Changes are coming to Houston.
The first lesson you learn when you join the high school debate team is that you have to put your personal opinions aside. At some point, you are going to have to argue both sides of the issue. I never debated in high school, but the feeling is rushing on me now as I am covering the positives from moving to the American League.
So, as I write this, I want to make it abundantly clear that I am doing this from a purely academic point of view. I am not in favor of the move to the American League and just about every hardcore Astros fan I know agrees with me. Drayton McLane (pictured above) and Jim Crane have said their piece and their piece was also against the move. However, Bud Selig has made his play and his play trumped the feelings of those two gentlemen and the majority of Astros fans.
Those of you that feel passionately about the subject should check out http://www.saveourstros.org. They are getting a petition together to present to the commissioner at the November ownership meeting. It's an uphill climb, so I present to you the best reasons for the Astros to switch to the American League.
The Brewers changed leagues in 1998.
The Milwaukee Brewers have been the only franchise of note to change leagues. They did so back in 1998. Before that, they had played 29 years in the American League and had won one pennant. In fact, that was the only playoff appearance the club had (not counting the bogus playoffs from the strike shortened 1981 season).
In point of fact, they had only ten winning seasons in those 29 years. Their best period came between 1978 and 1982 where they won 90 or more games three times. They would have done so a fourth time if the strike had not occurred in 1981.
Similarly, the Astros have had their moments. They won four division championships in five years under Larry Dierker. They advanced to back to back NLCS in 2004 and 2005. Of course, they won the pennant in 2005. All that being said, 2012 will mark 51 years without a World Series championship in the National League. They are tied with the Rangers for the third longest drought in baseball history.
Since moving to the National League, the Brewers have made two trips to the playoffs and one to the NLCS. Furthermore, they have gone from being one of the small market teams in baseball to being a mid market team. Astros fans can hope that a change of leagues will bring the same for them.
The Yankees always have star power.
The Astros sold out Minute Maid park when the Yankees and Red Sox came to town a few years ago. Drayton McLane even raised the ticket prices as teams do in the American League. A switch to the American League means these two teams will come to town every season and could come as often as six times if baseball switches to a balanced schedule.
The whole baseball world revolves around these two teams. ESPN can't go three minutes of baseball coverage without mentioning one of them. So, why not go to a league where you can at least be mentioned in the same sentence at least twelve times a season?
Switching leagues means seeing new stars.
This argument doesn't hold as much water as it used to. After all, there will be an interleague series going on at all times. However, back in the old days, you did not get to see half of the game's stars come into your stadium. Free agency has changed that some, but there are still plenty of players that will never play in the National League (and vice versa).
Is Justin Verlander really that dominant? How good is Evan Longoria? Is Mike Trout going to be the best player of the next decade? These are all questions you can answer for yourself by going to the ballpark. Sure, you could watch them on MLB Extra Innings, but nothing replaces the feel of seeing them live at Minute Maid Park.
No one would know David Ortiz without the DH.
This is where we bite down really hard and go. For all of its flaws, the designated hitter does provide for some interesting strategies. Do you go out and sign a David Ortiz like player that literally can't play in the field or do you rotate players in and out?
The strategy is harder on the GM than the manager, but it does provide solutions to certain problems. The Carlos Lee question would have been a lot easier with the DH. However, as the club develops more talent, the DH provides them with a possible landing spot for a player if the position is loaded with other talent.
In time, the Rangers could be a huge rival.
I'm not a huge fan of trumped up rivalries. It has a whole WWF kind of feel to it. The Silver Boot has that feel right now. The games count in a nominal way, but since the teams play in different leagues, it really doesn't matter.
Switching to the American League doesn't make the Astros and Rangers bitter enemies, but it does create the possibility for a genuine rivalry to develop. A good number of Astros fans rooted against the Rangers simply because fans from the Metroplex become unbearable when they have something to brag about (see: Dallas Cowboys fans). Imagine if real bragging rights were on the line.