Sunday, June 12, 2011

A Heartfelt Plea for the NL

       
              Saturday brought news that MLB was discussing possible realignment and that one team thought to be the favorite to switch leagues was the Houston Astros. BOOM. Twitter explosion. My timeline was suddenly filled with passionate arguments for or against this theoretical move to the American League. I found myself strangely passionate about the subject as well, and it took me a little while to process my emotions. I am strongly against the Astros leaving the National League. I can understand those who have an opposite opinion. They are currently frustrated, they see the AL as a more exciting game(more runs scored), they see the major draws in the AL(Yankees & Red Sox), but I just couldn't shake my initial impression that this was a bad idea. You know what I realized? To those of us who grew up here in Houston, the Astros mean a lot more than we thought. We have witnessed decades of National League baseball. As a kid I loved all the Houston teams, but the only one my family could afford to go see regularly were the Astros. I grew up sitting in the outfield seats watching the Stros battle the Braves, Mets, Cubs, Dodgers, Cardinals and other National League foes. I have grown up learning to appreciate the way baseball is played in the NL. Sure we don't have as good a rivalry as Cubs-Cards, but what teams do? Last I checked the Astros have been around a lot longer and enjoyed more success than the Rangers. Why should we change our history to create a rivalry with a team that has only been good for a few years? Sure everybody is frustrated this season, but the Stros are rebuilding. Every team except for the Red Sox and Yankees has to do that. Heck, the Rangers had to do it for 20 years. I could go into the scheduling implications and debate the superiority of one league over another, but I realized that this is a whole lot bigger than that. This is part of my childhood and my life as a Houston sports fan. I can't fully put it into words, but all my memories of the Astros belong in the National League. The series with the Mets. The rivalry with the Dodgers. The multiple playoff wars with the Braves. The only Astro memory that is AL heavy is the no hitter against the Yankees. Even the greatest Astros' season ended with them being the NATIONAL league representative in the World Series. You want a true Texas rivalry that would put the national microscope on baseball here in our great state? Wouldn't an Astros-Rangers World Series be 100x more interesting and awesome than a few regular season series? Should we move the Texans to the NFC East so they can play the Cowboys more? A lot of sportswriters who are tooting the horn for the AL didn't grow up watching the Astros. I understand why they would like to cover a higher scoring game and the two biggest teams in baseball, but they don't understand what the Astros and the National League mean to us fans. So while I won't belittle you if you favor a move to the AL, please understand that I, and I think a lot of fans like myself, would like to keep the Stros in the National League.

3 comments:

  1. This is such a good piece. I am sold. Astros for the NL.

    Seriously though, your blog has become one of my favorite reads. This article is a pretty perfect example as to why that is.

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  2. So I need to preface what I'm about to say with, I love the Astros. I grew up watching them. They were the only real stable thing I could hold onto. I want them to stay in the NL. I love the NL game and I don't want a DH.

    That being said, I think that the imbalance in the league and the current division system is very flawed and the Astros moving might be collateral damage.

    16 NL teams and 14 AL teams is strange. 6 NL central teams and 4 AL West teams doesn't make sense. I'm sure there are all sorts of win probability logarithms that state the inequity of this.

    Also, I want the best 5 teams from each league in the playoffs. These superdivisions would allow for this. Aren't you tired in the NBA of watching the Pacers get in with a losing record? Think about the Blue Jays. They don't have the money to keep up with the Yanks and Red Sox. It's near impossible for them to get one of those top 2 spots in the East. And if they grab the two spot, they have to pray for the wild card. If they had the super division, they would know that they could finish with the 4th best record in the AL and still make it. This would give management incentive to put a good product on the field and stay competitive. The fans win out on that.

    As for "more runs in the AL" since the DH era, the largest disparity in runs per game between an NL team and an AL team is .71 runs per game in 1996. So it's not that it's an offensive explosion in the AL.

    Again, I know that you're thinking is largely Astro-centric, and I understand that, but the MLB isn't too concerned with how we grew up loving our home town team.

    There's new ownership in town, and while they don't want to move, they might be forced to as MLB could make them acquiesce as part of terms for the approval of the sale.

    I'm not happy about this, but I see the benefits of this long term for the sport. A sport that is quickly losing traction amongst the "Big 4" American sports.

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  3. Thanks for the comments guys. I would wholeheartedly be FOR the top 5 teams making the playoffs in each league as opposed to the current system. I don't see why the Stros would have to switch leagues to make that happen. The Astros have switched divisions anyway and are currently in a division with four midwest teams. I would love to see the best 5 teams make it. I also don't really see how moving to the AL would bring more Houston fans or be better for the game. The youth who don't enjoy baseball aren't going to all of the sudden become huge fans of America's pasttime b/c of the DH or getting to see more Yankees games. IMO. A lot of people who don't like baseball complain about the time. AL games on average last about 10 minutes longer than NL. Totally with you on the playoff system though. THAT we can agree on. Definitely respect your arguments Barry, but on some we will have to agree to disagree here.

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