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Astros owner looks to move team forward

By MIKE FORMAN
Feb. 3, 2012 at 11:03 p.m.
Updated Feb. 3, 2012 at 8:04 p.m.

New Astros owner Jim Crane was in Victoria on Friday as part of the team's "CareVan."

Jim Crane didn't waste much time after becoming the owner of the Houston Astros in November before making headlines.

Crane said last week he was considering a name change for the franchise.

He backed off before the week was over, but is still considering changes in the team uniform.

Crane was at Academy Sports + Outdoors in Victoria on Friday as part of Astros 2012 CareVan.

Former Astros pitcher Shane Reynolds took part in the event and likes what he's seen from Crane.

"He knows the game of baseball because he played it," Reynolds said. "I think him and the people who work for him will spend money where the team needs it in players development and the free-agent draft."

Crane took some time before signing autographs to answer questions about the team.

Victoria Advocate: Talk about what you've been doing since acquiring the team.

Crane: We're kind of assessing every department. We've already made a number of changes and brought in a new GM (Jeff Luhnow) so we're beefing up the player-development side.

You'll see us make some good draft choices and develop a lot of players. We're looking to improve the team on the analytic side.

On the business side, we're kind of looking at the way we did things and what we can improve.

VA: You're suggestion of changing the team's name gained a lot of attention.

Crane: We did a little vote on that and 80 percent liked the name, roughly 15 percent didn't care or had no opinion, and 5 percent said they liked the change. So, that made it pretty easy to make that decision.

VA: The Astros lost 106 games last season. What steps are you taking to improve the on-the-field product.

Crane: The team didn't do well last year, and we're certainly not happy about that. I think Jeff Luhnow will work very hard in putting in more instruction developing our players as fast as we can, make good selections.

He'll run that baseball side, we're kind of giving him a free hand. He's already brought in five people.

I think you'll see us developing the players and coaching the players, giving them what they need to be the best they can.

When you've got to rebuild like we are, you've got to build that with new talent and then when we need to make a move, we'll plug in some holes with some free agents if necessary.

That's kind of the master plan. I think you'll see the team get better this year. Next year, we've got a new TV deal with Comcast. We think we can spend some more money on payroll next year and get better and better.

VA: Talk about the move to the American League in 2013.

Crane: They (Major League Baseball) made it clear to us if we wanted to own the team it was an American League team.

All in all, I think it's good for baseball. They needed to get that collective bargaining agreement that will add a wild card team.

We will play Dallas, which I think will be a good rivalry, and we'll see some big-time teams like the Yankees and Boston come in.

I think the fans were upset a little bit, but they got over it and that's life when baseball calls the shots.

VA: What can you do to improve the fan experience at the ballpark.

Crane: We probably had 10 or 12 meetings with the season-ticket holders. One thing we added was bringing water and some food into the ballpark that wasn't allowed before.

We looked at some season-ticket reductions. We lowered some of the prices in the cheap seats so the families can come. We got all those done last week.

We'll continue to listen to the fans and stay close to the fans and give them what they want.

VA: The Astros have a number of younger players. Have you considered bringing back former players fans are familiar with to help them identify with the team.

Crane: We're talking to some of the players who weren't often used by the team. I think you'll see us either this year or next year kind of add some of those guys. Some of them may be in coaching roles.

Some of the names from the past like Biggio and Bagwell that you really can identify with and I think that's important too. We hope to get them more active with the team as we move into this season and next season.

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