The new Astros’ front office has done a very smart thing in interacting more and more with the Houston fanbase, trying to establish a new identity. We, along with a few of the more prominent Astros’ fansites, got a rare opportunity to spend time with some of the key figures of the Astros on field and front office staff, during FanFest. Over the next few days we’ll review and hopefully shed some light on what the front office, Brad Mills, JD Martinez and Bud Norris have in store for fans in 2012 along with a walk down memory lane with some of the Astros’ legends. A few of the events were open to the public while the interviews we’ll bring you were an opportunity given to us by the Astros to get up close and personal with Brad Mills and two important pieces to the puzzle.
We’ll begin with the first event of the day, which was open to the public, the front office meet and greet with Milo Hamilton as the host. We got some insight into the mind sets of George Postolos, Brad Mills and Jeff Luhnow. The audience got the opportunity to ask questions after each individual expressed his feelings and beliefs about what was currently going on with the Astros. This was the first time I had gotten the chance to listen to George Postolos talk in an open forum type environment and it truly shocked me how confident and prepared he appeared when addressing the masses. He spoke of his past connections with the Houston sports community and how much Jim Crane wanted to own a team.
"We were very fortunate, and it’s really a dream come true that it ended up being our hometown baseball team that Jim was able to buy and with his partners they pulled together."
He seems to understand the situation the Astros are in and how the fans view them. He went into detail abouthow the famous name change debate began and his thoughts of how it got completely blown out of proportion. Postolos set aside a good set of blueprints which fans can follow as the team grows. He also provided a bit of information I hadn’t read before, apparently when Jeff Luhnow was in the interview stages for the GM position, former commissioner of baseball Peter Ueberroth was one of Luhnow’s major references. Postolos also heard from longtime Cardinals scouts who gave their whole-hearted endorsement of Jeff.
"30-40 year scouts in the Cardinals organization that you know had been there 20 years before he had even gotten there and they said boy this guy made me better, really appreciated how I had value."
Much of the rest of the conversation we’d heard quite a few times so nothing earth shattering but his presentation made, at least myself, almost feel at ease that the front office understands the issues at hand and are ready to solve them.
Brad Mills and Jeff Luhnow would follow George in expressing how he felt about the offseason and upcoming season. Nothing new came out during this session but its still remarkable, like Postolos before him, how much Luhnow sounds prepared for this upcoming season and beyond. Not that Ed Wade or Drayton McLane didn’t sound capable but it always sounded as if they were fine just waiting for the next domino to drop before moving on to the next course of action. With Crane, Postolos and Luhnow you get the sense they’ve not only planned out 2012 but 2013, 2014 and beyond, all with contingency plans. As an Astros’ fan, that feels like a breath of fresh air. Luhnow expressed his desire to hold all players much more accountable and have competition as his slogan for spring training, regardless of prior stature. He talked about the upcoming draft a bit and how he sees big and small market teams reacting to the number of changes in the new CBA.
"So I think what’s going to happen is that teams that end up performing poorly are going to have the opportunity to spend more money so that they can get better more quicker."
Mills expressed the same optimism and reiterated competition will be what spring training will be about. Brad answered a few questions regarding the bullpen and seemed very excited to get to use some the new toys Jeff Luhnow acquired for him over the Winter along with the development of some of the younger guys.
"I’m excited about seeing these guys show up to spring training, to see how they’ve progressed through winter ball, how they’ve matured physically and also obviously how they play the game."
Overall both gentlemen expressed a willingness to wipe the slate clean and create a new atmosphere for the younger players. It was fairly obvious that the veteran talent brought in was to help teach the young Astros the right way to play the game but will also be in the mix for a number of spots around the diamond.
Hearing and seeing the men who expect to bring winning baseball back to Houston was quite an experience. I had been told how cool and collected Postolos was and I couldn’t agree more after getting a chance to listen to him. George is savvy and extremely confident in his vision while Jeff Luhnow seems to have a gameplan ready to roll and he is ready to embrace all the technological advances at his disposal. Brad Mills took a bit of a beating last season but he also appears to have embraced the philosophy that Postolos and Luhnow have brought and is ready to use all his options in the most efficient way possible. These men seemed ready to travel to Kissimmee and begin the next chapter in Astros baseball while putting 2011 far behind them.