Friday, November 18, 2011

The Astros will never be an American League team

I suppose most everyone has heard that the Houston Astros will be moving to the American League West in 2013.

This is in order to even out the leagues at 15 teams apiece, create a wild-card postseason play-in game, and give the bracket junkies a chance to send all of their proposals off to Major League Baseball.

There's only one problem.

The Astros aren't an American League team.

Yeah, I know, baseball's going to put them in the A.L. West, and they will be listed with the other A.L. West teams, and they will build fascinating new rivalries with the A's and Mariners (can't wait to see TV ratings on those). But they'll still be a National League team to me.


"Oh, you'll get used to it," I hear you saying. "They split the divisions from two to three, they added wild cards, they created interleague and you're still here, right?"

Yeah, I'm still here. But I'm kind of going along with things only because I love the game so much. You put up with a lot when you're in love.

But this doesn't have to do with what I'll accept (sort of) or not accept. It has to do with my sense of history, and most importantly, my brain's sense of history.

My brain will not accept that the Astros are an American League team. My brain knows that the Astros were created as a National League expansion franchise ahead of the 1962 season and have been in the N.L. ever since. That's all it will accept.

As proof, I submit to you the Milwaukee Brewers.

The Brewers moved from the American League to the National League starting in 1998. Thirteen years ago. And there's still a part of me that thinks they're an American League team.

This doesn't have to do with clinging to the past or disliking change -- or maybe it does -- but my brain doesn't consider things like that when, for instance, we're in the midst of interleague play in June and the lone National League game on the schedule is Milwaukee v. Colorado and my brain says, "how did they arrange it so there are 15 interleague games this time?" Then I count one-one thousand, two-one thousand, three-on thousand before my brain says, "OH, that's right! Milwaukee IS a National League team!"

Thirteen years this has been going on.

I don't expect that to ever go away. The Brewers were an American League team when I started following baseball and for 23 years after that. There was the '82 World Series, Harvey's Wallbangers, Robin Yount, Gorman Thomas, Paul Molitor, Ben Oglivie, all American Leaguers.

The ideal thing for me, and for others I'm sure, is to move Milwaukee instead of Houston back to the American League. Where they belong.

But that would be inconvenient for Bud Selig. Or something. And if we're going to inconvenience anyone around here, it will be the fans. They can have mixed up brains for the next 20 years. Mixed up brains will still pay to watch games, right?

For my mixed-up brain, there is just so much history to overcome.

Imagine if you will, being a kid in 1980.

Nolan Ryan was an Angels pitcher and played in the A.L. West for as long as you had been following baseball.

Then, suddenly, during the craziness of early free agency ...

... WOW! Ryan was now an Astro!

The epic nature of this signing wasn't so much the fact that he changed teams or that he got a huge contract. It was because he was moving ALL THE WAY from the A.L. West to the N.L. West.

It was freaky. Like he just changed planets.

Then, 10 years later, it was the same deal.

Ryan was still with the Astros in 1989. Everyone had gotten used to it after 10 years. And then suddenly ...

WOW! He was a Ranger! 

This was cool not only because he had switched teams and still remained in his home state, but because he had jumped from the National League West BACK to the A.L. West.

Welcome back to the planet, Nolan.

But if all of this had happened in 2013, then Ryan would've merely moved from one A.L. West team to another A.L. West team to another A.L. West team.

That's no fun.

The thing that my brain won't be able to reconcile the most is if the Astros reach the World Series as an American League team. If they do that, then as far as the brain is concerned, it would've been better if the Astros had never made the 2005 World Series, because how the hell is my brain going to wrap itself around a team that reaches the World Series as both an American League and a National League team?

That seems like something that would have happened in the 1880s, with all the league switching that was going on then. Not now.

That's why part of me always hopes that the Brewers don't reach the World Series. It's only a tiny part because I actually rooted for them this year. But, wow, would the brain be upset if it has to see the Brewers as the A.L. World Series representative in 1982 and then as an N.L. World Series representative at some future date.

I don't pay attention to the Astros much anymore. But they were kind of a big deal in the 1980s. They played some very memorable playoff series against the Phillies in 1980 and the Mets in 1986. It's because of that history that I still have a little bit of interest in a regular-season Astros-Phillies or Astros-Mets series today. That will all go away.

Mike Scott and J.R. Richard were National League style pitchers. Cesar Cedeno and Jose Cruz were National League style hitters. They're just a National League TEAM.

Nothing A.L. about them.

Then there's this whole possible matter of there now being an interleague game every day of the season. Oooooooooh, pinch me.

But, change, you know, you just can't stop it.

Especially if you're just a new owner coming into the league. Or a fan with a mixed-up brain.


  1. I thought it was cool when the Brewrs moved to the NL, 'cause it was so historic. I mean, no team had don a league change in 97 years at that point. Now we have another team doing it 14 years later? That's just so wrong.

    Part of me would love to see a Brewers-Astros World Series, 'cause it would be so weird... a lot like the '95 playoff series between the Indians & Mariners felt weird after growing up watching them both stink.

    I kinda agree with you though... it's going to take me a LONG time to think of the Astros as an AL team even though I will remember that they are in the AL.

    I hate interleague play. I was unsure of it at first, found it a nice novelty in '97 and for a few years and the uncomfortable unsurenss just grew into a "ok, that's enough now, let's get back to segregating the AL from the NL unless it's October.

    Now they have to ensure there's interleague every day!?!?

    I may follow Nippon in 2013.

  2. The only good outcome out of this debacle is that my Rockies get to stay in the National League. They were the team rumored to be moving to the AL before the Astros.

    I am not an American League fan and I would have had to find a new team if it had happened.

    I still think the best solution (geographically anyway) would be to send the Padres to the AL West and the Astros to the NL West for three reasons.

    1. It keeps an NL team in Texas.
    2. It gives the Angels a natural local rival
    3. It does not break up the Dodgers-Giants or Rockies-DBacks rivalries.

    The Padres have always been like the slow kid of the NL West anyways and to be honest I wouldn't miss them if they were gone from the division.

  3. I'm probably in the minority but if it wasn't for the designated hitter (which I hate)I wouldn't see anything wrong with baseball merging the two leagues like the NFL did. How much difference is there anymore? With inter-league play expanding I don't see what the distinction between leagues is. I think of myself as a traditionalist but baseball has continually changed over the last 100+ years. It's never been something carved in stone.

  4. Even if MLB said tomorrow: "the Cubs are going to the American League"?

  5. I knew you would say that. Again, take away the designated hitter. Now what do you have? Isn't it mostly a matter of how many games each team plays against each other? The leagues aren't what they were when a whole season was played to determine the two Pennant winners. Back in the day the Brooklyn Dodgers played the Cubs 22 times a year right? In 2011 they played 6 times. I guess if they moved the Cubs I'd adjust to more games against the Sox, the Orioles, the Yankees etc. Yeah, I think I'd be ok with it.

  6. I was born in Orange County, CA and raised die-hard Angel/Dodger fan. But I have lived here in Houston for last 5 years. I really miss seeing the Angels play regularly, so I'm excited for the league move. I personally wish they'd just combine the leagues and break it up more regionally. I love watching baseball be it the Angels playing the Dodgers or 10 year olds playing in a dirt field. It's all good.

  7. Bleah. Not me. If I was a Cubs fan, I'd be pissed not playing the Cardinals or Mets or Phillies as much. I know they don't play them as often as before anyway -- but to take away games against those team to play more against the TWINS or the ROYALS? I need intrigue. I need a history. The intrigue and the history is not there with the Cubs vs. Royals. And I don't want to wait 20 years for them to build up a history.

    I don't get the regional thing either. I suppose if I lived in a big city, I'd understand, but I just don't care about "regional rivalries" unless there's a longstanding tradition between the teams.

    You break up all the MLB teams regionally and my brain really will give up and just pay attention to the Dodgers and no one else.

    I'm probably headed in that direction anyway. I don't even like watching all baseball. I'll watch MLB. I'll watch the minors. That's it. A job as a sportswriter cured me of the rest.

  8. The reason I no longer watch Major League Baseball is because of that used-card salesman masquerading as commissioner and all of his lame-brained ideas to "save'' the game I grew up with.

    Under his watch, he's:

    Allowed steroids and human growth hormone to ruin hitting and pitching records.

    Expanded the playoffs to dilute the sanctity of the 162-game season and push postseason play too late into the year.

    Tied the All-Star Game result to who gets home field in the Series.

    Am I missing anything else this jag-off has done to America's (former) Pastime?

    Oh, yeah, moving the Astros to the AL and adding more playoff teams.

    Just beautiful.

  9. Am I missing anything else this jag-off has done to America's (former) Pastime?

    Why yes, Selig has also allowed the umpires to become out-of-control divas.

  10. Not much left to be said ! Maybe they should have moved the, bad idea !!

  11. Interleague play was a terrible idea when it got started. It's still a terrible idea. Making it an everyday terrible idea isn't going to help.

    Expanding the playoffs is another terrible idea.

    Moving the Astros is horrific.

    With all the bad ideas Selig has come up with are we sure he wasn't the guy who instituted the DH?

  12. *Sigh* I don't like change. Change is bad. I don't like change. Did I say I don't like change. HOWEVER, if change is needed, it should be as little change as possible, as in changing what you changed in the first place. Brewers back to the A.L.