1. Welcome! Please take a few seconds to create your free account to post threads, make some friends, remove a few ads while surfing and much more. ClutchFans has been bringing fans together to talk Houston Sports since 1996. Join us!

Justice: It all starts at the top for Astros

Discussion in 'Houston Astros' started by JPM0016, Jul 4, 2004.

  1. JPM0016

    JPM0016 Contributing Member

    May 23, 2003
    Likes Received:

    It all starts at the top for Astros
    Copyright 2004 Houston Chronicle

    THEY'VE tried meetings and demotions and trades and lineup changes and most of the usual stuff baseball teams do when things go south.

    I know they've tried almost everything because when I saw Astros owner Drayton McLane on Friday he asked if I had any suggestions.

    I was going to mention that the Cleveland Indians burned incense during a recent batting slump, but I can't see McLane putting much faith in something like that.

    I can maybe see him in a purple tie-dyed shirt, but when I tried to think of him gathering Brad Ausmus and Jeff Bagwell in a circle to burn incense and cleanse their auras, I came up blank.

    Besides, one of the first rules of sportswriting is that when an owner asks for your ideas, he's hoping you'll be so full of yourself that you'll start talking and forget to ask when he's going to fire someone.

    McLane learned the hard way that I'm a little too sharp for those tricks. As soon as he asked for my ideas, I asked when he was going to fire manager Jimy Williams.

    "Not even a consideration," he said.

    Caught off guard
    I knew my question caught him unprepared because his answer was short and to the point.

    His usual answers are like long, slow drives on a twisting country road, filled with references to Wal-Mart or Temple High School football. Problem is, when he's done, you're right back where you started.

    I knew he wasn't going to give anyone up to me, so just to watch the man squirm, I asked about his role in this disappointing season.

    Nothing makes an owner more nervous than to have someone imply he might be part of the problem. They don't mind you blaming the highest-paid player or the general manager, but for some reason they hate it when you imply they could have done more.

    I learned later that McLane went down to the clubhouse after our chat and offered to play first base and let Jeff Bagwell own the team.

    "Great idea," Bagwell told him. "I'm selling the team and catching the next plane to Cabo."

    It's about leadership
    McLane didn't mention playing first base when I spoke to him. I know Bagwell has had a tough time of it, but benching him for a 67-year-old team owner seems like a stretch.

    Speaking of changes, don't you love all these stories predicting Mike Krzyzewski will fall on his face if he leaves Duke to coach the Los Angeles Lakers?

    You'd think the poor guy won 694 games and three national championships without ever learning how to run a pick-and-roll.

    Come on, the guy would have to tone down his style, but he probably has mellowed some over the years anyway.

    He already has coached against most NBA players, and he brings star power to a city that loves it.

    Besides, the Lakers are going to have plenty of salary-cap money to spend, and luring free agents has got to be easier than recruiting high school kids.

    The real issue is why he'd want to, not if he's capable.

    Back to McLane and the Astros.

    When I asked about his role, he said it was fairly simple.

    "I'm here to show leadership," he said.

    That's when he finally gave me a good story.

    "Leadership is one of the things I've studied my entire adult life," he said. "Look at FDR and those fireside chats. During one of the toughest times in our country's history, he made us feel good about ourselves with his words.

    "That's how I see my role. I try to encourage people and tell them I have confidence in them."

    That morning, he visited Jeff Kent and Jimy Williams. That night, he worked the clubhouse from one end to the other, shaking hands with players and coaches, telling them the winning streak was about to start.

    I laughed at the idea that his words could really make much of a difference.

    "You'd be surprised how much better people do their jobs when they know their leaders have confidence in them," McLane said.

    He had me there, but I wasn't going to let him turn the conversation toward my employment issues.

    I had to bite my lip to keep from laughing at him. I wanted to tell him professional athletes don't listen to stuff like that. I believe they try hard and do their best, but most of them roll their eyes at those rah-rah speeches.

    Well, maybe not.

    Hours after he'd whispered a few words to Morgan Ensberg and Bagwell and others, something remarkable happened.

    McLane's pep talk was still ringing in their ears when the Astros twice rallied to defeat the Texas Rangers 7-5 on Friday.

    Ensberg in particular must have been listening because his two-run home run in the eighth — his first of the season — won the game.

    What could McLane have said to Ensberg?

    "He told me, 'Good job,' " Ensberg said.

    Before the game?


    Is that what did it?

    "I think I'd better say yes to that question," he said, showing wisdom beyond his 28 years.

    I figured one game was such a small sampling it could have been a fluke.

    But when I walked into the clubhouse Saturday afternoon, there was McLane back at work, sitting between Bagwell and Craig Biggio, telling stories, talking about a championship and shaking everyone's hands.

    More magic followed.

    A five-run deficit disappeared in the fifth. Four scored on Ensberg's grand slam. The Rangers tied it in the top of the sixth, but the Astros scored two in the bottom of the inning and won 10-8.

    Afterward, there was talk of good vibes and a season finally regaining some normalcy.

    I asked Bagwell if it started with the owner's personal fireside chats.

    "Huh?" he asked.

    His coy answer was the confirmation I'd been looking for. He knew the Astros had found their spark, and he didn't think I'd be smart enough to figure it out.

    I mentioned this theory, and he played dumb again.

    "I'm sorry — were you saying something?" he said.

    Too late. He knows I know. He knows things have turned around. And he knows it all started with McLane's fireside chats.

  2. xiki

    xiki Contributing Member

    Jun 18, 2002
    Likes Received:
    He got me to chuckle a couple of times in that column. Justice is best for miles!
  3. rockets-#1

    rockets-#1 Contributing Member

    Jul 22, 2002
    Likes Received:
    Lets hope so. A team with this much talent should never lose remotely close to this much. This team has the makings of a 95-100 win team, not this 3 games over.500 BS.
  4. Uprising

    Uprising Contributing Member

    Dec 29, 2000
    Likes Received:
    HA, man I hope it's true. This team has so much.....ugh, a word I am tired of using due to the Rockets......"Potential".

    So much talent on this team right now. It's a must win time. Come on Stros!
  5. dskillz

    dskillz Contributing Member

    Feb 1, 2002
    Likes Received:
    I guess Drayton was too busy to chat with the players today.:(

Share This Page