Black Eyes and Baseball Mishaps?

by Andy

I really don’t put out enough content to make a statement by “going dark.” I write about twice a month on average – sometimes more, sometimes less.

“Going dark” is what a few other Astros bloggers are doing to protest Jim Crane’s latest public relations gaffe. So, instead of sitting idly by while others make statements by “going dark” – I’ve decided to write.

Last night, around 7:00pm, KHOU trotted out the following headline: Astros Cancel Annual Fundraiser for Houston Area Women’s Center. Wow! That’s a lot of information in a single headline. …And it’s pretty damning to boot. I wonder what went through the minds of the Astros public relations department.

With respect to Sean Pendergast, let’s do an abbreviated Zapruder analysis and break down each and every word of KHOU’s headline.

Astros” – The Astros are Houston’s Major League Baseball team. Currently, the team is 10-29 and the worst in baseball. Over the last two years, the Astros have been completely saturated with bad press. A steady stream of operational blunders and general mismanagement has played a significant role in overshadowing their poor play.

Cancel” – Cancel is a verb. According to Merriam-Webster, it means “to call off usually without expectation of conducting or performing at a later time.” It also means, “to destroy the force, effectiveness, or validity.”

Annual” – Annual is something that occurs every year and once a year.

Fundraiser” – Exactly how it f*ckin’ sounds.

For Houston Area Women’s Center.” – HAWC is a volunteer, non-profit organization that relies on the goodwill of the community to provide services for people who really need the community’s help. According to their website, HAWC “offers services free of charge to survivors of domestic and sexual violence and their families.” HAWC goes on to say, “We provide shelter, counseling and advocacy to support them in building lives free from the effects of violence. We seek social change to end domestic and sexual violence through community awareness and education. Our services are confidential and available to everyone.”

Let’s go back to “fundraiser.” Let me explain what a fundraiser is: a fundraiser is when an individual or group puts on a social activity or sells goods for the purpose of raising funds – generally for a particular purpose. Every year Girl Scouts knock on my door and, much to the chagrin of those who care about my health, I buy an irresponsible amount of Girl Scout cookies. I cut a substantial check and the Girl Scouts, using a forklift, load Samoas and Thin Mints onto my porch. The money the Girl Scouts collect goes towards providing the Girl Scouts with the necessary resources to support their organization. Girl Scouts are not rich, and they cannot afford to cut checks whenever they want to do fun activities – they rely on me. This is why they sell cookies – this is a fundraiser. 

This is why the Astros Wives Organization hosted the Black Ties and Baseball Caps Gala – to raise money for the Houston Area Women’s Center. The Astros Wives Organization didn’t have the money to donate, so they organized an activity to RAISE FUNDS for a good cause.

However, as Jose de Jesus Ortiz tweeted, “Astros owner Jim Crane told Women’s Center Wives Gala would be canceled in January.” The HAWC said they are looking for other donors to make up for the “lost money.” Obviously, this was money the HAWC needed.

No one is asking Jim Crane to cut a check. In the KHOU article, it says, “the popular gala raised $250,000 for the women’s center in 2012.” It doesn’t say, the Astros dug into their own pockets and dropped a quarter of a million on the HAWC, the article says the money was raised. Raised.

The fact that they use this specific verbiage implies that the Astros only needed to donate their time and energy to this cause – and, when given that option, they chose not to do it. Whether this was an initiative set forth by Major League Baseball, George Postolos or Jim Crane… it was a choice. The Astros had the opportunity to use their clout, time and energy to help people who relied on them, people who needed them – but they chose not to help.

They chose to help someone else, and that’s fine.

So, almost twenty-four hours after the news broke and after consulting with a lawyer, the Astros released a statement they should have released months ago or at the very least should have had queued up and ready to go.

Basically, they chose to “go in a different direction.” 

Meg Vallaincourt, Astros Senior Vice President of Community Relations, explained that the Astros Wives Organization was a poorly run charity. She stated that the AWO does not donate the standard 70% of proceeds to the Houston Area Women’s Center. Although, as Reid Laymance points out, the Astros Wives Organization was “billed for the use of Minute Maid Park.” So there’s that.

So, instead of 69% or 50% or 25% of the proceeds going to the Houston Area Women’s Center – they’ll get nothing because the Astros Wives Organization is, in essence, ineffective. Although I wouldn’t tell that to the families who rely on the center! Instead, Jim Crane and the Astros are pledging $18M to at-risk youth initiatives. …I suppose this is where the Community Partners’ billboards come into play.

And money going towards Houston’s disadvantaged youths is a good thing - a great thing!

Obviously, Jim Crane can donate money to whichever cause he’d like. He can give his blessing or shoot down any events that carry his team’s name – but, all things considered, this was just another bad move, another bad choice. It was an even worse choice not to be proactive before this story became a PR nightmare. Shouldn’t Vallaincort have had a plan to continue the relationship with HAWC or at least been able to allocate less than 1.5% of Jim Crane’s $18M pledge as a way to ice over this disastrous situation? Did this story absolutely have to become such a mammoth clusterpoo?

No one is begging Crane to pay $250,000 – people are begging Crane to let them raise $250,000 for the Houston Area Women’s Center. Why is this unacceptable? If the Astros Wives Organization is run so poorly and the Women’s Center isn’t getting the maximum proceeds, why can’t Vallaincourt develop a plan to cut the fat from the event and make it more lucrative for the Women’s Center?

This is just one more wave rolling and barreling into the Astros sandcastle of credibility. 

If Jim Crane made this decision in January, why is it that this story is just getting steam right now? Is there not a single person associated with the Astros that thought the team should be ahead of this story? The club could have controlled the narrative, they could have beat KHOU to the punch and put themselves in a better situation… but, oddly, they didn’t. The Astros could have made this into a feel good story – but, again, they chose not to.

Of course I think Crane should have made efforts to continue the team’s association with the Women’s Center. But, again, it isn’t my money, and I don’t have $10M to talk about it with him over lunch. However, his beyond putrid PR team is currently scrambling trying to control the damage, having lawyers analyze press releases and trying to deflect the story while they’ve had months to prepare for this. Months!

Did they not think this would make the evening news?

Are the Astros so tone deaf that they believed this wasn’t a story? Even after all the bad press they’ve accumulated in the last two years?

Are we in the Twilight Zone?

What the hell is going on with the Astros?

What should be concerning to the Astros is the fact that many people are not shocked by these events. The Astros are earning a reputation for bad publicity, and they keep fumbling away their goodwill. They’re a public relation’s dumpster fire. They keep unnecessarily shooting themselves in the foot. They’re unpredictable. They’re dysfunctional. They’re the Randy Travis of Major League Baseball.

No one is shocked that the Astros are choosing to back out of supporting a women’s center… shouldn’t that bother the Astros? No one is giving the Astros the benefit of the doubt… shouldn’t that bother the Astros, too? Everyone was expecting the Astros to fudge this situation… shouldn’t that bother the Astros, too?

I’ve gotten emails and direct messages via Twitter – people are outraged, disgusted but not the least bit surprised. The environment that Crane has created for himself cultivates these sorts of reactions. When Crane bought the club, fans were actively rooting for him; they were hopeful, and they were ready for meaningful improvement. They were tired of Drayton McLane’s song and dance and wanted Crane to come in and save the day.

Crane had the opportunity to be a hero. But, instead, Crane has built an organization that his fans completely distrust. …and that sucks!

No one can watch the games, there’s dumb signage blocking the view of downtown, there’s no Deshaies and no Dierker and the Astros are twiddling their thumbs.

Astros fans are not overreacting – the Astros have conditioned us to expect the worst.

Jim Crane has dug himself a hole that he cannot get out of – he’s the villain.

Loyal Astros fans distrust the organization, Jim Crane can’t catch a break and all the while the oblivious public relations staff plays Candy Crush.  

That is a very alarming indictment for the Houston Astros. The Astros organization is in an ass-over-teakettle public relations freefall, and no one in the organization seems to really give a shit.

Ironically, the Astros’ inability to get ahead and be proactive in the face of bad press is only matched by their self-destructive ability to create bad press.

Maybe that’s an integrity issue?


further reading on this subject? Check out Astros County


Posted at 7:58pm


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