Astros Owner Has Unfinished Business

Upon further review, Crane needs to do more

Shaun Bijani
February 08, 2020 - 12:07 am

Ahead of Jim Crane's purchase of the Astros in 2011, an article written by Forbes, discussed why Crane was set to become baseball's most controversial owner.

He was. And did.

Nearly a decade later, he is, but for very different reasons, again.

In the 2011 Forbes article, contributor Maury Brown wrote, “One would be hard pressed to find a more controversial ownership background for one coming into MLB than Jim Crane”.

Why so controversial you ask?

Remember, prior to MLB approving Drayton McLane’s sale of the Astros ball club to Crane, the billion-dollar man’s resume was examined with a fine tooth comb and plenty of controversial elements from Crane’s Eagle USA Airfreight company, including complaints filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission regarding its position on hiring black people and women of child-bearing age came to light.

Then there was the whole war profiteering thing. Cranes company, Eagle Global Logistics was sued on four different occasions by the Department of Justice, which ended up settling those charges with a $4 million payment.

The issue of race anywhere, but especially in Texas, is always a hot topic, and war profiteering tends to be one of those things that any red-blooded American would frown upon.

Jim Crane has worked very hard to distance himself from his past.

He’s become a bit of a hero in Houston in recent years.

From opening his pocketbook to bring Justin Verlander to the team in 2017, helping win the city’s first World Series, to taking the lead on saving the city’s only PGA Tour golf tournament, the beloved Houston Open.

As hard as Crane worked to improve his image as a businessman entering the club of 30 MLB owners and trying to endear himself to a city which had been mired in mediocrity during the time of the Astros sale, Jim Crane is going to have to work extra hard to distance himself from the most recent and unattractive elements with the Astros.

While the Astros aren’t a global corporation, MLB is, and its level of integrity has been called into question for the first time since the steroid scandal in the early 2000’s.

Crane has already been made to understand the unwritten law that being part of Major League Baseball means playing along with many dynamics, many of which he’s been accused of not upholding as owner of his large companies prior to his ownership.

And speaking of having to play along with dynamics, just about a month ago, Crane was forced to do just that.

On the heels of MLB commissioner Robert Manfred’s suspension of both AJ Hinch and Jeff Luhnow for a full season, Crane had no choice but to take it a step further,

He had to fire Hinch and Luhnow, given the kind of heat a story like this, one of the biggest, most controversial and damning scandals in baseball history would generate.

Crane didn’t fall off the turnip truck yesterday.

He’s had to deal with public relation nightmares plenty along his career. He knew it was only a matter of time before information from MLB’s investigation was reported and leaked like the most recent Wall Street Journal piece.

Could you imagine what kind of media firestorm it would’ve been if Hinch and Luhnow were still employed by the Astros?

Crane, understanding the window of opportunity is still wide open for his ball club to win, was not willing to keep the status quo amid such controversy.

Feeling the heat and understanding it was only going to get hotter, Crane did the only thing he could’ve done in moving on from both Hinch and Luhnow.

The Red Sox followed suit and fired their manager, former Astros bench coach Alex Cora even before MLB’s investigation wrapped up into the part the Red Sox played in sign stealing and cheating two seasons ago.

Their punishment via Manfred’s office, is expected to come down soon.

Now, with the latest reports of how the cheating spawned within the Astros and how intricate the process was and became, Crane needs to do more.

The intern, Derek Vigoa, who originally presented Luhnow with the “Codebreaker” program, got a promotion and currently works as the Astros' senior manager of team operations.

How does he still have a job but Luhnow does not?

Tom Koch-Weser, the team's director of advance information and a star witness that spilled the beans during MLB’s investigation, alleging that Luhnow knew plenty about the “Dark Arts” and “the system," is still employed, yet Luhnow and Hinch are not.

From the front office to the dugout, there are still plenty of current Astros employees that had knowledge of all that had occurred within the biggest cheating scandal in baseball history over the last three seasons.

Jim Crane has brought in longtime National League manager Dusty Baker to help quell the monotonous questions, like bean balls sure to come throughout the season and tend to keeping his uber-talented club focused during what is sure to be a season full of distraction and criticism.

The Astros have hired a first time GM in former Tampa Bay Rays executive James Click, an analytically driven guy who will continue to build a team in a similar fashion which has yielded one World Series already, albeit a tainted one.

Doesn’t Crane still have some work to do to distance himself from those unattractive elements as well?