The Rangers own the state of Texas.
As a Houston Astros fan, I am acutely aware of the power shift that is happening in the state of Texas. For years, the Rangers were second class citizens. The Astros were the more successful team at the gate, they were the more successful team in the amount of publicity they got and they were the most successful team on the field.
Moreover, you can always tell which franchise is winning the turf war by going to Central Texas. Austin and San Antonio are the third and fourth biggest cities in the state of Texas. They also happen to be just as close to Houston as they are to Dallas. So, seeing who the locals follow and who the media outlets cover gives you an idea of where things are at.
In the past few seasons, the Rangers have wrestled control away from the Astros through a series of smart moves (and dumb moves on the other side). Some of it is fate and some of it is out of the hands of either team. Yet, here are the reasons why the Rangers are now on top.
Ryan may be a better executive than he was a pitcher.
Nolan Ryan was a state treasure. The Astros made him the first million dollar a year player in 1980 and he went on to have nine very impressive seasons in an Astros uniform. Then, Astros owner John McMullen asked him to take a pay cut. Ryan was understandably offended and offered his services elsewhere. In walked the Texas Rangers.
Still, Drayton McLane signed Ryan to a personal services contract. So, the Astros were back in business. Then, Tom Hicks upped the ante and asked Ryan to be the president of baseball operations. Ryan accepted and the rest is history. He brought an air of credibility that the Rangers had never had and that has only gotten better since he bought the team.
Ryan was a truly great pitcher, but he may be an even better businessman. He sells his own line of beef, bought two minor league franchises and now has taken the Rangers to greater heights. Switching the Round Rock franchise to the Rangers may be the final straw. It allows the Rangers to gain more of a stranglehold on Central Texas.
They've come up short, but they made it two years in a row.
Sports economists will pontificate on this and that, but nothing guarantees off the field success more than on the field success. Winning two consecutive pennants gives the Rangers a huge credibility boost. The Astros had their shot and they were perhaps just as good, but they've only been once. Now, they are on opposite ends of the spectrum.
Daniels ranks near the top of current GMs.
You cannot find a starker contrast than Jon Daniels and Ed Wade. One is a part of the savvy young group of current GMs that are revolutionizing the game. There is nothing revolutionary about Ed Wade. If Jon Daniels is Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn then Ed Wade is Prodigy, dial up internet, and Green Sheet. In other words, Ed Wade isn't drooling, but he is hopelessly behind the times. Meanwhile, Daniels is always dreaming up new ways to make his team better.
Selig is taking away the Astros advantage of tradition.
Bud Selig is persona non grata in this town after his one-man crusade to erase more than 50 years of tradition. Thanks Bud.
The Astros predated the Rangers by about a decade and that decade gave the Astros a head start. Many fans continued to follow Houston because they hopped on their bandwagon first. That advantage will effectively go away when the Astros join the American League in 2013. Many fans have vowed to go away and if they do, where do you think they are going to go?
In case the fans in San Antonio and Austin needed any more reason to follow the Rangers, Nolan Ryan gave them another when he switched the Rangers AAA operations to Round Rock. Round Rock has been one of the best run operations in minor league baseball. Fan support is very strong there and now those fans will be familiarizing themselves with the up and coming Rangers.
George H.W. Bush is a regular at Astros games.
George and Barbara Bush are regulars at the Astros games and even helped out with an advertising campaign when Drayton McLane first bought the team. George and Laura Bush are ardent Ranger supporters since he owned the team back in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Which one do you support?