Rounding Third: Astros take step in the right direction

It may not be the Ryan whom people in Houston had hoped would walk through the door.

But it's a Ryan nonetheless and one who could signal a much-needed turnaround for an Astros organization that just hasn't been able to get out of its way the past few seasons.

On Friday, the Astros named Reid Ryan president of business operations. Ryan, the son of Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan, fills the position that became open when George Postolos resigned on Monday.

"Today is a dream come true," Reid Ryan said. "You grow up an Astros fan if you're in Houston. Everybody has a hometown team, and the Astros were mine.

"Being named president of business operations is both a homecoming and the pinnacle of my career in baseball," Ryan added. "The Houston Astros have been a part of my life since 1980 when my dad, Nolan Ryan, signed with the club. I have an understanding of the history and tradition of the Houston Astros."

The 41-year-old Ryan was the president and CEO of Ryan-Sanders Baseball, which owns the Double-A Corpus Christi Hooks, an affiliate of the Astros, and the Triple-A Round Rock Express, an affiliate of the Texas Rangers.

Ryan's more than just the oldest son of one of the best pitchers of all time. As good of a public relations move as this may be for an organization in desperate need of a makeover, Ryan is considered one of the best young executives in the game.

"Over the last several years, I have been fortunate to build some close relationships with many people within the Astros organization," Ryan said. "I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to work with (owner and chairman) Jim Crane and I share his vision to rebuild the franchise."

Once it was realized that Postolos wasn't in the position long-term, speculation started to run rampant this past winter that Nolan Ryan would in fact be the one to take over this sinking ship. An ongoing power struggle between the Hall of Famer and the Texas Rangers' front office led many to believe it was just a matter of time before that happened.

However, those differences were settled shortly after the start of this season, ending any hopes of a reunion.

Well, at least for now anyway.

Nolan Ryan was present Friday as his son was introduced. That show of support right there already has a Houston fan base excited for what the future may hold.

Yes, Nolan Ryan went into the Hall of Fame with the Texas Rangers, but 106 of his 324 career wins came in Houston and there are few more beloved than him to ever wear an Astros uniform.

Forget the on-field product for a bit, Reid Ryan's biggest job may be that of repairing the Astros' disastrous relationship with their fans. Having a Ryan run the team is a gigantic step forward in that regard.

And owner Jim Crane knows that. In fact, it was Ryan's relationship with the fans at Corpus Christi that actually drew Crane to him.

"He's working the crowd, he's working with the fans, he's got a good personality and a good presence," Crane said. "When you first meet the guy, you like the guy. We're really excited in him getting engaged in that area. He's a people person, and I think the staff will enjoy working with him."

On the field, though, this team is a mess.

Ryan may have been looking for an out clause in his new contract Friday night when his team lost in embarrassing fashion in Pittsburgh. His second baseman and right fielder collided and the ball fell to the ground, easily allowing the winning run to cross the plate.

After back-to-back 100-plus loss seasons, the Astros are off to their worst start in team history at 11-31. Barring a miracle, they are going to lose 100 games again this season and will likely challenge the New York Mets' single- season loss record of 120.

At least the rebuild is officially underway.