TEXAS PRO SPORTS is contributed by Jordan Gnipp
With Super Bowl XLVI out of the way and the NBA well under way, it’s already time to start talking about Major League Baseball in Texas.
The Rangers look ready to finally break through and win their first World Series title in the coming season with the addition of Japanese ace pitcher Yu Darvish. Darvish’s numbers already boggle the mind and he hasn’t even stepped on to the mound in season play yet. Adding Darvish to the roster cost the Rangers more than $51.5M just to negotiate with the young ace – also the price of beating out the northeast powerhouse Boston Red Sox – and another $56M in guaranteed money on a six- year contract. During his tenure in Japan, with the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, Darvish had a 1.99 ERA over seven seasons. Darvish says he wants to be – and the Rangers certainly hope he will be – “the No. 1 pitcher in the world.”
The Rangers have proven they can get to the World Series in each of the last two seasons, but have lost to the San Francisco Giants and the St. Louis Cardinals. With their new powerhouse pitcher, the Rangers have also proven they are willing to keep up with teams like Boston and New York, and buy a promising future. The Rangers already had a strong lineup with solid hitters, but they needed to step up their presence on the mound, which they’ve now done in a big ticket way. If all goes according to plan, the Rangers franchise, and owner and Texas native Nolan Ryan – who also pitched for both the Astros and Rangers – should finally bring a baseball championship to Texas.
The Astros, on the other hand, are just trying to finally bring a couple of wins to Houston. With new leadership and a weak lineup, the Astros must now focus on rebuilding the team. New owner Jim Crane hopes to inspire interest in a city that has been losing that interest over the last few, failed years under former owner Drayton McLane Jr. The team is not in a financial position to spend money on big name free agents, but it is managing to generate some interest by announcing a few changes, allegedly coming soon. The Astros claim they will be changing their uniforms in the near future, and they now allow bottles of water and sandwiches (in clear plastic bags) to be brought into the stadium – a good move with fans who complain of high stadium prices for such a poorly performing team. Families in Houston will no doubt appreciate the extra affordability of taking the kids out to the ball game without having to take out a loan to watch the ‘Stros lose.
But one big change talked about that backfired for the Houston club was the claim that it was secretly working on a name change. This concept met with so much backlash from fans that the plan was just recently scrapped. The Astros’ original name was the Houston Colt .45s, when the team was founded in 1962. It was changed to the Houston Astros in 1965, which has now been synonymous with baseball for several generations of natives and migrants to the city for nearly 50 years. The Astros name also makes sense in light of the Johnson Space Center, and in relationship to the NBA Houston Rockets. Why was a new name so important to the new owner, especially when so many Astros fans threatened to stop being fans altogether?
Making things worse for the Astros fans willing to hang on to hopes of glory is the fact that, as part of the deal to buy the team, owner Jim Crane had to agree to move the team from the National League Central to the American League West. This means the Astros will be playing mostly California teams which in turn, means later night games in Texas, along with differing lineup rules to learn between the American League and National League. In other words, this team is asking a lot of its fans and so far, not giving a lot in return.