent the previous 15 years, was insulted.
Because the 44-year-old Yale graduate was begrudgingly offered a 1-year contract.
Click respectfully declined.
A forced, calculated resignation?
Another feather in Jim Crane’s cap.
Pardon me, but…
Not my kind of guy.
The 68-year-old Chairman and CEO of Crane Capital Group, Crane Worldwide Logistics and Crane Freight and Shipping, as well as the Chairperson and Owner of the Astros is worth a reported $1.6 billion according to Forbes.
He orchestrated Click’s departure six days after the ’Stros won the World Series, the first such change following a title since 1947, when the Yankees’ Larry MacPhail was replaced by George Weiss.
Three-quarters of a century.
Stephanie Apstein of SI had it right.
Perhaps Crane should wear his new World Series ring on his middle finger.
Or better yet maybe Click should, as he continues his walk out the door.
[Editor’s Note: This piece was written by Mr. Kaplan in November 2022.]