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Who still misses the National League?

The Chron’s Brian Smith makes the case for acceptance of the Astros’ league change.

Those were the days

Admit it: You don’t think about the old National League that much anymore.

I devote a lot of my daily brain space to the Astros, and I rarely do.

Saying “Jose Altuve, American League starting second baseman and leadoff hitter” sounds just fine. Seeing George Springer and Carlos Correa in the AL’s lineup against stars from Washington, San Francisco and Cincinnati felt perfectly normal Tuesday.

“Baloney. Houston has always been a National League town. This was all about money and never about the fans,” wrote Glenn, in the same year the rebuilding Lastros lost a franchise-record 111 games. “I cannot in good conscience root for a team that fields a (choke) designated hitter (i.e. washed-up fat guy) and plays the Noo York Yankees on a regular basis. How far a drive is it to Cincinnati?”

About 1,050 long and boring miles, Glenn. And I guarantee you never would think about making that slog now, especially when you can watch the best team in the American League at home and are just three months away from being able to buy a playoff ticket at Minute Maid Park.

Look, the hate was real. I got it then, and I get it now. One of the greatest things about baseball is its history, and any time that’s threatened – steroids, cheating, realignment – all of us believers get very, very serious.

“It became evident the move to the AL was an issue,” owner Jim Crane said in November 2011, after MLB approved the Astros’ sale and dictated the move to the AL, giving each league 15 teams and all divisions five clubs apiece.

Isn’t time funny? And isn’t it crazy what winning – and players and a team you believe in – can do?

The late-night West Coast games are still a chore. Outside of the Texas Rangers – who are 16½ games back, if you haven’t heard – I’m still not sold on any of the Astros’ other AL West opponents.

But Selig’s move is actually helping the AL’s best team in 2017. Four of baseball’s five best clubs are in the NL, and the Astros actually would be second overall in their old league, trailing the Los Angeles Dodgers by half a game.

Selig also helped push the Astros into the postseason in 2015. The two NL wild cards had at least 97 wins. The 86-win Astros needed until Game 162 to clinch the sport’s last playoff spot and wouldn’t have sniffed a Division Series if they still played in the NL Central.

Smith got some passionate feedback on this, as you might imagine. I’m a Yankees fan from Staten Island, so I have no emotional investment in this, though I can certainly understand why longtime fans would not be over it yet. On the plus side, consider that if the Astros make it to the World Series this year, they could be the first team ever to win a pennant in both leagues. For that matter, if they wind up playing the Milwaukee Brewers, then both teams in the World Series would have that distinction – the Brewers won a pennant in 1982 when they were still in the American League. Given that they’re the only two teams to switch leagues, there’s not much competition for that distinction, but it would be pretty cool nonetheless. Whether it makes anyone feel better, or at least less upset, about the league switch, I couldn’t say.

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3 Comments

  1. brad m says:

    I gave up on the Astros after the NL to AL switch.

    And shady new owner.

    And the fact that Minute Maid now resembles and sounds like the interior of a pinball machine where the actual baseball game is a secondary or tertiary form of entertainment.

  2. General Grant says:

    Smith’s logic is the problem. He sort of assumes that the three options for feelings for the move were great, neutral, and baseball is unbearable.

    In reality, you can still enjoy baseball and enjoy the Astros while wishing they were still in the NL and feeling like the fan experience will never be quite what it once was. In fact, I’d wager that is the prevailing sentiment among most fans.

    The best analogy for a Mew Yorker would be the generation of Dodgers and Giants fans who became Met fans. Like that, feelings about this will, over the years, become generational. Of course, baseball has strived hard over the past twenty years to erase the distinctions between the leagues, and I expect that to continue tonthr point where it doesn’t really matter.

  3. C.L. says:

    Not being a hyper-statistician, I’ve always felt baseball games were too long, that they needed to end after seven innings or not start until the third.

    As far as baseball tradition goes, long gone are the days of sitting in a ballpark with only the sound of hot dogs vendors and Cracker Jack hawkers breaking the silence. Heck, does no one remember the Astrodome scoreboard with smoke blowing out of a bovine’s every orifice ? Not forgetting the target audience, kids these days need flash and pow and bam along with a myriad of sound effects to be entertained. If any more evidence is needed, go see a Rockets game – it’s an aural and visual assault on the senses.

    As far as NL vs. AL, with interleague play throughout the season, does it really matter anymore ?

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