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.

Comments (26)

  1. I don’t get it – how could they have 15 teams in each league? On a Friday night/Saturday/Sunday there would always be one team not playing, which is bad for business. What is the plan exactly?

    • I’m not sure what the plan actually is, but there could always be an interleague series going on. That way every AL team could play every NL team at least once or twice or more during the season, hopefully at the expense of within division series.

    • Interleague series every day all season long.

      • Really? That sounds horrid.

        • Oh god, that sounds gross

        • I’m still struggling to see what is so bad about having an inter-league series in order to have all teams in action. The worst part about baseball is the imbalance between teams and leagues. Having a more balanced schedule means that the Jays benefit from not having to play the Yanks, Red Sox and Rays 50 times a year. Are we seriously that hard up for one MORE series with the OriLOLs? Its not that I’m that huge of an inter-league booster.. but at least this way the game is forced to even out the schedule in a way that allows for something other than continual inter-divisional games.

          • I don’t want a balanced schedule. If you’ve ever been to the Rogers Centre vs the Yankees and then vs the A’s you’ll know exactly why. Jays attendance and revenue would go down if the schedule was balanced. What I want is revenue sharing only within divisions. You want some real fun? Make the Yankees and Red Sox pay the Jays and Rays an extra 20 mil a year and see what happens!

        • It could be worse, you could have a division with only 4 teams. Oh wait!

          • I’ve always enjoyed the eccentric elements of baseball (specifically the closed league system), and I fear that an all year balanced schedule would destroy what makes the show unique to the other big four leagues.

    • Why does it matter if one measly team in each league doesn’t play on a given Friday or Saturday night, they won’t go bankrupt.

      • Well, baseball teams play multi-game series so we’re talking about rolling three and four days chunks of off days, making it hard to complete the 162 game season before January.

  2. Awful article. Just awful.

  3. I know it is convenient to move Houston being as they are for sale and the league can strong arm or pay off the ownership to switch leagues but being as they were one of the original NL expansion franchises they should leave them there and move a team like Arizona who doesn’t have the same history.

    • The geography of a Diamondbacks move works a little bit better. Then move the Astros to the NL West?

      • That sounds like the best idea to me – keeps the Astros in the NL, keeps the AL West relatively West. I guess the only problem is that the Astros fans have to stay up late for the late away games, but then that’s going to happen anyway given the original idea….

  4. Yeah why not.Texas is in the al west why shouldnt Houston be in a western division as well. Colorado and Texas are not that far apart so it wouldn’t be a Seattle situation where one team is far removed from the rest.

  5. I have tried to be open-minded, but I really don’t get why people hate the DH. OK, so all pitchers used to hit. Fine. Players also used to smoke in the dugout and pitchers threw underhand. Obviously we have reached a point in the game where pitchers (for the most part) have stopped being able to hit, even a little bit. It makes my eyes hurt watching a pitcher flail wildly at the ball before walking back to the dugout. Even if they get on base, they can’t run. What’s the point? It’s like rec-league slowpitch where you have an automatic out if you don’t have enough players. Do people enjoy watching a double-switch THAT much? Is it better baseball to pinch-hit for a pitcher who’s throwing a great game but the team is down by a run and they need someone at the plate who has some hope of making contact?

  6. Instead of moving a team, why not add two teams to the AL through expansion. 32 teams would allow 8 divisions of 4 and not require interleague be played throughout the season. New York could support another team, and Portland and San Antonio have bigger populations than some existing team cities. MLB is currently in the longest period without expansion in the last 50 years.

  7. Of course, expansion would be an easier way to balance out the leagues. Alas, I don’t think people with big money are lining up to buy one. Also, Bud probably wants stadium solutions for the Rays and A’s addressed first.

    When I first heard that Houston may be a candidate to switch to the AL, at first I was scratching my head, but after I thought about it for a bit, it probably makes the most sense. Any other team from the Eastern or Central time zone would probably push the Royals into the AL West, which they probably don’t want. And any team from the Mountain or Pacific would mean yet more travel for the Rangers, which they probably don’t want. Houston’s travel would go up, Texas’s travel would go down, and at least they’d have each other to play against 10+ times a year.

    Also, I’d suggest 15 games in the division (60) + 9 games against the league (90) + 12 interleague = 162.

  8. Or how about one giant table for each league – move somebody ‘new’ like the D’Backs into the AL, and have two tables of 15 – top 4 from each league go to the play-offs each year. Each team plays each other say 12 times, 6h, 6a (though that does make for a 168 game reg season – or 10 each with 22 interleague games)

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