Culture / Sporting Life

All-In Justin Verlander Trade Shows Jim Crane Puts the Fans First — This Astros Owner Keeps Proving His Impact Is Priceless

Houston's Golden Age of Baseball Gets a Real Chance at a Third Championship

BY // 08.01.23

Almost all professional sports team owners claim that it’s all about the fans. Jim Crane actually proves it. Again and again — and again. The Houston Astros owner’s bold push (and Crane did plenty of nudging on this deal) to trade for Justin Verlander (again) shows that Crane truly cares about doing right by the franchise’s fans.

By doing everything he can to win another championship this year, by attempting to get the most possible out of this golden age of Houston baseball, Crane is putting the fans over an easier organizational future. It is more comfortable and financially easier to hold onto top organizational prospects like Drew Gilbert and Ryan Clifford.

But Crane isn’t content to just keep keeping on, to just stay in contention and be relevant. Because no true Astros fans would be content with that either. It’s all about how many championships you stack up. That’s what legacies are measured by. And this Justin Verlander trade — a move that effectively trumps the newly American League West rival worthy Texas Rangers’ own earlier trade for Max Scherzer — gives the Astros the best chance to win their third title.

Verlander has always made his Astros teammates believe. That’s been one of his greatest gifts to Houston ever since this future Hall of Famer first arrived just days after Hurricane Harvey devastated large parts of the city in the summer of 2017. All these years later, Justin Brooks Verlander still makes Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez, Ryan Pressly and company feel a flush of confidence.

It’s probably more than mere coincidence that Framber Valdez throws a no hitter on the day that the Astros get a Verlander confidence infusion.

These Astros are so much better today than they were on Monday, so much more confident. They have JV back. What’s going to stop them now?

This is the gift that Jim Crane has given the Astros clubhouse. More importantly to Crane, this is the gift he’s given Astros fans.

The Astros owner almost always mentions the fans first in any big trophy moment or celebration. A lot of owners do that kind of thing. The difference is that Jim Crane clearly takes that responsibility seriously, carries it with him daily and lets it influence his decisions.

Like going all-in on Justin Verlander again.

You can argue that this does not dismiss the pre-Dana Brown, no real general manager period sins of the offseason. But you’d be wrong. Signing journeyman reliever Rafael Montero and past-his-prime White Sox slugger Jose Abreu to big money deals (though relatively short-term ones) hasn’t gotten any smarter. But the Verlander trade shows that Crane will never be crippled by what’s happened in the past.

It’s all about creating a better Astros present. And Crane’s done that again. For the fans.

Verlander back at the front of the Astros rotation, recreating the dynamic two ace scenario of Verlander and Framber Valdez, immediately vaults Houston back among the few true World Series title favorites. The Atlanta Braves suddenly have to move over and make room. For Houston.

The Dodgers suddenly have to wonder if they’ve been left behind. And the Texas Rangers. . . well, good luck to Bruce Bochy, yappy star Marcus Semien and Co. trying to hold off the shiny championship proven force already knocking against their back bumper.

The Astros have JV back. What’s going to stop them now?

By doing everything he can to win another championship this year, by attempting to get the most possible out of this golden age of Houston baseball, Crane is putting the fans over an easier future.

Yordan Alvarez hits a 3-run home run in the sixth inning as The Houston Astros and Philadelphia Phillies met for Game Six of the World Series Saturday at Minute Maid Park
Astros owner Jim Crane wanted to make sure the fans felt like part of this championship moment. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)

Crane’s text to Verlander after the trade became official was straight and to the point: “Welcome back. See you in New York and hope you pitch well.” But the bond between these two men, two fiercely proud competitors, should not be overlooked. Crane and Verlander have been close since Verlander’s first magical late season run with the Astros. Much closer than even the average strong star player owner bond.

How Jim Crane treated Justin Verlander and his family (wife Kate Upton included) during his time in Houston help create the supreme comfort level that the ace has with the Bayou City. That played into Verlander’s willingness to waive his no trade clause to Houston. Again. This time with no final minute debating required.

“If was going to get moved, it came down to the Astros,” Ben Verlander, Justin’s brother, told Chris Russo on his Mad Dog XM Radio show. “A place where he’s super comfortable with everything.”

Those crying that Crane and the Astros could have simply re-signed Justin Verlander in the offseason and kept both of their top ranked prospects are completely missing the financial truth. Jim Crane was never going to be comfortable paying a 40-year-old Justin Verlander — as much as Crane loves him — more than $90 million. Even Mets super billionaire owner Steve Cohen may regret that outlay.

But Crane is fine with paying around $39 million for potentially two plus years of Verlander with Cohen and the Mets picking up more than $50 million of what the pitcher is owed.

Jim Crane knows what makes baseball business sense. He also understands what fans want more than anything else. A real chance to win it all as often as possible.

Bringing Justin Verlander back in a bolt that shook the rest of baseball contenders to their core accomplishes that.

Jim Crane is the rare owner in sports — in any era — who you can really believe when he says he cares about the fans. Crane keeps proving that again and again. He actually does things for them. He demanded that another general manager (this time Dana Brown) be bold. After pushing Jeff Luhnow to do the same in that franchise-shifting 2017 last day of August deal.

Crane makes real belief rain.

Astros fans could not ask for a better steward of their best interests.

The Astros have JV back. What’s going to stop them now?

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