MLB Realignment -- I Want The Astros In The American League (And I'm Bright!)

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"I'm smart! Not like everybody says... like dumb!"
Your Houston Astros lost 4-1 to the Atlanta Braves on Sunday afternoon to drop their record on the 2011 season to 24-42, the worst record in all of Major League Baseball. The Astros are a bad baseball team that is thoroughly uninteresting. As someone whose living is largely based on having compelling sports content to discuss throughout the months of July and August, I'm all for anything that makes the Astros a worthy discussion topic.

The ownership change from Drayton McLane to Jim Crane carried us a few weeks ago, and will become topical again after it becomes official and the bloodletting begins.

Now, Buster Olney of ESPN dropped a topic into our laps that should be able to carry us for at least a few days, till like Wednesday at least -- Major League Baseball's potentially moving to two fifteen-team leagues, with the Astros being the N.L. team to make the jump over to the A.L. to even out the numbers.

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Trade the Dodgers for the Angels.
I'm not sure what we're going to do for content after this topic dies in a few days, but we'll cross that bridge when we get there. (Maybe somebody can roofie Carlos Lee at the post-game buffet this weekend, and we can dress him up like a woman and stick him underneath the 59 overpass. Or who knows, maybe Carlos is amenable to doing it without having to be drugged; just tell him it's part of his contract and that he'll get a bucket of fudge in return.)

Anyway, back to realignment and the Astros' jumping over to the American League. When the topic was floated yesterday, I immediately endorsed the idea on Twitter (as did Richard Justice of the Houston Chronicle), and challenged people to come up with reasons why it was a bad idea.

Below is a general summary of the counterpoints brought up by my Twitter followers. For purposes of accuracy and succinctness, I will not include the various insults and epithets that were hurled my way. However, because we write for the same blog, I will include a link to John Royal's post in which he says those in favor of the Astros moving to the A.L. "aren't very bright people." (Never let it be said that I'm not a team player!)

So I will now try and overcome my apparently remedial I.Q. and general lack of "brightness" to list and respond to all of the anti-move arguments. Here they are, in no particular order (along with my retorts to each after "SP:"):

1. "I hate the American League, I hate the DH, National League baseball is superior, American League baseball is beer softball."
SP: This is a stylistic preference, and if you're into the National League style of play, then obviously I can't talk you out of a preference -- the same way that you can't talk me out of my preference, which is that I favor the designated hitter. Yeah, I said it, purists, I actually enjoy watching real hitters hit a baseball and watching automatic outs stay where they belong -- on the bench. Look, I'm not here to try and tell you why pitchers suck so badly at hitting, nor do I think it will ever get fixed. I like watching good hitters swing a bat. I think having a spot in the order that is viewed as a virtual automatic out is a bad thing.

I realize that to baseball purists, I'm the equivalent of some snot-blowing, toothless ogre shoveling food in my mouth with both hands, and you're entitled to that opinion. The same way that I'm entitled to my stereotyping those who masturbate to double switches and sacrifice bunts as pocket protector, bowtie-wearing dorks. Neither stereotype is accurate, but we'll just call it even, okay?

By the way, you could make an argument that there isn't a ton more strategy involved with National League baseball, just a whole lot more moving parts and shit to do. Does any manager really ever go against what the "book" says to do late in games with regard to pinch hitting for the pitcher's spot and making double switches? Does it really take some cerebral giant to "manage" a National League game? The upper tier of smart baseball fans, armed with statistical data, couldn't push the same buttons and make the same decisions?

2. "American League games take way longer than National League games. You know, because American League baseball is a bunch of yolkedup, drooling troglodytes swinging for the fences."
SP: Courtesy of my partner in "Operation Astros To The A.L.", Richard Justice, American League games this season are averaging a slightly laborious 2 hours and 50 minutes. National League games, on the other hand, are averaging...well, 2 hours and 50 minutes. However, the slew of sacrifice bunts, small ball, pitching changes, and double switches make it go by like it's 2 hours and 48 minutes.

3. "We would lose all of our rivalries, like the Cardinals and the Cubs and....um, the Cardinals and the Cubs!"
SP: I hate to break this to longtime Astro fans, but the Cardinals and the Cubs and their fans do not care about the Astros. At all. Don't misconstrue the plethora of Cub fans and Cardinal fans at Minute Maid Park as the followers of those teams going out of their way to see a series with the Astros. Those fans go out of their way to see their teams everywhere.

Astro fans will counter with "Yeah, Sean, but when the Astros were winning and battling the Cardinals and Cubs for the playoffs...," and therein lies the rub. If you have to caveat a rivalry with "when we are winning," then it's not a rivalry. Rivalries are steeped in tradition and are not dependent on the won-loss records of either or both participants. The Cardinals and Cubs became "rivals" (and those are air quotes I'm putting around the word) of the Astros by circumstance. If the Astros are ever good again (dare to dream), their "rival" will become whomever they are battling for whatever meaningful accomplishment is at stake.

Trust me, Astro Fan, you'll get over that longstanding, ten-year hatred of the Cardinals and the Cubs. Those two teams are already over it, if it ever actually existed for them in the first place.

And I guess this is as good a bullet point as any to address the attempt to create a rivalry with the Texas Rangers (which clearly this would be if it ever happened). You could best describe the emotions between the Rangers and the Astros as casual indifference right now. However, like the record-dependent feelings for the Cardinals and the Cubs, if something is ever at stake -- a division title, for instance -- between the Astros and the Rangers, a "rivalry" is immediately born.

To say that the Cards and Cubs are hated and then say the same thing wouldn't happen with the Rangers is intellectually incorrect. And the Rangers-Astros hatred would actually have some geographic basis as well. Both fan bases can drive to the other city. The floor for the intensity of Rangers-Astros together in the American League is what it is now, the ceiling is whatever we felt for the Cardinals in 2004 and 2005 plus a dash of all the pretentious Metroplex reasons we perpetually hate the Cowboys. That's not bad!

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8 comments
Sancho
Sancho

To expand on #3, moving to the AL would, I think, have a negative influence on the average attendance totals at MMP.  Houston fans are familiar with the NL, and as such there are several teams that tend to have a decent to large local following.  Cincinnati, St. Louis, Atlanta, the Cubs, the Dodgers, the Mets to some extent, Philadelphia, and San Francisco are all teams that have some sort of history or local interest.  I know that the NL also has Milwaukee and Pittsburgh, neither of which could draw flies, but with the other 8 teams I mentioned there is at least some inkling of recognition among the average Houston baseball fan.

While a move to the AL would have both the Yankees and the Red Sox, who else in the AL would the casual Houston fan have an interest in or knowledge of?  Kansas City, Tampa Bay, Toronto, Baltimore, Oakland, Seattle, Minnesota, and Cleveland are all too similar to Milwaukee and Pittsburgh- there isn't anything of interest in going to see any of these teams to the casual fan.

Year to year, the NL is pretty much wide open, and any given year a number of teams can compete for a shot at the playoffs.  The AL is basically the Red Sox and Yankees, and while other teams have represented the league in the World Series it's basically because they've caught lightning in a bottle in a given year- nobody has shown the ability to do it consistently.  The Red Sox and Yankees generally occupy 2 of the 4 playoff spots annually and have the resources to go out and buy whatever talent they need.  There aren't any giants like that in the NL so overall things are much more competitive.

Basically, a move to the AL would be a disaster to the baseball world of Houston from several aspects. 

Jared
Jared

I'm with Hill and Nathan on this. I won't say you're wrong, and I certainly won't entertain the notion that it's even remotely possible to prove you wrong. From a business standpoint, it makes a ton of sense.

It just doesn't "feel" right. Similar to Notre Dame football joining a conference (not the same, mind you, but similar). The Astros have been in the NL from Day 1, almost 50 years now, and NOW they wanna change up? For who and for what? To make a few extra bucks?

It just seems like change for the sake of change. Bud Selig is about to retire, is getting his ass kicked by the other majors, and needs something to attach to his legacy that doesn't involve elephant hormones or the world series getting cancelled.

There are lots of things about baseball that need to be changed. Alignment is not one of them. If it is, it's way down on the list. Can't we agree that the current wild-card format is the one thing about baseball that works, and just leave well enough alone?

former pudgy kid
former pudgy kid

Pudgy kids with no skills get *picked* last. Teams with no near term prospects and the worst record in either league should go where they are told.

Nathan Miller
Nathan Miller

I understand all the reasons why it would be good, and all the reasons why it would be bad. Not sure if I can weigh them though; for me it just doesn't seem right. I'm definitely mostly in category six, but it's more than that.

Baseball is a business and it's statistics and it's logic. But it's also emotion, and for fans, this may be the most important thing. And for me, my emotion says the Astros are NL. Of course, I'd still be as much a fan after a move to the AL, but I'm still as much a fan after Oswalt and Berkman were traded too... It just feels different.

Hill
Hill

A few things.  1st my reasons for not wanting to move are 85% #6, 15% #1.  On #1, I don't "hate" AL Baseball, but my preference is NL baseball.

On the Texas/Astros potential rivalry, as long as Nolan Ryan is running the Rangers it would just about impossible for me to "hate" the Rangers. I imagine I am not alone with that sentiment amongst Houstonians.

As for Richard leading the charge for the Astros moving to the AL.....hmmm, how many times do you think he will flip flop on that opinion before the year is up?  I am guessing at least once.

Lastly, I understand your liking AL Baseball and wanted the move, that is what you grew up watching, that is clearly why the majority of Astros fans are against the move.

Astros Fan
Astros Fan

People hated the West Coast starting times when Houston was in the N.L. West, and they'll hate them if Houston goes to the A.L. West. This is not a minor issue.

ahem!
ahem!

I propose a moratorium on the use of "flip-flop"... until I die or forever, whichever comes first.  (...unless you've just stepped on a pop top.)

Hill
Hill

Sorry.  But just an FYI, Justice has already changed his mind on the Astros to the AL.  Just said it on Seanie's program.  Easy Money.  Nobody waffles like ole Dicky J.

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