Who says Astros-Rangers can’t be a great rivalry? If they’re taking shots at one another already, it has a chance.
One of the things that made word of the Astros’ 2013 move to the American League so exciting is that they’d finally have an honest-to-goodness, day-in-and-day-out rival. The Astros have never really had that. They’ve had some great moments with the Cardinals, Braves, Cubs, Dodgers, etc., but those rivalries would come and go depending on how important the games were. Let’s face it, as much as the Astros cared about the Cardinals, they were never going to replace the Cubs as the No. 1 rival in the hearts and minds of St. Louis fans.
That’s what the Rangers offered. The Astros are in a rebuilding mode, but it’s not a stretch of the imagination to look a couple of years down the road and see the two teams playing huge September games with a playoff berth on the line. Even better, because the two ballparks are a mere 250 miles apart, because they’re in the same state, because Houston and Dallas have always had an intense civic rivalry, the Rangers and Astros could become one of the real good ones.
They’ve been playing a home-and-home inter league games the last 11 years, but those never really created a stir because the two teams haven’t been good at the same time. The Rangers won the Silver Boot in eight of the 11 years and have won 14 of the last 18 games.
On an unrelated matter, I have certain information about what happened when the Silver Boot was shipped from the Astros to the Rangers. It showed up broken and had to be replaced. If you believe that the damage was done by the shipping company, well, friend, I’ve got some beach-front property in Topeka I’d like to see you.
Anyway, I thought of the Astros-Rangers rivalry the other day when new Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said the Rangers spent like “drunken sailors” in the international market. He quickly apologized, saying he’d used a poor choice of words. I wish he hadn’t. I wish he’d crossed his arms, tapped his foot and said, “What do you think of that, Nolan Ryan?”
Since apologies don’t really count in things like this, maybe Luhnow will add a little hot sauce to a rivalry that would use some. Even if the players don’t think the series is a big deal, the front offices might. As for getting an entire state to buy in, that may take some time.
But that day is coming. One of these days soon, the Rangers and Astros are going to be playing huge September games, and they’re going to have an entire state talking baseball. And that’s a good thing.