So ever since Peter Gammons posted this Tweet yesterday, the entire Astros online fanbase has been in an uproar. No, nothing has been confirmed yet, but this is not a time to take chances and stay silent. Houston fans, if you don’t want to see your team in the American League by 2013, the time to act is NOW.
Two online petitions have been created already to fight this change. Go here and sign:
I’d also encourage sending letters directly. Following in What the Heck, Bobby?‘s footsteps, here is the letter that I mailed to Drayton McLane, Bud Selig and Jim Crane today. Please feel free to copy and use any or all of this in letters of your own:
October 12, 2011
Mr. Drayton McLane
501 Crawford Street
Houston, TX 77002
Mr. Allen H. Selig, Commissioner
Major League Baseball
245 Park Avenue, 31st Floor
New York, New York 10167
Mr. James R. Crane, CEO
Crane Capital Advisors
4409 Montrose Blvd., Ste. 200
Houston, TX 77006-5859
It has been reported via MLB.com and numerous other news outlets recently that a proposal is being discussed to move the Houston Astros to the American League. I am writing to express my extreme displeasure about this possibility.
I am a lifelong Houston Astros fan, having been born in Houston and having lived there for the first 20 years of my life. Even though I now live out of state, I still follow the Astros passionately and look forward to traveling every year to attend games whenever I can. Baseball is my first love, and I love to explore baseball history as much as I love to follow the modern game. Baseball is unique among American sports in this way, for the deep, abiding ties it holds to the history of the sport and the legends of the past.
Is it for this reason that moving the Astros to the American League is an extraordinarily bad idea – Houston is a National League city, and always has been. The Astros/Colt .45s franchise just completed its 50th season in the National League, but even dating back to the days of the Houston Buffs/Buffaloes, Houston was a Cardinals or Cubs – National League – affiliate. Houston has never been an American League market, and Houston fans are National League fans. A move to the American League will alienate a great many of these fans, and many of my fellow Astros fans have already said so.
The last Major League team to switch leagues was the Milwaukee Brewers after the 1997 season, from the American League to the National League, but a large part of the argument then was that “Milwaukee used to be a National League city.” The same argument does not at all apply in this case. This time the largest argument in favor of moving has been to “support a natural rivalry between the Astros and the Texas Rangers” – but no significant such rivalry currently exists. The Astros have much more significant current rivalries with the Cardinals, Cubs, Braves, Mets, Giants and Dodgers, all of which would be lost in a move to the American League.
Furthermore, Major League Baseball has a historical precedent of placing pairs of teams from the same city or region in opposite leagues. Consider the following:
New York Yankees (AL) / New York Mets (NL)
Baltimore Orioles (AL) / Washington Nationals (NL)
Tampa Bay Rays (AL) / Florida Marlins (NL)
Chicago White Sox (AL) / Chicago Cubs (NL)
Cleveland Indians (AL) / Cincinnati Reds (NL)
Kansas City Royals (AL) / St. Louis Cardinals (NL)
Texas Rangers (AL) / Houston Astros (NL)
Los Angeles Angels (AL) / Los Angeles Dodgers (NL)
Oakland Athletics (AL) / San Francisco Giants (NL)
The only exceptions to this rule are the Phillies and Pirates, both in Pennsylvania but both among the National League’s oldest teams, and the two Mountain Time Zone teams, Colorado and Arizona. Moving the Astros to the American League would violate this rule and kill the National League market in Texas and surrounding states.
A seemingly much more sensible solution would be to move Arizona to the American League. The Diamondbacks are one of Major League Baseball’s youngest franchises, and as such they do not have nearly the history in the National League that Houston does. Furthermore, Phoenix has played host to AL-affiliated teams as recently as 2007 (the Arizona League Royals, A’s and Rangers), not to mention the long history of the Cactus League with teams from both leagues in the state every March. These are all American League ties that the city of Houston has never had. Moving Arizona – or even Colorado – to the American League would give Major League Baseball an American League team in the Mountain region for the first time, and either Mountain team would be a geographically natural fit for the American League West. Such a move would not be nearly as upsetting to the fans in that region as a similar move would be to Houston baseball fans.
I understand the desire to have equal leagues of 15 teams each, and I understand that even moving Arizona or Colorado to the American League would almost certainly result in Houston being moved to the National League West. But Houston was historically a member of the National League West for 25 seasons until the three-division format was introduced in 1994, so I have no problem with such a move, and I doubt that most other Astros fans would either. The outcry was immediate and heartfelt when Peter Gammons reported today that the Astros would likely be moving to the American League, and the fan backlash will be far greater if such a move is in fact completed. Please do not make this a reality.
Even though this was a rough year on the field for Astros fans, I am already looking forward to next year and I am excited about the future. Just please consider the weight of history and the reaction of the fans – your customers – and keep that future in the National League. I appreciate your time and consideration in this matter.