Perhaps because the announcement of the Houston Astros moving to the American League in time for the 2013 is not yet “official”, we are not seeing a great deal of reaction. Which, I think, is typical of the kind of reserved, wait-and-see approach generally practiced by sports fans and people on the internet as a collective. Even with that even-keeled collective mentality in mind, why isn’t this a bigger deal?
That it is the Houston Astros reported to be on the move plays into it. The Astros were baseball’s worst team in 2011, a collection of Quad-A no-names and a guy best now as The Horse. A team that traded its three best players over the course of the last two seasons. The Astros. A team without a World Series title to their name.
At the same time, this is a team with 50 years of tradition in the National League. Two generations of memories and rivalries tied up in the glorious tradition of watching pitchers trying to hit. Is it right to just throw it all aside without a second thought?
Not everyone plans to take the Astros potential move to the AL lying down. Astros poster boy and year-round Houstonian Lance Berkman tossed his two cents callously into the fray yesterday while in Houston to sign a memorabilia deal. The Big Puma cares not for AL ball, you see. Keep your designated hitting and well-constructed teams to yourself, thank you very much.
“I think it’s a travesty,” Berkman said. “It’s a National League franchise. I think if they were going to do something like that, Milwaukee’s the choice to go back to the American League; they’re historically an American League franchise.
“It’s a shame, I think, that Bud Selig is probably going to make that be sort of a condition of the sale. I don’t like it. Even when I retire and live here in Houston, I don’t want to go watch American League baseball. I’d like to have a National League team.”
Sounds to me like somebody is still mad at the American League for holding the career .403 wOBA hitter to a mere .314 wOBA during the briefest of AL stints.
Berkman is right on some level, I suppose. Moving the Brewers back to the American League, where they spent nearly 30 years, seems logical enough. But this is a business, Lance. A business that made you very rich. There are far more factors at play than just “they used to do it, make them do it again.” What, other than tradition, is the big hangup with moving to the American League?
Chip Bailey of the Houston Chronicle put that very question to his readers and commenters, while noting the 50 million bucks given to ownership to grease the wheels makes all arguments both null AND void.
The responses to Bailey’s query are exactly what you expect: “I hate the Yankees, the Red Sox, Bud Selig, and just about everything else.” Some clear-minded folks point to the potential intrastate rivalry with the Texas Rangers as reason enough to make the move while others astutely point out the rest of the A.L. West is a bit of a bummer.
Commenters bemoan the “idiot ball” aspects of American League life, claiming any [sic] “Joe Bloe” can fill out the lineup card and guide the team home. Are they wrong? Their team is generally (mis)managed by Ed Wade! Perhaps a few extra games against Mighty Mike Scioscia and the go-go Angels will change their minds?
The number one complaint, the thing almost every commenter mentions in his or her dismissal of any move to the American League is the designated hitter. They hate it. Nearly to a (wo)man. A fanbase who spent much of the last three years watching Carlos Lee stumble around the outfield feels as the designated hitter cheapens the game, offering a “handicap pass” to “out of shape oafs” to unnaturally extend their careers.
I suppose I understand the Stockholm Syndrome at play here. These poor fans follow the Houston Astros, after all. So much of their bitterness is undoubtedly tied to the Astros’ recent success (or lack thereof) on the field. If the team is able to turn around their fortunes (not likely!) and win the AL, these reservations over the designated hitter will quickly fade away. The reverse is obviously true, as well. If the team continues to occupy the basement of either league, fans may just use the move to the AL as their final push out the door. Bud and his ownership cabal had better know what they’re doing here. The potential of another losing a franchise in the eyes of the fanbase seems very, very real.