Next season the Houston Astros will be moved to the American League as part of MLB’s restructuring. The move was a consequence of the sale of the Astros in November – the new owner received a $70 million discount if he would accept the switch to the AL. MLB was not going to let the opportunity slip away to get something they think they need – six divisions of five teams each. In MLB’s view, that will equal fairness in scheduling. Of course, it means that every day there will need to be an inter-league game scheduled, as well. But MLB is fine with that, even if purists aren’t.
But as the Astros prepare for their 51st – and final – season in the National League, it’s interesting to note that next season they’ll be in the American League West, along with the Los Angeles Angels, Oakland A’s, Seattle Mariners, and Texas Rangers. It’s that last team that makes it very interesting. For the first time in MLB history, two clubs in the state of Texas will compete in the same league and division. Will it result in a heated rivalry?
First, an aside: Chris Czar, over at Detroit Athletic Co., examines the plight of rivals in a column today. He notes that the advent of three divisions in the 1990s has contributed to the erosion of several natural rivalries.
But Texas is a proud state filled with passionate and opinionated fans. Land in any Texas airport and it won’t be long before you hear a “YEEHAH!”
The Rangers are one of baseball’s best teams, winning the last two AL pennants. The Astros stink right now. Surely, that will be a factor, but still, the heated competition for Lone Star bragging rights will be on display every year when the two division rivals meet close to 20 times, or whatever the schedule will look like.
Separated by a mere 250 miles (a drop in the spit bucket to Texans), Houston and Dallas/Ft. Worth have many reasons to poke at each other. There are old football rivalries, geographical rivalries, and just plain crankiness. The Rangers and Astros may not be as heated as the Yankees/Red Sox right away, but it won’t take long. In their inter-league games the two teams have drawn record crowds and gained huge media attention. Walk-off victories have prompted on field celebrations similar to those seen in post-season games.
For decades the population of the country has been shifting from the north to the south, from the east to the west. Next season the eyes of baseball will be switching to Texas for the sport’s greatest new rivalry.