It’s been awhile since I’ve written, and perhaps it’s a bit uncouth that, during one of the worst natural disasters my home state of Texas has seen on record, I’ve decided to write again. And yet, sometimes it’s the maintaining a sense of normalcy amidst the chaos that gets us through.
I may not be at ground zero of the catastrophe unfolding with our neighbors down south, but make no mistake, some of my oldest friends are in the middle of this mess. I have relatives in Spring that are waiting and hoping for the waters to recede before reaching their home. And perhaps most stressful to me, I have a special woman that lives in Dickinson, perhaps the city that’s been hit hardest in the middle of all of this.
To say it’s been nerve-wracking would be an understatement, and yet I can’t even fathom what those losing homes are going through. I only know mostly what she tells me. That she has a double-digit number of people in her home right now because so many have lost their own. The rains aren’t stopping yet, and by the time this all clears, it may be years before the area can be what it once was.
With that, I take a moment to step aside and talk a little about baseball. Something normal. And the fact that, quite obviously, the Houston Astros can’t play any home games at Minute Maid Park right now.
Originally, the schedule was for Texas and Houston to open a three-game series in Houston today. When it became clear that the storm unfolding was as bad as it is, both teams flew back from their respective road trips to DFW to assess the next move. As much as the disaster unfolding sucks, most of the rest of the world continues turning, and baseball isn’t excluded from that.
With the Astros unable to host the series in their home park, discussions took place on an alternative course of action. For many, the obvious answer seemed to be to simply have the teams switch home series. The Rangers would take the series starting today, and then travel to Houston to play September 25-27.
This, of course, presented its own set of problems, mostly for the Rangers. It led to the Rangers offering to host both series, but for the current series, make Houston the “home team”. They would bat in the bottom half of each inning, wear their home white uniforms, and perhaps most importantly, take home all revenues from the series.
Instead, the series will take place in Tampa, with both organizations flying halfway across the country to play in a stadium that can’t even get fans to show up for their own hometown ball club. And Reid Ryan, President of the Astros and son of Nolan Ryan, had a little something to say about it.
Obviously, the situation both organizations find themselves in is a tough one. The idea of thinking about what's best for business right now, on the surface, feels a bit icky, but make no mistake, no option either side could have presented would "fix" what's going on in Houston and the surrounding areas right now.
This idea that the Rangers should have immediately given way to the demands of the Astros because of the situation is a bit asinine to me. While the implication is that baseball isn't very important right now in the grand scheme of things, Reid Ryan then turned and... well made baseball the focus of the entire debate.
From the perspective of the Astros, there were two options here:
1) Accept the Rangers counter-offer of playing both series in Arlington, while taking revenues and all benefits from being the home team from the first series.
2) Force both organizations to fly halfway across the country because the other side simply wouldn't give in.
As far as option one is concerned, you simply can't convince me that it wouldn't provide more revenue for the Astros than playing in Tampa. With many of the hurricane-displaced people actually in Dallas, games in Arlington would certainly draw a better crowd.
And as for Ryan's assertion that he needed to look out for their players' best interest and the integrity of the schedule? What part of taking players even further from their families is in their best interest? What part of keeping team that has a 13-game lead in the division with a month to play from playing a few extra games in Arlington has anything to do with the integrity of the schedule?
From the perspective of the Rangers, switching series would have been two-fold. They'd have needed to refund tickets already sold for the home series in September while also attempting to sell walk-ups for a series announced just about 24 hours in advance. The Astros, meanwhile, would have had a month to prepare for their own series. In this case, it would have put the entirety of the financial burden on the Rangers while, all other circumstances that are out of human control considered, the Astros would have gained some benefit from it.
And while it's hard to feel too sorry for billionaire owners and which one gets to pocket a little bit of excess cash, baseball is a business. We see it when our favorite players go to a rival team, or sometimes when our favorite team refuses to pay what a player is asking for. So as much as it sucks to say while everything else is going on in Texas, baseball is still a business. And adding the financial aspect to the fact that the Rangers wanted to avoid having a 12-game road trip at the end of September, it just never made complete sense to exchange series.
And yet that didn't stop Reid Ryan from taking the focus away from what's going on near his organization's home park and placing it squarely on baseball. And attempting to make the Texas Rangers the villain. In the back of my mind, I can't help but wonder if it's not at least partially driven by the messy divorce his father had with the Rangers organization.
This all ignores the fact that the rain is predicted to continue through the end of the week. It's highly likely that the Astros would have needed to scramble to find another place to play their next series against the Mets anyway. Just don't believe that's stopping Reid Ryan from finding a way to make the Rangers the villain in all of this.
Perhaps Joe Sheehan summarized it best:
Additionally, with a significant chance of rain in the forecast in Arlington this week, there's the possibility that the games wouldn't have been played in a timely manner anyway.
Would I have given in to the demands of the Astros? Probably. But that's also probably why I could never be a billionaire. I don't have the kind of cutthroat drive it often requires to get to that point.
Through all of this, my hope is that fans from both sides can come together and help our neighbors down south. I speak candidly when I say it's very near to my heart, and I hope that in a month, two months, or a year, we'll be talking about how Texans came together for a common cause rather than where a baseball series was played.
If you have the means and the desire, I'd encourage to you take a look here and consider a donation to the organization of your choosing to aid in the disaster relief.