KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- It takes time to judge a new owner, but the Jim Crane era with the Astros seems to be off to a good start.
I'm not talking about on the field. Crane's first Astros team figures to be every bit as terrible as Drayton McLane's last, and that team lost 106 games.
But Crane is doing things you want an owner to do, and suggesting that he won't do things you want owners not to do.
He showed up Sunday for the Astros' first full-squad workout, spoke to the team about turning the Astros back into a winner and turning the organization into a family. He shook hands with players. He posed for pictures with fans. He thanked the media for caring enough to cover the team.
He was pleasant, but he wasn't overbearing.
"We'll stay out of the way," he said. "And we'll help any way we can. . . . I'll fade more into the sunset as the season starts."
The suggestion from Crane and his people is that he's also prepared to spend money when it can make a difference. The Astros have a new television deal that will see their rights fee double starting next season, and new team president George Postolos talks about how Houston is the country's fourth-largest city, and about how the Astros' revenues (and thus spending) should eventually reflect that.
For now, the Astros are concentrating heavily on scouting and development, both here and internationally, and that's as it should be. One of the failures of the late McLane years was that an insistence on never going "above-slot" in the draft kept the farm system from producing. The new collective bargaining agreement limits draft spending, but as Astros people remind you, they'll be allowed to spend the most money of anyone, simply because they'll be drafting first.
Crane seems to understand that it will take a while, quite a change from McLane, who always wanted to irrationally declare that his team would be in the playoffs.
And Crane seems to understand that since the team is unlikely to win this year or next, he needs to do other things to show fans that he cares.
To make season ticket holders feel appreciated, Crane and his people are trying to meet with them. To make all the fans feel better, the Astros lowered some prices, and made a commitment to have $5 beer on sale at every concession stand.
They talk about things like changing the uniforms, and Crane reminded people Sunday that because the Astros are changing leagues at the end of this season, they're the only team in baseball that will host each of the other teams over the next two years.
Just as important, the Astros are open about what their plan is.
"We're not going to try to create wins in the short term at the expense of being able to compete in the mid- to long-term," new general manager Jeff Luhnow said.
It shouldn't be a surprise that Crane seemed so prepared for this. He and his people have been trying for five years to buy a baseball team.
They tried for the Astros once before, and they tried for the Rangers, Cubs and Padres, as well. Crane even looked into becoming an investor in the Cardinals, although he wouldn't have had control, there.
The team he really wanted, though, was the Astros, which is why he called Sunday "a special day."
"It was really a life goal," said Bill Morgan, the principal investor in Crane's group.
The life goal includes winning, and we can't really judge Crane's ownership until he's had a chance to show if he can do it.
For now, all you can say is that he seems to be off to a good start.