The Astros Are Heading to the Promised Land -- The American League!
As a major league sport, baseball has always done a fairly good job of keeping itself relevant throughout the calendar year. (Football is the king of year-round relevancy. Basketball is the court jester. Baseball lies somewhere in between.)
November is normally a fun baseball month because the awards for the season are handed down, but since the next Houston Astro to figure prominently in an individual award race is probably playing in junior high right now, we need to find other ways to consume baseball in these winter months.
Thankfully, we have today's Astro ownership change and league change to sink our teeth into.
By and large, I think Astro fans are all for the ownership change and against the league change. Unfortunately, you can't have one without the other. They are inextricably linked. If you date Kim Kardashian because you like her fruity booty, you still have to deal with her narcissism and the strong chance she may dump you at any minute for the backup point guard for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.
It's the exact same thing. Really, it is.
Soooooo, with that in mind....can I get an AMEN?...No really, can I get an AMEN?....Okay, fine. Maybe for a lot of you, most of you, this move to the American League will take some getting used to, especially those of you who grew up here and have been used to Houston being a National League city for the last 50 years. I understand that change doesn't come easy, but I'm here to share a few facts with you about this move to the American League that in time you will come to learn and embrace as I have:
5. Watching pitchers hit sucks It's like watching a kicker try to play quarterback or watching Andrew Shue try to recite Shakespeare. Actually, I stand corrected. THOSE things are actually trainwrecky fun to watch. Watching pitchers hit is like watching an eight-year-old in the FAST cage at the batting cages. Boring. Waste of time. Finally, I get to watch hitters hit and pitchers pitch right here where I live. And I can name at least ten "National League fan" friends of mine who just punched their computer screens reading this. Settle down, strategy dorks. Which brings me to....
4. You'll survive watching games without the edge-of-your-seat drama of the double switch. Trust me, the game can still be fun without a ninth-inning lineup where the pitcher's spot is batting cleanup and some slappy outfielder is in the nine hole, and a second baseman changes over to third base in the middle of an inning so that the manager can slot a lefty against a lefty. Or whatever amalgamation of overthought moves you can string together. You'll still have fun. And if you're not having fun at the games, may I suggest beer?
3. The Yankees and the Red Sox will now come to Minute Maid at least once per season, and this is a good thing Sure, this may mean that you get Yankee Fan and Sawx Fan for an extra weekend each season, but at least someone will be spending money downtown. Hell, if the Astros had realigned a couple years ago, maybe the B.U.S. wouldn't have closed. (Moment of silence....)
(NOTE: I had a few people point out to me that the B.U.S. is still open. Judging by the crowds there, you could have fooled me.) 2. Oh, and say hello to your new rival, the Texas Rangers Yeah, there's no mutual hatred yet (a prerequisite for any good rivalry), but guess what? All of these other so-called rivals of which you speak -- Cardinals, Cubs, Dodgers, etc. -- well, not only do these teams and cities not hate the Astros, they barely know the Astros exist. A quick story about my own gauge on the Astros' place in the universe -- up until a few years ago, I still split Cub season tickets with some buddies (all diehard Cub fans) back in Chicago. (Point of disclosure: My kids live in Chicago, so they could use the tickets even when I'm in Houston.)
We would have a draft picking tickets for the various series. Even when the Astros were good, those tickets would still go after the Cardinals, White Sox, Phillies, Brewers, Dodgers, Mets and (if they were coming to town that year) the Yankees and Red Sox. And in the years the Astros became bad? Forget about it. They'd get picked after everyone except maybe -- MAYBE -- the Pirates, the Marlins and whichever team was bound to suck in the NL West.
In short, season-ticket holders and rabid fans of one of the teams Astro fans have cited as a "rival" they would be leaving behind could truly not care less about the Astros. Basically, the only National League city that cares that the Astros are leaving the National League is Houston. This is the truth.
1. Oh, and the whole "tougher to make the playoffs in the American League" thing? Well, my first response to that is (Jim Mora voice activated) "PLAYOFFS? PLAYOFFS?" Let's eat what's on our plate first, and that's somehow finding a way to get back to winning 70 games. Seventy-five games. Get back to .500 first, then we'll worry about the degree of difficulty in making the postseason. For everyone except the Red Sox and Yankees, getting and staying good is all cyclical, and fortunately we don't have to deal directly with either of them in the AL West. (That's Tampa's problem.) Besides, the baseball powers that be just dropped another playoff berth in each league on all of us, so the whole "get to the postseason" thing just got easier, in theory, to navigate today.
To a man, almost every Astros fan I know wanted the ownership change from Drayton McLane to Jim Crane to go through. McLane's legacy was rapidly going from "owner who maintained the longest period of consistent success" in the city (mid-'90's through 2006) to a delusional, penny-pinching old man who was firmly entrenched in the denial phase of the grieving process over the death of his once proud franchise.
The price to get McLane out and Crane in was a change in league membership. Deal with it. I think you can deal with a designated hitter and a few obnoxious Red Sox fans if it means hitting CTRL-ALT-DEL on the hierarchy over at Minute Maid Park, can't you?
Listen to Sean Pendergast on Yahoo! Sports Radio and 1560 The Game, and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.
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