On Monday, Astros owner and chairman Jim Crane did something that got fans talking about his team. He held a news conference to announce many "fan friendly" changes for the 2012 season and opened the door for controversy which got those fans talking.
When asked about other changes that might be forthcoming, Crane floated the idea that the team would be studying the possibility of changing uniform styles andthe name of the team!
The former was received sort of "ho-hum" by fans since the Astros have had no record for stability in the uniform thing ever. What they have worn has hardly ranked with the Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs, Cardinals, Giants, Dodgers or Tigers as never leaving the basic look albeit with some alternative uniforms added.
When the Houston baseball club has changed, they have changed drastically. Styles, colors, logos, you name iteverything has changed in the past. Much of the changes were related to ownership changes. Drayton McLane, Jr. made two changes. The second came when he moved the club from the Astrodome to what is now Minute Maid Park in 2000. Now the club has not only an ownership change but a change in leagues starting in 2013. It is expected new uniforms will be part of that switch assuming a new design can be finalized by MLB's deadline sometime in May or June.
But changing the team name from Astros is not something the vast majority of fans want. While the team will be changing leagues in 2013, they will still be in the major leagues. The franchise did switch from Colt 45s to Astros, but that was dictated by the Colt firearms company wanting to share revenue from merchandising for allowing the ball club to use the name in the first place. Judge Roy Hofheinz then jumped on the existence of NASA in the area and came up with the shortened form of AstronautsAstros. That was the same thing their fellow expansion partners in New York did with a shortened form of Metropolitans to Mets.
Both were genius decisions and the reason why is very simple. If you ask a random person what is a Cub, Cardinal, Tiger or Giant, there can be many different answers. But ask the same person what is a Met, Dodger or Astro and there is really only one answer. They are all baseball teamsone in New York, another in Los Angeles and the third in Houston. That name identification with the city is priceless.
The current weakened state of the U.S. space program is really insignificant. It is the name of this city's major league baseball team and should be till the game is no longer played.
The fact that this discussion was a result of the news conference conducted by Jim Crane was well timed. The Astros are rarely even talked or written about in the mainstream media these days. That free publicity a baseball team can usually get from newspapers, radio and television is very important in doing what they have to do to survive and thrivesell tickets. The media has not been talking much baseball for a couple of reasons that have collided. One is the rise and success of the NFL Houston Texans. The other is the fall from success and forced move of the Astros to the American League in 2013. At this moment Astros' interest seems to be at an all-time low. That can only be changed by getting sports fans talking about the team. If it has to be about the possibility of a uniform and name change so be it.
Unfortunately, it also covers up the "fan friendly" initiatives Jim Crane did outline on Monday. Most notably, fans will be allowed to bring some food and water into the park for the first time. They can't bring in picnic baskets, but if stored in small see-through plastic containers the full restrictions will be off.
Season ticket holders who renew by the end of the month will get five percent rebates in the form of gift cards. And there will also be additional individual discount ticket areas which could lower the costs for a family of four to just 12. Other areas of the building will have discounts as well.
Those moves should be real good news to baseball fans. The 12 plan for a family of four cannot be beaten by any other major team sport.
At some point the Astros will again be a contending team and some prices will go back up. That is the law of supply and demand. Right now while the club is trying to rebuild, the Astros are giving more fans a chance to see how the construction is going.
Still, the big news on Tuesday was the talk of new uniforms (nearly a certainty) and maybe a new name (highly unlikely). If we follow the law of supply and demand, we must also remember another old adage: "Any publicity is better than no publicity."
At least for a day or two in the offseason the fans and general sports media were talking about the Astros again. For a long time baseball man that was good to hear.