Houston Astros: A Real Life Version of Major League?


At the start of the season, I wrote a piece about the incredible ability of the Houston Astros new management team to destroy a fan base in just a few years. In particular, I was frustrated by the ridiculously high ticket prices for any decent game involving the Astros.

I vowed not to buy any tickets this season from the Astros organization. I have been to two games this year, but have lived up to my pledge. Tickets for one game I purchased through Stubhub, for the other game I received free tickets for signing the Comcast Sports Network petition last season.

The free tickets were particularly amusing given that I only signed the petition to inform the network in the comments that they could stuff it and I was switching to DirecTV. I’ve now gotten free tickets twice for telling them to stuff it; what a bargain!

I have watched this season as the Astros have continued to make a mess – not on TV mind you, hardly anybody can see them on TV. First there was the decision to leave Jon Singleton and George Springer in the minors to open the season, then there was the horrible start to the season which put the team well on pace to eclipse 100 losses yet again.

Apr 2, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow stands on the field before a game against the New York Yankees at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

None of that compared to the national embarrassment of making a mess of the 1st overall pick in the draft and failing to sign two other draft picks. The Astros followed that up by confirming an extension to the rebuilding process by trading Jarred Cosart this week. Then, the Astros announced that they would raise ticket prices next season.

That’s right, if you want to see the worst team in baseball four years running next season, you will have to pay more. The organization defended the increase by stating that the Astros have some of the lowest prices in baseball. All I know is that I have been to the Ballpark at Arlington and Busch Stadium this season and seen teams that have been in the World Series in the past three years for less money than a comparable ticket at Minute Maid Park.

At this stage, the Astros have done such a great job destroying interest in baseball in this city that Houston placed far lower than its market size in the MLB All Star Game ratings.

I have been scratching my head for a while now, wondering how a baseball organization can continue to blunder its way through destroying a fan base, then it hit me. This is all part of a diabolic plan to relocate the Houston Astros. It has to be, there is no other explanation.

We are living in a real life version of the film Major League, where Jim Crane is playing the role Rachel Phelps, former Las Vegas showgirl who wants to move the team to another market. As in the film, clearly the only way for Crane to exit the Minute Maid Park lease is to drive attendance below some minimum threshold.

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How else can you explain ensuring that nobody can actually see the games on TV by blocking every proposed carriage deal; alienating fans at the outset by proposing name changes, significant changes to the ball park and erecting signs to block the downtown view (even if those signs have since been lowered); driving the team to the point where it has the lowest payroll in baseball and perennially loses 100+ games per season all while raising ticket prices?

Attendance has steadily dropped yet the organization has done little to encourage fans to actually return to the games. Instead, they have sought to minimize the number of people turning up to see quality opposition by implementing dynamic pricing. Want to see the Yankees play? No problem, we’ll take your left kidney and your first born.

It is a clever plan Mr. Crane, and it seems to be working too. Our only hope now is that Bo Porter can channel his inner Lou Brown and turn this group of lovable losers into contenders. Unfortunately, a clubhouse cut out of Crane probably will not do the trick.