Inside the Astros' Secret Marketing Plans

Overhead general view of Minute Maid Park before a game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Houston Astros in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

The Houston Astros were terrible last season. And this season doesn't look much better. That's a challenge for the Astros marketing staff. We sat in on one of their recent marketing meetings and have the inside scoop on their plans for 2012.

The Astros were bad last season. Historically bad. As in, worst record in the franchise's history bad. Just 56 wins, 106 losses. That's eight fewer wins than Houston (then the Colt 45s) had in the team's first year of existence. Dreadful, awful, horribly bad.

Not surprisingly, attendance at Minute Maid Park plummeted to its lowest mark since the ballpark opened in 2000. Just a bit more than 2,000,000 fans showed up to cheer on the Astros last season. That's down from more than 3,000,000 fans who watched the Astros at home in 2006, the year after they played in the World Series.

The Astros are a long way from the World Series. A long, long way. Yes, there's a new owner in town. A new general manager. Even a new director of decision sciences. They're focused on rebuilding and remaking the team for the future.

But someone's got to put fans in the seats at Minute Park in 2012. And that's going to take some creativity. Some ingenuity. Some moxie. Because the 2012 Astros are not going to sell themselves.

Who are the 2012 Astros, you ask? Behold:

Astrosdepthchart_medium

Only three 2011 Astros in the starting lineup had an OPS+ over 100, and two of them were traded at the deadline: Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn. Only Carlos Lee remains. Next was Brett Wallace (96), who is third on the depth chart at first base for 2012. After Wallace, it was Clint Barmes (93). He's now the shortstop for the Pirates. But, hey, the Astros just signed Jack Cust and Chris Snyder, so there's hope. Or something.

We were curious. How will the Astros sell tickets for the 2012 season? We surreptitiously sat in on a recent meeting of the Astros marketing staff and can report. But it's all a secret, so don't tell anyone.

Astros Marketing Guru No. 1:

You know what I figured out? The Astros have made the playoffs nine times, and six of those times, there was a Bush in the White House. Maybe the Bush family is good luck. I mean, they are from Houston. Well, George H.W. Bush is.

Astros Marketing Guru No. 2:

Hey, I think you're on to something. You know how George H.W. Bush likes to go skydiving? Maybe we can get the former President to skydive and land on the field before a game?

Astros Marketing Guru No. 3:

Even better. We can take all ticket holders from a single homestand and enter them in a raffle. The winner goes skydiving with Mr. Bush!

Astros Marketing Guru No. 1:

Perfect. Next idea?

Astros Marketing Guru No. 3:

Remember, next season the Astros will be in the American League with a designated hitter, so we should do something special to celebrate the last season of having pitchers bat for themselves. You know how some teams have kids run the bases after Sunday afternoon games? We should have a Home Run Derby after every Sunday home game, where local Little Leaguers compete against Astros pitching.

Astros Marketing Guru No. 1:

I like that. And when a Little Leaguer wins, he gets a one-day contract to play in the majors! Watch that team OPS just climb and climb!

Astros Marketing Guru No. 2:

Wow. We are cruising now. Okay, let's do something to honor Jeff Bagwell after he was unfairly snubbed for the Hall of Fame vote this year. This is pretty crazy, but how about a "strongest man" competition to see how far Bagwell can throw all the members of the BBWAA who have publicly stated they won't vote for Bagwell for the Hall of Fame because of the "taint" of the steroids era.

Astros Marketing Guru No. 3:

Yeah, we can set up landing mats at different intervals on the field. The mats furthest away will have the most cushion. So if Bagwell is really as strong as the BBWAA voters think he is, he'll be able to throw those guys to land on the softest, cushiest mats. If he's not? Well, I guess they'll just have to find out the hard way.

Astros Marketing Guru Nos. 1 and 2, in unison:

The hard way! That is so funny. Hahahahahahahaha.

Astros Marketing Guru No. 1:

C'mon. We need stay focused. And we need some promotions for this year's team. We can't just ignore them.

Astros Marketing Guru No. 2:

Right. How about our new shortstop Jed Lowrie? We can put together a Boston-to-Houston travel package, so Red Sox fans can come watch Lowrie. Especially now that they don't have a shortstop of their own to watch.

Astros Marketing Guru No. 3:

That's good, but why limit it to Boston-to-Houston travel packages? There are Red Sox fans everywhere. We can put together travel packages for cities all over the US. I mean, who doesn't want to visit Houston in the summer?

Astros Marketing Guru No. 1:

Good.

I was going through old video clips this morning and I came across this great diving catch by Michael Bourn on Tal's Hill.


Gave me an idea for a rolling-down-the-hill contest between Carlos Lee and Jack Cust. You know, rolling down a hill like this:


Lee and Cust race down Tal's Hill after every Tuesday home game. It can be a season-long contest. The winner gets to play centerfield during the last homestand!

Astros Marketing Guru No. 2:

Okay. Great meeting you guys. It's going to be an action-packed season at Minute Maid Park.

Astros Marketing Guru No. 3:

Yeah, that Bagwell thing is going to be a hoot.

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