The American League’s newest team isn’t being overly secretive with its plans to blow up the franchise and rebuild from the rubble. Having already dealt Wandy Rodriguez, Hunter Pence, Michael Bourn, J.A. Happ and Carlos Lee the past two seasons, the front office’s primary concern seems to be shedding the various bloated and bad contracts at the cost of winning.
Currently, the Astros payroll commitment is below $15M, following the trade of Jed Lowrie last week. Now, rumors of the team’s willingness to trade Bud Norris (and his $3M salary in 2013) are swirling. Since the payroll can only dip so low, the ‘Stros front office will need to get creative in thinking of ways to save a little more during the team’s ongoing march to the cellar this season.
Here are just a few creative ideas to help shave a little more skin off the already-emaciated corpse of this once competitive franchise.
Re-purpose the scoreboard
At its base, baseball is meant for entertainment. Since the Astros entertainment value is mostly reliant on the the team they are playing, the largest and most consistent entertainment resource–the Minute Maid Park jumbotron–should be used in another way. Instead of showing an HD glimpse of a Marwin Gonzalez fielding error, why not make better use of the pixels by airing out of market MLB games or showing re-runs of New Adventures Of Old Christine or something?
That #AstrosMovies hashtag was pretty popular last week. The organization should have independent filmmakers submit cheap trailers for ‘Stros-themed flicks like Gone With The Wins, Lost In Transaction, 12 Angry Fans, All Quiet On The AL West Bottom and No-Moneyball. That failing, they should sell the scoreboard and downgrade to a dozen big screen tube TVs duct taped together instead.
Citing their inability to make the Hall Of Fame during their first and second year of eligibility, respectively, the front office should ask Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell to come back to play for the league minimum so that feeble “playing in the steroid era” argument can stop once and for all. Most GMs would take a 44-year-old Jeff Bagwell over Brett Wallace any day.
Assuming Biggio and Bags opt to not tarnish their (eventual) Hall Of Fame careers with a novelty return to Space City, the dejected ownership might as well torch those relationships forever by asking that all game-worn jerseys be returned. Those embroidered Bs and Gs really ad up. Between those dozens of garments and any other unearthed retro Astros and Colt .45s uniforms the organization can scrape up, Houston should be set for 100 games worth of “throwback” uniforms, even if multiple eras and both home and away colors are represented in each game. The fact that Carlos PeĆ±a’s jersey will say “Berkman” on the back will only make the throw back tribute even more apparent.
While they’re at it, they might as well change Jose Altuve’s name to “Jose Al-one-ve” in the media guide, in programs, on telecasts and on the scoreboard to save an extra “ve.” The team should then trade that “ve” to Kansas City for a marginal prospect.
Go down to a 24-man roster
When the somehow-still-competitive Expos were in a dire fiscal state near what turned out to be the end of the team’s existence, Major League Baseball (as part of the evil plan to steal baseball from Montreal forever) didn’t allow the team to expand to 40 players in September because the team lacked the funds. In a fitting role reversal, the Astros should consider saving the expense of paying a should-be minor leaguer a MLB-minimum salary by leaving its 25th (and maybe 24th?) roster spot vacant. Dallas Keuchel will probably understand.
Use those assets
Having switched leagues, trimmed virtually all fiscal fat off its roster and given its few remaining fans absolutely nothing to cheer for in the foreseeable future, the current state of the Astros shouldn’t be considered something bleak and dreadful. Instead, it should seen as a new and exciting opportunity to do things no other professional sports franchise (excluding the Marlins) could ever get away with trying. The fact that the bar couldn’t possibly get any lower makes almost anything possible.
Maybe that stupid hill in center field can be rented out for bachelor parties, quinceaĆ±eras and small office functions. Nobody on the Astros can hit it that far on the fly anyway. The team’s one season ticket holder could flip a coin at the beginning of the season to decide whether the stadium’s retractable roof is to remain open or closed for the duration of the year. In games former President/former Astros fan George H.W. Bush attends, have a mascot dressed in a broccoli costume hound ol’ 41 until he reluctantly takes a bite of a soggy concession stand floret in the “Bird’s Eye Broccoli Bullying.” Really, all aspects of the stadium experience could be licensed in ways that would make the Arena Football League, single-A baseball and the Lingerie Football League each question the organization’s morals.
In an era that’s so exciting because the quality of players advanced scouting, wise drafting and a statistical Renaissance helped spread throughout the league, it’s strangely thrilling to observe the Astros and Marlins methodically dismantled lineups too. So while I’m excited to see 28 teams play ball in 2013, I’m also pumped to see the other two teams do something loosely resembling baseball too.
I just hope Houston uses some of my ideas. But if they do, they better be willing to pay me. Just kidding… a Al-one-ve jersey will do.