The dirt on Jim Crane

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Over at Forbes, our friend Maury Brown lays out the Jim Crane dossier, as he Mr. Crane prepares to take over the Astros.

It’s a good read, containing many of the things we’ve talked about before. For example, the old deal with Drayton McLane that fell through. His dalliance with the Rangers last year. The matter of the multiple discrimination complaints against his company.

Add two new ones to the list that I hadn’t heard of: claims that Crane had breached fiduciary duties in his business dealings in the past and the fact that his company was accused of war profiteering in Iraq. The former of which is a bit troubling, the latter of which is fun in a George Bluth-from-Arrested Development sort of way (and troubling too, but I wanted to get the Bluth reference in there).

Ultimately I’m sure none of these things will stand in the way of Crane being approved by Major League Baseball, because I’m sure they are things that were known by baseball before the transaction ever got this far (or before the last two aborted ones for the Astros and Rangers did). And I’m guessing at least a couple of those things (discrimination claims and fiduciary duty breaches) are things many of the current MLB ownership club have on their rap sheet, because that’s just how big money business, unfortunately, rolls in this great land of ours.

But it’s good to know team owners. Would that we knew Frank McCourt this well before he entered our lives.

The Giants are winning but they’re still gonna sell

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The state of baseball in general, the state of the National League in particular and the state of the San Francisco Giants as a competitor are conspiring to create what seems like at least a mildly absurd situation.

The Giants, a veteran-laden team that, as recently as this past offseason but definitely within the past couple of years, were at least talking about being on a win-now footing, just swept a four-game series, have won five straight games and have won 12 of 14 to pull themselves to within two and a half games of a playoff spot.

Yet, that’s all for temporary show, because they’re about to sell off. At least according to Jeff Passan at ESPN. Giants president Farhan Zaidi tried to push back on that in a radio interview yesterday, denying that the club has foreclosed the possibility of a postseason push, but I’m not really buying that and I don’t think most people are.

On one level it makes sense to ignore the recent surge and forge on with a rebuild. Sure, the Giants are winning but they’re not exactly good. They’re two and a half out of the Wild Card, but there are many teams ahead of them. There’s a lot of reason to think that they’re playing in good fortune right now and that that, rather than finding some extra gear of sustainable better play, is what’s to credit. Hot streaks can happen at any time but the trade deadline only comes once a year. When you have the best starter available in Madison Bumgarner and the best reliever available in Will Smith, you gotta make those deals. That’s what I’d probably do if I ran the Giants and I think that that’s, wisely, what Zaidi will do.

Still, it’s an odd look, less for the Giants specifically than for baseball as a whole. We may in an era of cheap front offices who don’t like to contend if it means spending money, but it’s unfair to paint the Giants with that brush. They’ve spent money and acquired talent and have done whatever they can to extend their 2010-2014 mini-dynasty a few more years and in doing so they’ve made a lot of fans happy. That team has pretty much reached the end and, even in an earlier, more competitive era, they’d not be properly criticized for starting in on a rebuild. Heck, they’d be excused if they had done it a year or two earlier, frankly.

But, because so many teams have punted on improving themselves, these aging Giants are at least superficially competitive. As such, when they do sell off in the coming days, it’ll look to some like they’re waving a white flag or something when they’re not really doing that. I mean, the Rockies and the Pirates, among other teams, should be much better than they are but didn’t seem all that interested in improving, thereby helping the Giants look better, right? It’s less a knock on the Giants for rebuilding when they’re within striking distance of the playoffs than it is on the rest of the league for allowing a team like the Giants to be within striking distance of a playoff spot.

But that’s where we are right now. An insanely competitive Wild Card race from teams that, on the whole, are rather unconcerned with being competitive. What a time to be a baseball fan.