SBD/March 24, 2014/Franchises

Astros' Crane Hopes For Quick Turnaround; Looking For New Spring Training Home

Crane finds signing young players early an appropriate approach
Astros Owner Jim Crane yesterday "made it clear he believes the Astros have to be better in 2014 than they were a year ago," according to Evan Drellich of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. Crane said, "We do not want to lose 100 games. That would not be good. We think the team's good enough to be very competitive and give some people some fits. ... I'd love to see us get to .500. Would be a big step for us. Or somewhere close to that." Drelich notes in the last week, it "became clear the Astros are big fans of contract extensions for young players, even ones who aren't established yet in the majors." Such contracts can "prove to be huge bargains." The subject at one point or another "has been broached, to varying degrees," with C Jason Castro, LF Robbie Grossman, 3B Matt Dominguez and RF George Springer. The Astros "clearly feel, from a philosophical standpoint, locking up young players early ... is an appropriate approach." Meanwhile, Crane is "hopeful some Astros games could be available this season without a local blackout" to subscribers of MLB's TV package. Although Crane "did not mention 'Extra Innings' by name, that's the name of a premium package of games offered through various TV providers." Crane said, "We're getting down to the rubber meets the road. Probably a decision will be made on it this next week, before Friday." Drellich notes CSN Houston is available to only 40% of cable subscribers in Houston, "leaving the team in a position to try to find other ways to allow fans to watch games." Crane indicated having games available "blackout-free through the Web isn't impossible, but it seems the TV package is more likely" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 3/24).

EAST BOUND AND DOWN? The AP's Chuck King noted Crane "hopes to have a deal for a new spring training home for his ballclub within six months." The Astros are "looking to replace their current home in Kissimmee with a site on the east coast of Florida." Osceola County Stadium was "considered state of the art when the Astros moved there in 1985, but Crane said the complex is 'probably the worst' in the Grapefruit League now." The Nationals and Astros have been "looking at sites in Palm Beach County, Martin County and Port St. Lucie." Crane: "There's a couple decent sites. I think it's just, approve the location, go ahead and verify the funding, and then go for it." Crane "pledged that much of the money to fund the complex construction will come from a local bed tax." Crane: "If you live here, it's not coming out of your pocket. I think people need to understand that" (AP, 3/23).

THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX: CBSSPORTS.com's Jon Heyman wrote the Astros "are not like other MLB teams," as they "just do things differently." They "employ a staff economist," they "employ a guy who left NASA, and another guy who used to design semiconductors." Finally, they "hired two guys who were bloggers, albeit very smart bloggers, in key front-office roles." GM Jeff Luhnow said, "New ideas are welcome. We're not afraid to try something new." If there is "indeed a box, the Astros couldn't possibly see it from where they are." It is MLB's "grand experiment, with perhaps half [of] baseball rooting against it and even reveling in their back-to-back all-time bad seasons, and half hoping it is a monstrous success, if only to show there is a different way to do things" (CBSSPORTS.com, 3/23).
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