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Will Richard Justice’ Effort Help Crane Avoid the Critical Questions?

November 24, 2011

On November 16, the Houston Chronicle’s Richard Justice provided Jim Crane with an early Christmas present. It was titled Cut Crane Some Slack Since AL Move Was Forced On Him.

And so began the sweep-it-under-the-rug campaign. No critical questions need be asked. Richard Justice had proclaimed to the masses what they, in truth, would prefer to believe anyway. (What generally-good-natured person, after all, actually wants to acquire information that would compel them to not like the new owner of the baseball team they’ve supported for years?) And while the typical hardcore Astros fan knows better than to accept what Richard Justice considers to be a truism, the masses simply do not.

Justice’s motivation for conveying this kindness on Crane would seem obvious: Under the previous regime, RJ believed he had special access like no other Houston media person; it only goes to reason that he would, early on, develop some quid pro quo with the new guy.

So, will Justice/Crane be successful? I think there’s a pretty good chance that they will be. While the hardcore Astros fans have spoken out in a big way, voicing their displeasure, most fans are not hardcore.

They’re casual fans. And nothing against casual fans–intuitively, they constitute the majority of ticket buyers, after all. But they simply do not have the same investment, and no basis for critical thought to test what a person like Richard Justice tells them. MLB by-laws, collective bargaining agreements, and what would constitute a high or low bid on a baseball franchise do not interest them.

And really, who can blame them?

Neither Richard Justice nor anyone else in the Houston media core are talking about the inconsistencies in the Justice/Crane alibi, let alone asking any of the salient questions that would serve to resolve them.

So, it appears this morning that Jim Crane now has had his full welcome party from the Houston media, having invited them to observe his move into his new office. And the script that began with the press conference continued: Crane repeated his intention to resist volunteering any information about how the AL move decision transpired.

Perhaps, it was appropriate that all discussions with Crane to this point have been cordial, but one begins to wonder at this point whether the Houston media is just that intimidated by the new CEO of Houston baseball.

Indeed… at what point will these obvious questions be raised that explore just how complicit with Selig he was, and applying normal journalistic skepticism to Jim Crane’s assertions that he had no choice in the matter? Who will be the journalist who will step forward and clear up the obfuscation?

To the uninitiated, there are certain facts we know that it appears Crane will seek to dismiss under his cover of “being forward-looking,” such as:

(a) By-laws that state no move across league or, even, division boundaries can be made w/o the consent of the owner;

(b) That Crane’s premium bid would logically have made Selig dis-inclined from turning Crane down short of actual overwhelming EEOC concerns;

(c) That the CBA situation made it very plausible for him (or in the case that he were turned down, Drayton) to simply wait out Selig–i.e., whether Selig turned Crane down, or for that matter, if Crane refused to go to the AL and turned Selig down, Selig’s dilemma would have remained intact, with the only alternatives to shelve 15/15 or go to Plan B;

(d) That Drayton would have been similarly dis-inclined from moving the team himself since, again, if he were to just wait-out Selig, he could sell his NL franchise at a higher price than he could an AL franchise.

(e) That we would expect that a successful business person like Jim Crane would recognize the leverage he had in relation to Selig’s leverage, and that ultimately, Selig could not make this occur without Crane’s cooperation; and,

(f) If that were not the case, it begs explanation for why the person with the supposedly-greater leverage (Selig) worked out a $65-70 million compensation package for the person who supposedly had lesser (?); if one assumes that Selig is not running a charity, shouldn’t we account for the logic of handing over so many millions of dollars?

It will be interesting over the coming days if any of this changes. Will Crane be able to execute his “no looking back” strategy, or will someone step up to ask these lingering substantive questions.

Particularly in light of many fans indicating their determination to abandon the franchise after decades of support, and/or to participate in boycotts against the Crane franchise and businesses friendly to his franchise, it would seem egregiously curious if they do not.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. Tom Hardey permalink
    November 24, 2011 5:27 pm

    Well stated.

  2. Becky:) permalink
    November 24, 2011 8:05 pm

    Crane was made aware of the circumstances WAYYYY before the media ever got wind of it.
    Drayton McLane told Selig he would NOT move, and that made for a “sticky” situation. Crane
    wanted a team. ANY TEAM. As an MLB owner he is GUARANTEED $50 million a year. Win or lose he gets his $50 million. His investors however, are going to be pretty p$ssed off, when their money is lost in cyberspace FOREVER. It is what it is.

    • November 25, 2011 12:02 pm

      That Crane wanted a team very badly is clear. That he wanted any team is clear. Though a Houston resident, he voices none of the things one would expect to hear from an Astros fan who has just purchased his favorite team; and somewhat to his credit, he has not pretended otherwise. But that seemingly prevents him from fully appreciating just how deeply his actions have offended the base.

  3. Becky:) permalink
    November 25, 2011 2:40 pm

    Greg…..trust me, he will FULLY appreciate just how deeply his actions have offended the fan base. When no more than 7-8 thousand folks buy tickets to see *HIS* team…..he’s
    gonna bleed money. He needs his investors more than they need HIM. I live in Kingwood, and I can tell you right now how many of us have chosen NOT to continue our season tickets. I gave mine up several years ago, when it was clear Drayton McLane had turned his back on this team and the fans. I’m just gonna laugh when Crane goes upside down on this purchase. And…..no I wouldn’t count on ANY excuses from him. Evidently you KNOW what kind of business man he is.

  4. November 25, 2011 10:32 pm

    I have rooted for the ‘stros for 45 years, but I’m done. I’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars supporting the ‘stros. The AL sucks, mostly due to the DH. Pitchers must hit, and fat slob over-the-hill ‘sluggers’ should not still be getting $10M if they can’t play defense. That’s not baseball. And managers don’t have to think in the AL. The bench players hardly play. It’s absurd. That’s why AL teams aren’t worth as much. I’ve been in the SF Bay Area the past 35 years, and the Giants are far more interesting than the A’s. But I’ll always be from Houston, so I can’t just switch teams. It doesn’t work that way. So I’m done with baseball. I’m just turning my back on it, and there’s nothing Selig or Crane or anyone else can do to fix it — unless they remove the DH from the AL. Yeah, right. Adios.

  5. November 26, 2011 11:31 pm

    Steve, for what it’s worth, I’ve never had the same geographical tie to the Astros, having grown up in West Virginia. I dare say I was one of, if not “the,” only Astros-Buddy in the state back then. And I was about as devoted as any other kid could be… I can admit now as an adult that there was at least one occasion when I was in grade school when I actually sat down and had a cry one morning after seeing the previous evening’s box score in the paper following an Astros loss… of course, in the 70s, those days weren’t uncommon.

    But I would appeal to you, if it occurs to you to not break away from the game totally, to consider a franchise with a somewhat similar downtrodden journey to our own. The Expos have been pushed around quite a bit over the years, and the city of Washington has had their franchise smuggled to new cities on not one but two occasions. I’m finding it a relatively easy transition to jump in with these guys who know what it is to be pretty much disrespected by the league; and what’s more, I’ve already discovered on a message board another Astro-Orphan who made the same decision (independently of my own).

    It’s comforting to know that while the Astros are whisked off to the wasteland that is the American League West, playing that strategy-starved game they play over there… I’ll not have to endure that, but rather will be able to stick around for the real game and with the teams I actually care about, playing games at times of the day that fit my schedule.

  6. Becky:) permalink
    November 27, 2011 11:07 am

    Gregg- Small world!! I was born in West (by God!!!) Virginia! I still have many, many cousins
    still in West Virginia, as well as a sister in Huntington! I knew I liked you!!! Becky:)

  7. Worley permalink
    December 8, 2011 7:24 pm

    Any coincidence Richard Justice is now a beat writer for MLB.com?
    This was a scam from the start Justice got paid off to keep the heat off until the ownership/league change was complete. Richard Justice needs backlash for being a sale out

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