The Houston Astros will move to the AL West in 2013, but in reality, the move doesn’t make a whole lot of difference for baseball or the division.
Let’s be honest, adding the Astros to the division doesn’t add any competition or more challenge to the “worst division in baseball”. Here’s what the new division will look like:
Texas Rangers (96-66)
Los Angeles Angels (86-76)
Oakland Athletics (74-88)
Seattle Mariners (67-95)
Houston Astros (56-106)
The Astros really haven’t helped themselves in the winning aspect, as they have been trading away their best players for cheap as of late. In the past two seasons, here are the players the Astros have traded away in the past two seasons:
2010: Roy Oswalt (traded to Philadelphia)
2011: Michael Bourn (traded to Atlanta)
2011: Hunter Pence (traded to Philadelphia)
2011: Jeff Keppinger (traded to San Francisco)
The Astros stood a fighting chance of doing pretty well in the AL West if they kept all of these guys from leaving. Now, in such a place as Houston was in, no one wanted to stay. They traded away most of their better players, and because of it have been suffered some miserable seasons since. Being in the AL West isn’t going to help their cause when it comes to signing free agents, because it doesn’t change how much money they can put fourth for transactions.
There is no way this move makes the AL West any better. The Astros haven’t been a .500+ club since 2008, where they finished third in the AL Central with an 86-75 record. They aren’t going to compete with the likes of the Rangers and Angels, who are getting better every year as their young players grow into their roles. Even the Mariners are looking up- with players like Michael Piñeda, Dustin Ackley, and Justin Smoak all progressing nicely, the Mariners should be able to at least contend for the title.
The Astros-Rangers rivalry and trophy series will now take a back-seat to the chase for the AL West Pennant, ending what has meant sold-out games every matchup between the two during their rivalry in interleague play. The sad part is, now that that matchup will happen more often, it will lose a lot of its luster, and the Rangers will continue to dominate the Astros in the matchup.
It also doesn’t make sense to add a second team from Texas. If the MLB was looking to shake things up during realignment, it would have made a lot more sense to move a team like the Diamondbacks to the AL West and move the Astros to the NL West. A swap like this expands the viewing region for each division, giving it better rating throughout the season, and teams would get to travel to more diverse places, rather than just boring ole Texas.
Whatever the pros and cons of the move are, it is going to happen, and we’ll be ready for it when it comes in spring of 2013.