MLB Realignment: Astros Move to AL West Bad for Houston, Good for MLB

Paul WilliamsonCorrespondent INovember 18, 2011

HOUSTON - SEPTEMBER 27:  Carlos Lee #45 of the Houston Astros breaks his bat  as he pops out in the seventh inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at Minute Maid Park on September 27, 2011 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Bob Levey/Getty Images

The Houston Astros are moving to the American League West, and that leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Houston, at heart, will always be a National League city.

Former Houston Astros Lance Berkman, Jimmy Wynn and Larry Dierker have voiced their opposition to the move for that reason. 

They argue, and are correct, that ever since the days of the Houston Colt .45s beginning in 1962, Houston baseball has always been NL baseball.

Personally, I grew up watching an Astros team that played fantastic NL baseball in the 1990's. 

I loved how slugging first-baseman Jeff Bagwell was also an excellent base runner and could steal bases. 

I grew up understanding the value of players like Billy Spiers, who could play every position on the diamond (except pitcher and catcher).

I grew up learning the strategy behind the double switch, hit and runs, bunting and understanding the situations in which you use them.

Now will all of those things go out the window in the American League?

No.

However, their importance is significantly reduced in AL baseball because the emphasis on offense is to play for the big inning and look for the long ball.

ST LOUIS, MO - OCTOBER 28: Nelson Cruz #17 of the Texas Rangers bats during Game Seven of the MLB World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium on October 28, 2011 in St Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

But those are just old school thoughts. The game is modernized, and both leagues are practically the same. Right?

Just look at the teams in the World Series.

The Texas Rangers had three players with 30+ HR in the regular season. Two others had at least 25, and three more were in double digits.

The St. Louis Cardinals have just two with 30+ HR, one with more than 20.

An American League team held the top five spots for most HR in 2011, top three in 2010 and five of the top six in 2009.

You will find a lot of similarities when looking at runs scored as well.

If you look at pitching stats, NL teams lead AL teams.

This year, the NL held the top five spots in team ERA in 2011, six of the top seven spots in 2010 and had the top five spots in 2009.

So it clearly is still true that the leagues have very different styles of play, and Houston has become accustomed to the NL over the past five decades.

This move will also impact the success of the team.

With the Astros’ subpar and young pitching staff and lack of offensive punch in the lineup, this team could look even worse in the American League.  This will cause a lot of pressure from the Houston fan base to spend money to buy wins.

CINCINNATI, OH - SEPTEMBER 20: Brad Mills #2 manager of the Houston Astros reacts to his team's play against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on September 20, 2011 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by John Sommers II/Getty Images)
John Sommers II/Getty Images

Houston will lose in the NL. Houston will lose with a few extra punches to the gut in the AL because of the offenses that exist and no pitching to slow them down. 

A word of advice for new owner Jim Crane: Don't get impatient with the rebuilding process because it could get tempting.

Houston cannot afford to do that for at least another two seasons, if not more.

Houston will also have to look for more power in the draft than they have in the past. Right now, most of Houston’s top position-player prospects (George Springer, Jason Castro, Delino DeShields Jr., Jonathan Villar, etc...) are mostly built for NL-style ball. A lot of the Astro prospects are praised for their defense and speed.

Yes, teams like the Minnesota Twins, Tampa Bay Rays and Oakland Athletics have seen success in the AL playing, arguably, NL baseball, but the success has been limited and only recently.

For the most part, in order to win the American League, your team must score runs.

Even though, as an Astros fan, I am not happy with the move, I totally understand it and know it is what it best for baseball. 

Having a 16-14 split in teams will not work when they add another playoff team. 

With another team in each league making the playoffs, it will make the percentage of teams that make it to the postseason in each league even more lopsided.

Houston also makes more sense than the Milwaukee Brewers or any other NL team.

The move gives Houston a meaningful, in-state rivalry within the division with the Rangers. The Silver Boot, the trophy awarded to the inter-league series winner, is fun. However, a division title carries significantly more importance.

So with the current NBA lockout, the Texas Rangers will replace the Dallas Mavericks as the other Dallas team I despise.

Don’t know what the other Dallas team is? Let’s just say it is not the Dallas Stars nor FC Dallas.

And they have an owner made out of plastic. 

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