And you thought the Houston Astros were having a bad enough season.
Have you heard about this?
Major League Baseball is considering a proposal to realign teams in the American and National Leagues in order to equalize the number of teams in each league.
Commissioner Bud Selig’s office wants to see 15 teams in each league. In addition, the commissioner wants to abolish all of the divisions, meaning the top five teams in each league would make the playoffs. As it stands today, there are 16 National League teams and 14 American League teams, meaning one NL team will need to swap leagues.
Guess which one is near the top of the list.
That’s right. In the midst of the worst season in team history (Bourgeois, Bourn and Barmes are a far cry from Biggio, Bagwell and fill-in-the B_______; Honey Bs rather than Killer Bs), the Houston Astros are now realignment fodder, just like Central Division rival Milwaukee was in 1997.
Now, should realignment happen? Absolutely. Should it be the Astros who move to the American League? Absolutely not.
Equaling out the leagues is about the best idea Selig & Co. have had in years. There is no reason the National League should have more teams than the American League and, if the commissioner wanted to keep the divisions intact, then it would be obvious that the Astros move from the overloaded NL Central.
But not to the American League.
Which team should it be, then, if Major League Baseball decides to go through with realignment?
Here, the commissioner and the owners have a couple of options. The best choice, call it Option A, would be the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Okay, so we’ve established that Major League Baseball wants equity (numerically speaking) between the National and American Leagues and that the easiest way to accomplish this is to add a National League team to the American League. Geographically, Arizona makes the most sense if the divisions were kept intact. The AL West features teams from Los Angeles, Seattle, Oakland and the Dallas metroplex. Adding Arizona to the division would be relatively painless for all involved. Houston would slide over from the overloaded National League Central to the NL West, where it probably belonged at the start, to replace Arizona and everyone goes home happy.
Should the divisions be dissolved, there’s then a historical precedent for keeping Houston in the National League while shipping Arizona over to the AL. The Astros have been a National League team from the franchise’s beginnings as the Colt 45s in 1963. This area of the country, especially Lake Charles, was a National League area even before Houston entered the majors. In the 1950s, you were more likely to be a St. Louis Cardinals fan than any other team, owing to the fact that KPLC was owned by a St. Louis investor who happened to be friends with the great Stan Musial.
Honestly, about the only reason to move Houston into the AL is to shove a Texas-sized rivalry with the Texas Rangers down fans’ throats and these days, especially with the way the Astros are struggling, even interest in that series is just north of tepid at best.
On the other hand, Arizona has been a major league ballclub for all of about 20 minutes if you look at it compared to, say, the Cincinnati Reds (est. 1869). Sure, the Diamondbacks own more World Series rings than the Astros (1-0), but the team just hasn’t been around long enough to establish a substantial history, a foothold in the minds of fans. I mean, seriously, if the Arizona Diamondbacks moved to the American League, would you even notice?
Off the top of my head, I can name only two guys who have been good enough and ever stuck around the team long enough for me to associate them as Diamondbacks: Luis Gonzales and Randy Johnson. Meanwhile, there is a litany of players from Alan Ashby to Jimmy Wynn who easily come to mind as Astros.
There, of course, is a second option. Option B would be to ship the Florida Marlins off to the American League. Like the Diamondbacks, the Marlins have a similar lack of historical significance. However, the Marlins have been around a little longer (1993) than the Diamondbacks, own multiple World Series rings and, at least for me, they just feel like a National League team. It just wouldn’t seem right.
However, it would be a stroke of sheer schadenfreude for Marlins’ dictator, ahem, owner Jeffery Loria. It would be only fair for the Marlins to get the hook, so to speak, after Loria and team president David Samson misled Miami officials about the team’s finances so the city and county would authorize the construction of a new stadium. This, in addition Loria and Samson’s persistent meddling in the team’s day-to-day affairs, Loria’s part in the destruction of the Montreal Expos and his iron-fisted control over players’ public comments make the Marlins an excellent candidate for league relocation. Let them have to figure out the designated hitter.
At this point, though, chances of any realignment happening are about 50-50. There are a lot of kinks to work out. For example, with an odd number of teams in each league, one team would be finishing out its season in interleague play which, if the team in question is in contention for a playoff spot, would take a lot of the drama out of the season’s last weekend.
At the rate they’re playing right now, the Astros likely won’t have to worry about their last weekend this season being very dramatic. With things as bad as they are already, is it too much to ask for the commissioner’s office to stop with the talk about the Astros moving and keep them where they belong, in the National League?