Jim Crane and Charlie Finley: The Future Through the Past

Categories: Sports

Who knows if Crane's assertions about the Astros losing money for each of the past five seasons are actually true? Finley often asserted the same thing about the A's, but according to his biographers, the team was nearly always profitable, despite the abysmal attendance, poor radio and TV contracts, a bad lease, ever-increasing salaries, and numerous expensive lawsuits against Kuhn and major league baseball.

It's hard to believe that the Astros are in such bad shape, primarily because it's hard to believe that a man supposedly as smart at business as Crane would spend so much money for a team in such bad financial state. Perhaps it's all a game of semantics. Perhaps the team is failing to show an operating profit, but that once ancillary revenue streams are added into the equation, the team is in the black -- such income would include money from MLB merchandising, the MLB national television contracts, MLB media income like MLB.com and Extra Innings. And the Astros are set to receive a rather large amount of money as part of the deal with CSN Houston, with more money to come if the team and network ever reach a deal with the other cable and satellite providers in Houston and the state.

There's a lot of Charles Finley/Oakland A's with Jim Crane and the Houston Astros. Will Crane continue following Finley's trajectory and build a winner by alienating fans, players, fellow owners, and the commissioner? Will the semantic cries of financial problems continue? Or will Crane take from the best of Finley -- the emphasis on the farm system and player development and building a winner -- while jettisoning the tantrums and tendency to self-destruction?

Through the past lies the path to the future. And the past of Charlie Finley could be the future of Jim Crane and the Astros. Or maybe Crane is following some other past leading to some other future. Some past, some path not yet known. But as of now, study the past of Oakland A's when looking for the future of the Houston Astros.

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