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Jim Crane squashes Astros name change, but drop any PR stunt cries — it's not in this no-nonsense iron fist

Astros 50th season
Jim Crane might not do things with all the pomp and circumstance of Drayton McLane, but he moves twice as fast. Courtesy of Houston Astros
Jim Crane presser
Astros 50th season
News_Chris Baldwin_managing editor_arms crossed

And on the eighth day, Jim Crane took it all back.

The Houston Astros new owner let his blockbuster balloon — the notion that the Houston Astros franchise might change its name as it's forced into the American League — float from a Monday to a Monday, and then he popped it, as emphatically as he could. This is how Crane works. He goes bold, makes decisions quickly and doesn't look back.

“One thing that we are not going to change is the name," Crane said in a video message emailed to season ticket holders, sort of a reverse hostage tape (your name is now safe). "We received strong feedback and consensus among season ticket holders and many fans, and we will not change the name Astros.

"The Houston Astros are here to stay.”

Any notion that this was some PR stunt from the Astros' new leader because of how rapidly the name change idea appeared to come and go is absurd.

 Jim Crane is not playing games with Astros fans. He's not toying with their emotions. He's trying to attack rebuilding the Astros from every angle. 

That's not Crane. He has about as much showmanship in him as Tony Dungy. The idea of Crane pulling off some elaborate dog and pony public relations show would be laughable to his family, his friends and anyone who's ever worked closely with him. Jim Crane doesn't do nonsense.

This is a guy who runs from nonsense — and stomps on it when he's heading for the door.

Crane was as serious as a hurricane about considering changing the Astros name. If you were in the little side media session where Crane almost casually dropped the bombshell, it sounded like he stood on the side of wanting to change the name. Eight days and thousands of people calling him an idiot on Twitter and Internet message boards later, he still might think it's the best thing for the franchise.

But that didn't stop him from ceding to the wishes of the fan base — his customers — and quickly.

This didn't go fast because it was a stunt. It went fast because that's how Crane operates. This overnight delivery tycoon does not know any other way.

Crane does not dawdle. When he feels he has enough information, he moves.

George Postolos — the Astros' new CEO and president, a guy who's worked for Houston Rockets owner Leslie Alexander and other high-powered sports shakers — still sometimes finds himself marveling at the Crane hustle. On the day that Crane brought up the idea of changing the Astros' name, Postolos stood on the side of the room, chuckling at how hard Crane pushed to get the fan-friendly stadium changes (allowing outside food in, reducing some ticket prices) that the day was supposed to be about.

"This is really a testament to Jim and his desire to get it done," Postolos said. "When you guys (in the media) mentioned the idea of doing something for the fans (at Crane's official introduction as the Astros owner), he immediately came back with, 'That's a good idea. We should do something.' "

Only, even Postolos didn't quite realize how quickly Crane wanted to do it.

"I'd tell him, let's study this a little more, let's talk to more people," Postolos said. "But Jim was all about, 'Let's do it. Let's get it done.' "

Crane ended up more than doing the due diligence, meeting with dozens and dozens of season ticket holders in a series of 7:30 a.m. breakfasts. He heard the projections on the revenue the team could lose with some of the cutbacks. And the team still announced its new fan policies within two months of his official takeover of the franchise.

"Guys in sports think this is really fast," Postolos said. "But Jim probably feels like it took forever."

Are you surprised that this guy only let the consideration of an Astros name change hang in the air for eight days? Crane probably wanted to deliver that video message to the season ticket holders last Wednesday.

The only thing the Monday timing revealed is that Crane's apparently not a Ricky Rubio fan (even though he did sit courtside at the Toyota Center Monday night). Rubio's putting up a near triple double in Rick Adelman's return game and Crane's stealing all the headlines?

Revenue Loss

Not changing the name for the 2013, first American League season, figures to cost the franchise and Crane's ownership group some money. No matter how much people kick and scream over a name change, new name merchandise always sells well. And Crane's ultra aware that he needs to be able to build new revenue streams for his business-minded group to accept spending big money on free agents in the years to come.

 This didn't go fast because it was a stunt. It went fast because that's how Crane operates. 

Give him credit for realizing how much of a nonstarter abandoning the Astros moniker is though. Crane is not wasting time fighting a losing battle. He's moving onto the next idea, the next bold play.

But don't think for a second that this name change examination was some PR ploy. There's no Kardashian in Crane. He's not courting the spotlight.

"I think Astros fans are going to find that Jim takes a different approach from Drayton (McLane)," Franci Crane, Jim's high-energy lawyer wife, told me on the day her husband was finally, officially approved by Major League Baseball after all the Bud Selig games. "Jim doesn't have to be in the spotlight. That's not what this is about for him.

"He's comfortable being front and center if he has to be, but that's not something he seeks out. He's happy to let others be in the front of the room, to see others get the attention."

Jim Crane is not playing games with Astros fans. He's not toying with their emotions. He's trying to attack rebuilding the Astros from every angle.

Maybe that results in a few crazy ideas. But maybe, it brings a great one too. Delivered quickly, of course.

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