Ever since the Peter Gammons tweet on Wednesday about the Astros sale to be approved in November as well as the Astros being moved to the American League, there's been a firestorm of anger and panic emitting from what few Astros fans remain. Yesterday, one group even started an Internet petition drive to "Save Our Stros."
I'm sympathetic to these arguments. I even argued against the Astros moving way back in July, when this topic first surfaced. But some of my media brethren dismissed these concerns with discussion about how a move to the American League would be better for the Astros because then they'd get to lose to the Red Sox and Yankees multiple times every season.
While I'm sympathetic, I must first address some of my concerns with what I've seen and read since Wednesday. Like this "Save Our Stros" campaign. What are we saving the Astros from? They're not being contracted. They're not being moved to another city. They'd just be switching leagues. Sure, that means crappy baseball with a DH and limited strategy, but it's still baseball, and the Astros would still be playing in Houston.
So instead of Minute Maid Park being invaded by fans of the Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals or the Atlanta Braves, they'll be invaded on a yearly process by fans of the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Texas Rangers. And while there's nothing worse or slimier than a Yankee fan, if MMP and Astros fans have been able to survive Cubs fans, then they can survive anything.
And I was really struck by the language of the petition. It speaks of lifelong fans who don't want the team removed from the National League Central and sent to the American League West because games would be played on the West Coast, which would mean late starts that the fans wouldn't get to play. The problem being, as Sean Pendergast pointed out, a move to the AL West would find the Astros playing a whopping 22 games out of 162 on the West Coast. Twenty-two! Yeah, that's the end of the world. Then the petition attacks Bud Selig and the Milwaukee Brewers. They suggest that Selig move the Brewers back to the American League, from whence they came, because otherwise the hearts of the remaining Astros fan base will be broken.
But first, if you're a lifelong fan of the Astros, then you surely grew up, like I did, with the Astros as members of the National League West, playing in the same division with the Los Angeles Dodgers, San Diego Padres and San Francisco Giants. Three teams, shockingly, located on the West Coast, forcing the Astros to play, horror of all horrors, late-night games on the West Coast. And while the Brewers are a convenient target because they've already made this move before, moving the Brewers back doesn't make logical sense.
There is, I believe, a better argument to be made than the one found in the petition. An argument that is logical, realistic and historically based. While I don't believe any argument will prevent this move to the American League West, I do believe that if any argument can do the job, it's the one I advocate.
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Simply put, the fans should argue to Bud Selig that having 15 teams in each league, with each division having five teams, is a reasonable idea. It will mean that there will be inter-league play every night of the season, but that has not destroyed any of the other major sports leagues, and it does allow for symmetry. But moving the Astros to fulfill this goal is not the best approach.
The city of Houston has a long, long history with the National League, dating back to the days when the city hosted the farm team of the St. Louis Cardinals, moving into the past 50 years and the time of the Colt .45s/Astros. This is a history that should not be easily discarded. There is, however, a logical team for making the move, the Arizona Diamondbacks. The D-Backs first began play in 1998, and they do not have the same history in the NL as the Astros. The D-Backs could easily be shifted into the AL West, which would finally give that division five teams and the league 15 teams. And, most importantly, the D-Backs have stated that they will relocate to the AL if so asked, which is something that neither Drayton McLane nor Jim Crane has said.
The NL West would still be one team short. And this would be the prime spot to put the Astros. The Astros spent the majority of their history in the NL West -- winning the division in 1980 and 1986. They have historic rivalries with the Dodgers and Giants -- I hate the Dodgers and Tommy Lasorda far more than I hate the Cardinals and Tony La Russa -- and the move would allow these rivalries to be reborn. (Also on the plus side, this would mean fewer chances for MMP to be taken over by Cubs and Cardinals fans.)
All parties win. Bud Selig, the Astros and the Astros fans. Each league has 15 teams. Each division has five teams. The NL legacy of the Astros is preserved, and they return to the division where they spent a majority of their history. It's logical, realistic and based in history. And as for the "Save Our Stros" folks: Perhaps they should focus on saving the Astros from the likes of Drayton McLane, Jim Crane, Tal Smith and Ed Wade.