I heard your announcement today that you have a deal to sell the Houston Astros and I just wanted to drop you a note to say thanks for getting the hell out of the way.
Like most Astros’ fans back in 1992, I was pleased that you bought the team from John McMullen because that got rid of the guy who ran off Nolan Ryan. With his team meandering in the bottom half of the division, McMullen didn’t want to pay a 41-year-old power pitcher despite the fact that he was still effective and was (and still is) a local icon; bad enough, but Ryan ended up having another five years (three winning seasons) and two more no-hitters and thus became wed to another team which he now, in fact, owns, and whose cap he wears in Cooperstown. Not that I’m bitter.
It’s not that I felt you would be a big improvement, mind you; since I wasn’t involved in the grocery business or Wal-Mart I didn’t have any idea who you were. But you weren’t McMullen, and that was good enough. My mistake. What I didn’t know then was that you weren’t capable of trusting the people you hired to run your business—even though it was a business you readily admitted you knew absolutely nothing about—and that you’d turn into a pain in the neck meddler who eventually chased off the best baseball leaders this franchise has ever known.
Some say that you were too cheap to spend the money it took to win; that’s not true. You spent plenty of money, but a lot of the time you spent it on questionable free agent pickups (Greg Swindell? Carlos Lee? Miguel Tejada?) rather than the things that keep a team and an organization strong and competitive: high draft choices, pitching and defense. Some think your legacy is the team’s winning record, and it’s true the Astros have had success on the field during your tenure: the majority of playoff appearances, and the only World Series appearance in franchise history. Congratulations on that, it was a great ride…and seems so long ago now. But we still have a few things we’ll be able to remember you by:
Like Minute Maid Park! Beautiful ball park, I agree…good thing, too, since you used my money to build it—ironic, too, since you’re the one who’s the billionaire and the owner of a company that employs dozens of millionaires, and I’m not. But you blackmailed all of Astros Nation and even the parts of the city that never gave a damn about baseball when you threatened to move the team—the ball club and the economic engine—if we didn’t front you the money for a new ball park to boost your revenue streams, or some such business euphemism. Insisting that taxpayers finance a private business construction project was surely a surprising position to see from you, being such an outspoken supporter of capitalism and all.
And there’s the new level of tasteful presentation: oh, all the advertisements in said Minute Maid Park!! You know, back when the doors opened in 2000 I thought that my ass was the only flat surface in there that didn’t have an ad slapped on it, but over the years you worked your ass off and proved me wrong. The Chick-fil-A Eat More Fowl poles is a monumental achievement, and dovetails nicely with wonderful and all-too-serious promotional events like Dog Day in the Park—I can’t tell you how many people I’ve heard howling about that one!
Finally, you’re leaving us with the excitement of watching a young baseball team come into its own. Sure, they have the worst record in the National League right now, but we play in the same league as the Pirates so I expect to jump up and nestle into fifth place any day now. The best part of that is, this is a gift that could just keep on giving for years to come!
So, fair winds and following seas, Drayton, as you shove off…no hard feelings, but I’m pleased you’re leaving. As was the case in 1992, I don’t know much about the new guy; although he knows baseball in a way you never did, we’ll have to wait and see what he does when it comes to running the business. But if his first decision is to pull the plug on your buddy Milo, I’ll be lining up for World Series tickets!