New Astros owner Jim Crane unveiled some fan-friendly initiatives earlier today, including lower ticket prices, partial rebates for season ticket holders, lower concession prices and relaxed policies on outside food and beverage. While those are all well and good, they were overshadowed by some interesting comments about the team’s future as they prepare for a move to the American League next season.
According to the Associated Press, Crane indicated that they are currently mulling over changes to the uniforms and most interestingly, whether to change the team’s name.
My first response to this is: are you out of your mind, Crane? But John Royal of the Houston Press comes to a logical, if not highly qualified, defense of the proposal:
I'm not too thrilled by the prospect of a name change, but I can understand the thinking. When a product is as bad as the Astros, nothing is sacred. And with the Astros moving to a new league in 2013, and with a new owner and a new management team, why not go with a new name. It's like making a brand-new start.
That said, it's very, very doubtful that Crane changes the name of the team, new league, new start aside. But it does make sense to consider it, to study it. To find out just how damn damaged the brand really is because of the neglect and incompetence of the previous owner and management team.
Kuff is slightly less enthused:
I assure you, this will not go over well. Many people are already upset at the forthcoming change to the American League. Save yourself the money on the study.
Yes, I know, the team changed its name once, from the Colt .45s to the Astros, back in 1965. That was a long time ago, and it was a three-year-old franchise updating its name to fit a brand new, first of its kind stadium. That team had no history to leave behind, and the move into the Astrodome made the name change make sense. There’s no parallel here. Besides, the other time a team changed leagues, the Milwaukee Brewers kept their name.
I can see Royal's logic. Maybe the name is outdated: the team no longer plays in the Astrodome, the end of the Shuttle program has diminished the Johnson Space Center's role in the nation's space exploration program, and with the team switching leagues in 2013, maybe it is indeed time for a new start. And yes, maybe the brand has been tarnished by the club's recent struggles. But Kuff is also correct: there's no precedent for teams (that aren't relocating cities) doing this in modern MLB history (he provides the research), fans are already annoyed by the team's moving to the American League as it is, and the Astros name itself is unique (the same cannot be said for the name of the city's NFL franchise) and carries with it a lot of history.
I'd like to thank Mr. Crane for lowering ticket and beer prices and allowing fans to bring in their own food and water. I have no problems with a possible uniform change: the Astros have made many such changes throughout their history. And, if Jim Crane must, he can go ahead and undertake market surveys on how the "Astros" brand is regarded by local sports fans. But I think he'll find that, the team's recent struggles aside, it's a name that people in this city cherish and want to keep.
(UPDATE 1/30/2012: Jim Crane has apparently heeded fans' protests and decided against considering changing the team's name. I guess the backlash has shown him that the "Astros" brand still has tremendous value to local sports fans.)