Road to relevance begins in Houston

Updated: November 28, 2011, 9:31 AM ET
By Buster Olney

You have to wonder if Thanksgiving bought Ed Wade and Tal Smith a few extra days with their respective titles. Jim Crane took over ownership of the Houston Astros last Monday, and it would've seemed ugly if he had executed his first firings right before a family holiday.

Either way, the deed is now done. The timing doesn't really fit what's happening with the baseball calendar, but hey, Crane wants to put his own hires in place, and that's his prerogative. Andrew Friedman is from Houston, but he is not expected to be a candidate for the Houston job, and it wouldn't be surprising if some would-be candidates turn down the Astros.

There are a lot of industrywide questions about the direction of the organization, about what kind of owner Crane will be, and until that becomes clearer, some folks who have alternatives may choose to wait rather than join the Astros. Here are some other options for the job, from Steve Campbell.

Whoever takes over the organization, however, will inherit a challenging but workable situation. The bottom line is that Houston doesn't have a lot of talent, certainly not at the major league level. The Astros lost 106 games last year and they earned that; only four teams scored fewer runs, only two teams allowed more runs, and just three teams made more errors. And just before the July 31 trade deadline, the Astros traded their two best position players, in Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn.