As part of the Astros' ongoing efforts to engage and communicate with their fans, General Manager Jeff Luhnow wrote the following letter to the club's Season Ticket Holders:
Dear Houston Astros Season Ticket Holder,
I speak not only for myself, but for the players and all of my colleagues at the Astros, when I thank you for your continued support. Through this letter, we would like to share with you some key elements of our plan going forward as well as describe the progress we have made during 2012. It is our hope that you will share the excitement about our future and continue to participate as a Season Ticket Holder and that your loyalty as an Astros fan will be rewarded in 2013 and beyond.
We share your frustration with the results on the field so far this year. After a successful Spring Training, we played good baseball for the first two months of the year. On May 25, we beat the Dodgers in Los Angeles and we were one game under .500 and just four games out of first place. That turned out to be our high-water mark for the season, but it demonstrated that our players were capable of competing with the best teams in the league. Since that time we have underperformed everyone's expectations, including our own. We ran into a combination of bad luck, injuries and a lack of depth that led to our deteriorating record through the midsummer months.
We want the Houston Astros to be a winning franchise that can compete for division titles year in and year out and ultimately bring multiple championships to the city of Houston and to Astros fans across the globe. Our promise to you as a fan is to work as hard and as smart as we possibly can to achieve this goal quickly. We have made significant progress towards this objective in 2012 and that progress will accelerate in 2013.
In order to compete consistently, the Astros must develop and maintain a world class scouting operation and farm system. Through the scouting and player development function, we will be able to produce and keep winning players. Teams that excel in these areas tend to win championships in baseball.
The Astros invested heavily in the future throughout 2012 and will continue to do so in 2013 and beyond. There were three primary investment areas:
1. The Draft. The Astros were in the top 10 percent of teams in resources allocated to signing players in 2012. We drafted and signed three of the top high school amateur players available in Carlos Correa, Lance McCullers and Rio Ruiz. In addition to these young budding stars, the Astros also signed a number of college players who have the potential to reach the Major Leagues in a few short years, headlined by Nolan Fontana and Brady Rodgers. The infusion of high quality amateur talent into the farm system is one of the primary reasons for the winning records at the short season clubs.
2. International. The Houston Astros were among the most active clubs at the beginning of the international signing season on July 2 and have continued to sign players from Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Australia and other parts of the world. While these players are all 16 or 17 years old and therefore several years away from having an impact at the Major League level, this pipeline of talent is critical to sustaining success of the scouting and development system.
3. Trades. Several trades were made during the offseason, Spring Training, and during the season that substantially strengthened the talent base of the system. In many of these trades, veteran Major League players who were not likely to be part of the Astros' future were sent to teams with immediate needs in exchange for younger players who will be able to help the Astros for many years to come. These investments will bear fruit in the coming years, as the players acquired move through the system, reach the Major Leagues and contribute to a winning team effort.
While much of the work we are doing is proprietary and confidential, we can share with you that we are building capabilities across several areas of baseball operations that will enable us to make the best possible decisions in player evaluation, acquisition, development and retention. We are building a front office team with analytical capabilities that not only are among the best in baseball but would rival the best in sports and other industries. We are complementing these analytical capabilities with experienced industry veterans who can challenge the new thinking and in doing so further accelerate the sophistication and impact of our decision-making.
The final piece we want to share with you is about our winning mindset. This is something that is easy to talk about but difficult to institutionalize, because it takes time and the growth is organic and can't be forced. Our focus in 2012 was on creating and fostering a winning mindset throughout the Minor Leagues that will eventually flow up into our big league team. In this regard, we have been very successful. We are experiencing one of the most dramatic turnarounds in recent history with respect to our minor League winning percentage. After being last or close to last across all organizations for a few years, our affiliates have been in the top three for most of the summer. We have several teams vying for a playoff spot and expect multiple Minor League teams to be in the postseason. This is not only good news for our Minor League players and coaches and a strong indication of a winning mindset taking root, but a very good sign that the future of the Houston Astros is bright as these winning players make their way through the Minor Leagues and reach the Majors.
We appreciate your support and look forward to seeing you at Minute Maid Park next year as we take on several new opponents and play some old foes. We know that as Astros employees, we are stewards of your team and we share your desire to bring a World Series championship to Houston. The future is bright.