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Houston Astros owner was ridiculed for his plan to turn the team around—now they're World Series champions

  • When Jim Crane purchased the Houston Astros for $680 million in 2011, "The team was bad, and the system was bad," he told CNBC.
  • Crane faced ridicule for his plan to turn the team around, but the Astros won the 2017 World Series, which "proves that our model did work," he said.

What a difference five years can make.

Jim Crane, Houston Astros owner and chairman, once faced criticism for his plan to lead the baseball team to victory. At the time, the Major League Baseball team's roster was the first in franchise history to have lost more than 100 games.

Now, the Astros are the 2017 World Series champions.

When Crane purchased the team for $680 million in 2011 from entrepreneur Drayton McLane, he knew there was a lot of work to be done.

"We came in and looked at the entire operation from the business side to the baseball side," he told CNBC's "Power Lunch" on Tuesday.

Pretty soon after that, he reached his conclusion: "The team was bad, and the system was bad."

Alex Bregman #2 and Jose Altuve #27 of the Houston Astros celebrate after defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-1 in game seven to win the 2017 World Series at Dodger Stadium on November 1, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.
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Alex Bregman #2 and Jose Altuve #27 of the Houston Astros celebrate after defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-1 in game seven to win the 2017 World Series at Dodger Stadium on November 1, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.

"We were in the dark ages. We were still sending in manual reports from our scouts – didn't even have computers," he continued. It was then that Crane decided to enlist the help of now-general manager Jeff Luhnow.

"Luhnow came in and designed the plan. He brought it in when I interviewed him, and I still got it in my desk. It's a 21-page [document], and it's pretty much on the money," he said.

Still, others weren't as convinced about the strategy.

"We got questioned very heavily and got ridiculed a bunch by certain people," Crane said — but they went through with it anyway. Additionally, the team reworked its farm system, the pool from which it drew talent — which previously had "no depth," he said.

"We just did things more efficiently — we serviced the customers, [and] we took care of all the people in the ballpark," he said. "All the basic stuff you do in any business."

He added: "There was no quick fix," but six years later, his hard work led the Astros to their first championship in the team's 55-year history.

"It's a first for us, and I think it's really set a benchmark for the team on the way to operate and the goals and expectations — and it proves that our model did work," Crane said.