Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Sports column

April 1, 2013

Column: Rangers-Astros rivalry isn't happening

— Memo: To Bug Selig, Commissioner, Major League Baseball

Subject: Start of the 2013 regular season

Ridiculous is the best word for your organization’s decision to launch this year’s baseball season with an Easter Sunday night game pitting the Texas Rangers and Houston Astros.

You chose to spotlight an Astros team that lost 107 games last season, the major league’s worst mark. Although I am aware of fans’ eternal “Wait ’til next year” philosophy, it doesn’t look a whole lot better, Bud.

The payroll of the entire team, minus money going to ex-Astro Wandy Rodriguez, is less than what the Yankees are scheduled to pay one player, Alex Rodriguez, this year.

Astros owner Jim Crane was quoted by The Associated Press, “Everybody is welcome to their opinion and we’re going to get a lot of opinions. So hopefully we’ll prove the naysayers wrong and we’ll play a lot more competitive this year.”

It is my opinion that the key word in the previous sentence is “hopefully” — which, by the way, is wrong grammatically when the speaker should have said “I hope ... .”

Hope, while certainly desirable, is no substitute for a high slugging percentage or a low earned run average among your returning players.

The name “Houston” appeared at the top of the American League West standings on Sunday afternoon. That’s because every team had a record of 0-0 and the teams are traditionally listed in alphabetical order.

That name won’t stay at the top of that list for long.

Taking another tack, perhaps you wanted to entice sports fans into embracing a new American League rivalry between the cities that are 250 miles apart, which I know is a “tiny little bit” of distance in the great Lone Star State. Not happening, Bud.

With all the tradition-rich storylines woven through Major League Baseball, this one hasn’t stitched its way into public prominence despite the fact that the teams have played each other twice a year in interleague play for several seasons.

You might have made the decision to bring attention to what your baseball establishment views as a “dramatic” and “bold” move, making Houston switch leagues after 50 years in the NL. Truth is, not many people care, Bud.

You might want the adoring public to get a prime-time look at the Rangers — who have lost Michael Young, Mike Napoli and former league MVP Josh Hamilton.

This has left them with a lineup that pales in comparison with one of their AL West competitors, the Angels, who will start their season this afternoon in Cincinnati.

Remember when Cincinnati had the “traditional” first game of the regular season, Bud?

At least this spring’s schedule is an improvement over those of recent years, when a couple of teams had to cross an ocean to play a game in Japan.

It was hard to figure out when that game began in American time zones. Worse, it was probably difficult for the players to adjust to a time change of that magnitude after their routines of spring training — which affects the quality of play.

Also, it was impossible for morning newspapers to get the results to their readers in print in a timely fashion — and therefore, the premiere of the season didn’t even get into print in many markets.

Baseball is a great, time-honored sport, played on a field with truly magical proportions. Despite the cluelessness of its major-league front office, it draws rapt attention from millions every year.

Like every team that reaches the World Series, the sport will survive the occasional error along the way.

Errors like the prime-time Texas-Houston premiere matchup, though, make its top management look ridiculous.

*****

Tom Bone is a Daily Telegraph sports writer and cartoonist. Contact him at tbone @ bdtonline.com.

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