It’s Time to Draw the Line with the Astros
On March 5, 1836, surrounded by thousands of Mexican soldiers, Col. William Barrett Travis drew a line in the sand at the Alamo stating that everyone who was willing to stay and fight (and die) needed to step across the line. All but one crossed the line, with the sick Jim Bowie being carried across on a cot. I suspect this is the origin of the term “drawing a line in the sand.”
For years, especially with the advent of interleague play in 1997, the Rangers and Astros were able to pleasantly co-exist. Just like the AFC Oilers (and later the Texans) and the NFC Cowboys, the Rangers and their Houston counterparts would never meet in the playoffs unless they both made it to the World Series. Interleague play gave an opportunity for the Silver Boot Series to come about. And while the games counted for the season record, the way teams shifted around to accommodate the lack of a DH (or the presence of one) gave these games an atmosphere that was almost like a pre-season scrimmage. Everyone enjoyed seeing pitchers, who didn’t normally hit, swing away or try to bunt runners over from first, and watch Ron Washington pinch-hit the bench when it was time for the bullpen to come in for a few outs. Not only did the teams pleasantly co-exist, but so did the fans; some even choosing to cheer on both teams in hopes of that elusive Lone Star World Series.
But in 2013, all that changed. The Astros were moved, not just to the American League, but to the AL West, right there with our beloved Rangers. The Silver Boot Series evolved from a light-hearted chess match of managing pitchers and designated hitters to a serious divisional rivalry between two very good baseball clubs. And I think baseball is better for it.
However, while the stakes are higher for this in-state rivalry, some of the fans haven’t gotten on board yet. Many in-state baseball fans who for years have cheered for both teams now continue to do so. But when the teams are not only in the same league but in the same division, this simply can’t be done. Nobody cheers for the Packers and the Bears at the same time! It’s absurd! And more than one “Rangers fan” has made more than a few people mad by stabbing the boys in blue in the back on social media during a game with our neighbors to the south. Divisional play brings out everyone’s true colors.
I agree that being a baseball fan should be fun. It should be more fun than fanatical. (If you haven’t read Samuel Hale’s take on this topic, do it now!) But divisional games and interleague play are not the same. Divisional games basically count twice as much as non-divisional games. While the two meeting in the World Series was a Texan’s dream, now, the only way either team can get there is to be better than the other one. It’s the baseball version of Highlander: “There can be only one.”
Baseball fans, the line has been drawn in the sand by the powers that be at the MLB offices. Are you Rangers fans? Are you Astros fans? If the wheels come off, let the Astros be your dark horse (it’s better than rooting for TOR or LAA). But this is the regular season. We have to choose sides. There is no middle ground.