UCB Roundtable: Question From The Twitterverse

by Cardinal70 on March 11, 2012

As you can see in the roundtable schedule, we added a wrinkle this year in the fact that we asked our readers and Twitter followers to submit a question for the bloggers to take a whack at.

This question came from kocakwords, who coincidentally was on the UCB Radio Hour last week talking about a book project that he’s doing.  Paul’s question was as follows:

“Do you like or dislike Houston moving to the American League?”

Check inside to see how the bloggers responded.

Daniel (C70 At The Bat): I’ll go ahead and put in my two cents. I don’t like it. I don’t like it for what it represents (constant interleague play) but I really don’t like losing a rivalry with a team that I’ve come to respect over the years. Those battles of the ’00s were pretty epic and not being able to relieve them regularly is going to be a disappointment.

Daniel (Redbird Rants): I don’t like it. If you move anyone around, move Milwaukee.

Ray (STL Cardinal Baseball): I like the move for baseball; it creates the possibility for some stronger regional rivalries. I’m also glad I won’t have to look at Minute Maid Park anymore (or, at least, very often).

As for our own rivalry with the Astros, it’s pretty much dead these days anyway. They’ve been a joke for five years at least.

Rodney (Saint Louis Sports): I like it. I’ve always thought a division with six and a division with four was asinine. I don’t feel any “connection” to Houston.  Sure, we’ve had some big series, but in all, they are about the fourth
rival of the Cardinals.

Christine (Aaron Miles’ Fastball): I dislike it, even though it absolutely makes sense to even up the divisions. That can easily be accomplished: move Milwaukee back to the AL.

The rivalry with the Astros in the early to mid 2000s was great — especially loved those NLCS battles in 2004 and 2005 (although 2004 was obviously better). And while of course it’s not the same these days, it would be great to still have that competition with the Astros moving forward past this season as Jeff Luhnow works to build them into a contender again.

Corey (Balls & Strikes): In short, I like it. As much as I have enjoyed watching us play them over the years, their franchise is struggling and a big change like that could be what they need to re-ignite fan interest and energize players. Another thing this does is to toughen up the NL Central and I think that’s why a lot of people are unhappy about the move. Losing one of the worst teams in baseball means having to play more against better teams. While it might not be great for win totals, it will make for more competitive games. I know the interleague play upsets a lot of people, but I really enjoy watching it. It’s nice to have a break and watch some of the teams that we don’t usually get to see. In a 162 game season, MLB is doing whatever possible to keep it interesting because over a season that long, casual fans come and go. Interleague play always does good in ticket sales and viewership and the big wigs have noticed it. Will it be an adjustment? Of course, all things are. But I think in the end it will be good for the game that we all know and love.

Dennis (Pitchers Hit Eighth): I don’t like it one bit. Say what you will about the Astros struggling as of late, but keep in mind that the Cardinals are actually 15-15 against them over the past 2 seasons. For the past 5 seasons, the Cardinals are 41-35 against them, so those numbers imply to me that the rivalry is better than some people may perceive. The Cardinals have been really good wile the Astros have not, and the Astros have played some of their best baseball against the Cardinals.

While the move may make the NL Central tougher from top to bottom, I don’t see the long term effect being much different than if Milwaukee had moved back. I’d happily put my money on Jeff Luhnow to turn the Astros around within the next 3-4 years and make it competitive. He will have the fat trimmed on that team’s payroll within 2 years, and I’m willing to predict that their drafts improve immensely.

Even the best rivalries tend to be cyclical in nature. The Reds and Brewers are the latest examples, but think of how long fans went without a huge interest in Cards vs Reds. Prior to winning the division in 2010, the Reds hadn’t fielded a 90+ win team since 1999. The Brewers have a similar story. That franchise went from 1982 to 2008 without a playoff appearance. I’m sorry, but it seems that relatively recent history is impacting perception an awful lot right now.

As for interleague play, I’m not sure that anything that approximates constant interleague play or even more interleague play helps the game over the long haul. Once you get past the natural geographic rivalries and a few old time ones, you are left with a lot of match ups that simply may not interest the fans. The end result could eventually be very predictable. Fans will show up for the weekend series against a team from across town, but they won’t be so nearly ready to pack a stadium for something like Cardinals vs Orioles in the middle of the week at Camden Yards. Sure, I get that MLB wants to increase interest over the long season, but tinkering with a good formula may just end up alienating the true fans who found the 162 game season to be interesting enough by itself. I’d take more Cards vs Phillies or Braves games over interleague play anyday.

Kevin (Cards ‘N Stuff): I don’t think I like it.

For one, I hate the idea that a team has so little defensible identity in a league and division worth protecting that they can be just up and moved at a whim by the Commissioner. If the Cards were moved out of the NL Central, I would have a fit!

For another, I love that Missouri has a team in each league. If I want to see American League teams play – like Boston or NY – I just have to drive about 3 hours and catch the right Royals game. If I want to see the Braves, I just drive about 5 hours to St. Louis and watch them there. For baseball fans in Texas, they will now limit the entire state to AL ball with that ridiculous DH rule. Entire generations could grow up only knowing DH-driven baseball. That’s a tragedy. The St. Louis/KC rivalry has blossomed appropriately – interstate pride and bragging rights without dramatically impacting standings – without placing the teams in a dogfight for a playoff spot. Also, it eliminates any possibility of an I-70 or Subway Series type of World Series for the state of Texas.

Finally, I loved the Houston rivalry of the 00’s, and I hate to lose the presence of a team/organization in our division that pushed us so hard.

On a side note, I hate that an organization could be shifted over to the AL with the DH on a whim. What does that do to how the organization builds from within or veteran re-signings? Would a team have chosen to retain aging hitters, develop different prospects, hold onto prospects that have been traded, traded for different prospects, etc. if they had known they would soon be playing with the DH? I know that’s weak…and that’s why I say it’s a side note…but it’s worth mentioning in a sport that plans/develops players and teams years in advance.

Chris (Birds On The Bat 82): I’m not as bothered by the even-ing of divisions or not playing Houston as much as the direction this seems to take baseball.

2 wild cards, constant interleague play, my guess is next moves are universal DH and shorter season to add more playoff teams.

Selig is cheapening our beloved game.

Bob (On The Outside Corner): A great question, thanks to Paul for asking it.

The Houston move to the AL is a horrible thing for the game of baseball. The current Milwaukee franchise started out in the American League, and if any team needed to move back, it should have been Milwaukee. End of discussion. Fine. Done.

Houston’s heritage is being one of the great expansion franchises as the National League expanded west. Other than a feigned cross state rivalry, there’s no relationship between the Colt 45/Astros and any team in the AL West. Throw in all of those west coast games that will start at 9pm local time, it is a significant punishment to a fan base for no reason.

If baseball were that interested in rivalries, the Royals would have been the team to move to the NL instead of the Brewers. Whether by design, or sheep happenstance, the interleaving of AL and NL teams across the US have led to fans having relatively close access to both types of baseball. A few relocations and some odd divisional alignments have made things a bit less than optimal, but moving Houston to the AL West is just wrong.

The Cardinals and Colt 45s/Astros have 50 years of shared history. Lots of players and coaches have crossed paths – Mike Cuellar, Jerry Reuss, Hal Woodeshick, Jose Cruz, Scipio Spinks (well, that’s not such a great story). The two teams have played some incredible baseball over the last half century, culminating in a fantastic NLCS series in 2005. Transplanted Cardinals fans in the area flock to Minute Maid Park to see the Cardinals when they are in town – and that too will come to an end.

It is a shame, but if and of this mattered to the current owner of the Astros, the move would not be happening. Maybe this nostalgic look at the two teams is more one-sided than I would like to think. One thing I do know, the my impressions of the Commissioner and the Milwaukee Braves has been lessened (again) significantly by this move.

Dennis: Well, said Bob. Having lived in Houston for 10 years, I can assure you that nothing compared to the anticipation of having the Cardinals come to town. Awful lot of Cardinal colors in the crowd at Minute Maid and the Astrodome. Also, excellent use of the Freudian slip with “sheep”.

Bob: LOL! Can’t even blame autocorrect on that one :-)

Dennis: I plan to use the phrase “sheep happenstance” in various conversations today.

Angela (Cardinal Diamond Diaries): Hate what it means for baseball. Hate that it wasn’t Milwaukee making the move. Hate the constant inter league and DH.

So… I have a lot of hate today? Baseball is doing well, Bud. Quit cheapening the game we love.

Tom (CardinalsGM): I don’t really care which team moved although I think it should have been Milwaukee but Commish Selig is shown how he gets involved with things related to the Brewers like Ryan Braun.

But again, someone needed to move to even up the teams in each division so let it be Houston. I don’t feel any rivalry to the Astros particulary…. the biggest in division rivalry is the Cubs, then Reds, Brewers, Astros and Pirates in that order, IMO.

Mark (RetroSimba): Because of interleague play and how it has changed Major League Baseball, Houston’s move to the American League doesn’t bother me. The successful move of the Brewers from the AL to the NL (it seems today like the Brewers always were in the NL) also impacts my perceptions.

Aaron (Cards Diaspora): Wait… Houston still has a professional baseball team? Are we sure about this? Or is “American League” a euphemism?

I guess it anyone had to leave the NL Central, Houston would be the odd man out. Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, Cincinnati — those are truly awful places.*

And while Houston has its misgivings, it’s doesn’t get cold during the winter. They can’t feel our yearning for spring.

Plus they play in the one stadium we could all jerk one out of.

We had a nice little run with the Astros. But that’s all over. They deserve a DH. And they’re going to get one.

* Probably.

JE (STL: Fear The Red): I am basically neutral on this one. I am not a big fan of having season long interleague playground, but at the same time I (perhaps because of my slight ODD tendencies) like the idea of having all the division equal, as far as the number of teams go. It will take a little getting used to, but I kind of see Berman returning to the Astros as a DH and retiring from there at some point in the next couple of years. It has its pros and cons, but it is what it is. Plus, the Cards will play the Reds, Cubs, and Brewers more often, so that will help those rivalries.

Nick (Pitchers Hit Eighth): I dislike it, but for me it’s less about rivalries and taking wins or losses away from the Cardinals.

I think it’s awful for the precedent it is setting, or furthering, in baseball’s ownership ranks. Jim Crane is basically told that he must move the team to the American League or he won’t be approved as an owner? Now, it doesn’t help matters that Crane appears to not give a whit anyway, but then he furthers the issue by negotiating for personal gain? Yes, I know, why wouldn’t he? Bigger picture though, Selig wanted regular inter-league play – he got it by wielding his considerable clout over the owners and forcing his will upon the new pledge to the ranks.

Baseball ownership has always been an exclusive club, for obvious reasons. It’s one thing to only have a certain pool of buyers/investors to choose from when trying to find new ownership for the league’s member teams. Now the Commissioner’s Office is creating further barriers to entry by dictating (and not in the “we don’t want him in the league because they make deals with Bernie Madoff” type of protecting the game …. OOOOPS) who can and can’t buy a team based on requiring a league move for the advancement of inter-league play?

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