Astros president Reid Ryan reveals rare behind-the-scenes view of World Series winners

Reid Ryan (center) offered a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the Houston Astros. J. Thomas Ford

Steven Devadanam is editor of CultureMap/Houston. This article originally appeared there. 


Is Justin Verlander headed to the Hall of Fame? Will Jose Altuve break Pete Rose’s record? And will the Houston Astros get back to the World Series?

These were the burning questions on the minds of a select group of guests at a recent panel discussion featuring Astros vice president of business operations Reid Ryan. The son of Texas  legend Nolan Ryan (Reid was actually once a young batboy for the Astros when his father played in the Astrodome), Reid Ryan is one of Major League Baseball’s youngest executives. He is widely credited for spearheading one of the best fan experiences in baseball. 

As the founder and CEO of both the Corpus Christi Hooks and the Round Rock Express minor league franchises, Ryan was lauded for running two of the top franchises in minor league attendance, stadium satisfaction and franchise value. Now celebrating his fifth year as Astros president, Ryan was frank about the team’s never settle attitude as he chatted with ESPN 97.5 host John Granato in a talk at the Houston Country Club that was sponsored by Park Towers and TPMC Realty Corporation, and Gow Media.

“We know we’re not a perfect team — we weren’t a perfect team last year,” Ryan told the audience. “We could’ve easily lost to the Red Sox, that was a heck of a series. We could’ve easily lost to the Dodgers. But we found a way to win.”

As a regular presence at team events, Ryan says fan excitement is at a fever pitch after a World Series win. “With this young team, everybody sees that we’re going to be together for at least a couple more years. They see that we’ve locked Altuve up and we’ve made some moves. We feel like we’re in a great spot. But you’re not gonna see us stand still,” he promised.

Ryan offered a rare glimpse into the off-the-diamond challenges facing the team, such as how the Astros compete with the big markets like Los Angeles and New York. Breaking down the financial elements of the major leagues, Ryan cited “three pots” of money available to teams, the first being national money that all MLB teams split, such as jersey sales, the MLB app, XM radio and other packages. “All that money is shared,” Ryan explained. He added that individual teams keep what they create at the respective ballparks, and finally, they generate revenue via local media rights.

The Astros president pointed out a wide chasm in resources: The Astros have a budget of $30 million less than their peers in the American West division and more than $100 million less than “the big boys” in baseball.

“So we have to be really good at creating a great experience at the ballpark,” he said, “and making sure that we’re priced appropriately, and making sure that every dollar that someone is paying to go to an Astros game is being funneled back into the players’ payroll.”

He acknowledged that those financial challenges become more apparent when renegotiating player contracts. “If it comes down to money, and someone wants more money, there’s a chance they can go somewhere else,” he noted. “Jose Altuve could’ve gotten more somewhere else, but he loves this organization and Houston. So we hope we can do that with some of the other guys.”

Ryan added that while the team does its best to provide GM (and metrics whiz) Jeff Luhnow an ample budget, the team won’t break the bank: “We’re not the team that’s going to go out and overspend in free agency,” Ryan added. “We’re the team that’s going to draft and grow from within.”

Talk then turned to stars Verlander and Altuve. Ryan pointed out that Verlander, who now has his 2,500 strikeouts and 200 wins, has an incentive to stay with a contending team and earn another World Series ring — and possibly a Hall of Fame induction.

And Altuve, who his current age of 28 has more hits than Rose, has a chance to break Pete Rose’s batting record, according to Ryan. He promised the crowd that the Astros are ready for the long part of the season. “We’re in the marathon business right now. We can beat you with starting pitching, home runs, steals, defense, and good relief pitching. This club has a lot of flexibility,” he said.

He echoed the popular #NeverSettle team slogan in closing, which starts with owner Jim Crane. “Jim Crane is not satisfied with us having a good team, he wants us to have a great team,” said Ryan. “The ownership group is committed to building something we can sustain for a long time.”

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5 observations from the Ravens win over the Texans

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Let's be honest; the Texans were not going to beat the Ravens. Baltimore has better players, a better quarterback and a better coaching staff. (And oh, a better kicker). All of that was on display in the Ravens' 33-16 win.

The Ravens move to 2-0, while the Texans dropped to 0-2 after facing the AFC's two best teams.

The Texans will still likely contend for a playoff spot, but nothing the last two weeks indicates they are anywhere near contending in the AFC. A look at five things from the Ravens win:

1) Oh, Brien...It did not take long for Bill O'Brien's goofy coaching to rear its ugly head. Down 3-0 at their own 34 as the first quarter was running out, O'Brien chose to go for it on fourth and one. The play was predictably blown up, the Ravens quickly scored to make it 10-0, and the Texans were instantly in a hole against a superior opponent. You can't give points away against the Ravens. They might have scored anyway with a punt, but there was no stopping them with a short field.

2) Some positives on defense. Despite the score, The Texans looked much better on that side of the ball against an explosive offense. J.J. Watt had two sacks, the team had four total, and they kept Lamar Jackson from destroying them. Seven of the points were scored by the Ravens defense, and O'Brien's gaffe led to seven more. The Ravens wore them down in the fourth quarter, but they played well enough until then to keep the team in the game had the offense been better. They did not force any turnovers, however, and that was one of the differences in the game. They were also blown off the ball on a fourth and one in the fourth quarter that led to the Ravens' 30th points and could not stop the run at all in the fourth quarter. But that's what the Ravens do with a lead, and the Texans offense gave them no breaks by being unable to stay on the field.

3) The difference between real contenders...The Ravens were just so much more skilled on both sides of the ball. Defensively, they focused on taking away the run. David Johnson averaged 3.1 yards per carry. Will Fuller had as many catches as you did. The Ravens forced two turnovers on just really good football plays. The Texans don't make plays like that. They might against lesser teams, but if your goal is to compete with the best, it's just not good enough.

4) Deshaun Watson needs to be better. His numbers looked so so on the surface (25 of 36, 275 yards, 1 TD, 1 interception). He was sacked four times and added 17 rushing yards on five carries. He did not make plays late when they needed one here or there to maybe get back in the game. With his big contract, it's time for Watson to stop being close to elite and take the next step. His interception was more of being fooled by Marcus Peters than throwing a bad ball, but the Texans were just 3 of 9 on third downs. Throw in the ill-advised fourth down play, and they were just 3 of 10 extending drives. Give the Ravens a lot of credit, but again, to compete with the best, you have to be better than that.

5) Now what? The Texans travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers, who have not been impressive in their two wins. Still, it's hard to see Houston as anything but serious underdogs. They are last in the AFC South, and have a lot of work to do. The defense showed some promise at times, but will have to continue to improve. The offense has a long way to go. They match up better with the Steelers than they do the Ravens and Chiefs, but that does not mean they can win. If you were hoping they would give you some indication they can be more than just also-rans, they failed to do that on any level against either the Chiefs or Ravens.

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