On March 31st, the Houston Astros hosted their first game as a member of the American League and defeated the in-state rival Texas Rangers 8-2. The house was packed, a rarity for an Astros team on the mend, and Bud Norris got the victory as the highest-paid player on the team with the lowest payroll in the majors this season. In fact, as a team, the Astros will make less than the currently-disabled Alex Rodriguez. However, tonight’s Astros squad of cast-offs and unprovens, plus Jose Altuve, played like they actually belonged in MLB and allowed their fan base to celebrate, if only for one night.
While this is but the first game in a 162-game marathon for the two clubs and rash judgment is not usually needed this early in the season, our intrepid reporters at World Series Dreaming have learned that the Rangers have petitioned Major League Baseball to expel the Astros from the American League effective immediately. The Rangers’ CEO, Nolan Ryan, had this to say about his former team:
The Astros, with their low payroll, were expected to be a cakewalk for its new American League West partners. They were supposed to lay down and die every night and every AL West team not based in Houston, including my Rangers, were supposed to grab 19 easy wins. This was not part of the deal when we signed up to accept the Astros into our division.
Even though the Astros’ 1-0 record at the moment doesn’t guarantee a 162-0 record with a division title and home-field advantage, the Rangers were noticeably agitated with their sloppy defense, poor situational hitting, and a Houston offense that was much better than expected as Rick Ankiel slammed a pinch-hit three-run homer off the recently-acquired Texas pitcher, Derek Lowe. These occurrences were explicitly prohibited in Article V.15(c) of the Houston Relocation Doctrine written into the most recent CBA.
Former Astros legend Lance Berkman was upset at having to suffer a loss to the projected worst team in baseball for 2013. Quoth Berkman:
This game was supposed to be fun for myself and my new Rangers teammates as we laid waste to whatever was left on this Astros roster after management and ownership gutted payroll. I was told when I signed up that the Astros would be like a scrimmage and I wouldn’t even break a sweat. And now I find that they’re actually TRYING to win? What the hell is that! Get my agent on the line…
With 161 games left to go, there is still plenty of time to send the Astros back to the National League Central, where they were the division doormat for the past two seasons. The Chicago Cubs, in particular, would be pleased with not having the shame of being the new cellar-dweller as they slog through their own rebuilding process. One Rangers official, speaking on condition of anonymity, suggested that MLB act before Tuesday, lest the Rangers have to actually try to beat the Astros again and fall to 0-2. The 13 other AL clubs that didn’t play on Sunday were also apprehensive about facing the Astros more than three times this season after the whupping they put on the Rangers. The Rangers have also offered financial incentives to MLB in order to persuade another league change. In addition, they have put in a request to re-acquire Michael Young for intangible leadership and clubhouse chemistry purposes, as this was stated by manager Ron Washington as the biggest reason why they lost on Opening Night.
We will continue to monitor this story as we await Cubs Opening Day in Pittsburgh.