ARLINGTON, TX: Jason Bourgeois #11 of the Houston Astros beats the tag at first against Mitch Moreland #18 of the Texas Rangers at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Rick Yeatts/Getty Images)
As I'm sure you recall, a few weeks ago there was some loose (though highly enjoyable) talk about some significant MLB realignment, one aspect of which would require shifting a National League franchise to the American. And among the few candidates for such a shift, perhaps the most obvious is Houston, which could slide right into the American League West.*
* The other obvious option: Arizona Diamondbacks move to American League West, with Astros shifting to National League West. Unfortunately, both options involve the Astros playing a lot of games in the Pacific Time Zone, but you can't make scrambled eggs without scrambling a few eggs. Not good scrambled eggs, anyway.
One of the rationales for moving the Astros into the AL Central is more games with the Texas Rangers, supposedly the Astros' "natural rivals." Not everybody's excited about that prospect, though. Jason Cohen's got a nice piece on the subject in Texas Month's website:
Richard Justice, a Houston Chronicle sports columnist, came out in favor of the switch (though he has since put the odds of its actually happening at 25 percent, noting that both McLane and Crane oppose it). Detractors argue that the rivalry is not sufficiently intense to justify the move.
"I've yet to see anybody, aside from Drayton McLane, who gives a damn about the series," wrote John Royal, a blogger for Houston Press.
But that's precisely why it ought to happen. So-called traditional rivalries - even between natural geographic foes - are highly overrated. Familiarity and pennant races are what breed contempt. The Rangers' biggest rival just might be the Yankees, not only because they play in the same league, but because they have a playoff history that fuels their regular season meetings.
It's not often that someone makes an original point about an old subject, but I think Cohen's done exactly that.
It's not correct to assume that the six games the Rangers and Astros play annually presage the 18 or 20 they might play in the same division, because it's just not the same situation. If they were battling for a division title? Or if one could knock the other out of contention in late September? That's how a rivalry is created. I think you'd wind up with something like Giants-Dodgers or Cardinals-Cubs. And those are fine things indeed, among the best the sport can offer.
C'mon, somebody. Make this happen, and soon.