No. 117: Houston Astros

2013 Ultimate Standings

Updated: September 19, 2013, 9:58 AM ET
By Doug Mittler | ESPN The Magazine

Last year's rank: 90
Title track: 112
Ownership: 119
Coaching: 90
Players: 109
Fan relations :117
Affordability: 95
Stadium experience: 91
Bang for the buck: 116

General manager Jeff Luhnow is unapologetic regarding his 2013 philosophy of paring costs and fielding a lineup of relatively anonymous youngsters, all whom share the goal of winning down the road. When pitcher Bud Norris was dealt to Baltimore on July 31, the payroll stood at a meager $13 million and the roster had 12 rookies. Luhnow preaches patience, but that doesn't make the inevitability of a third straight 100-loss season easier to take, and the Astros dropped 27 points overall to 117th. "It's just tiring to have three consecutive seasons in the cellar, even for diehard fans," comments PunkRocket on Crawfishboxes.com.

The Astros ranked fifth in the players category a year after they went to the World Series in 2005, but, amazingly, they've dropped in seven straight seasons to 109th. Watching a last-place squad in its first season in the American League is no bargain (41-point drop in affordability), and the average ticket price of $30.09 is two and a half bucks above the MLB average and more than first-place clubs such as the A's, Braves and Tigers. The Astros also have struggled to get widespread distribution for their games on CSN Houston -- a channel they own with the Rockets and the NBC Sports Group -- which can't help marketing efforts. But Houston is doing its best to keep fans at Minute Maid Park comfortable and clean. Improvements this year include an upgrade to the "dustless" warning track, which the club claims will limit the amount of "air-born particles to which guests are exposed, especially seats closer to the field." And that's a good thing since there aren't many fans past the main concourse.

Doug Mittler

Rumor Central

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