With their city underwater, the Houston Astros are heading to Florida. Texas’s other Major League Baseball team left them no choice.
The Astros and Texas Rangers were to open a three-game series Tuesday in Houston, but something obviously needed to change because of the catastrophic flooding and devastation from Harvey. It would have been simple to swap a September series between the teams in Arlington with the series in Houston, but the Rangers refused, according to Astros President Reid Ryan, a decision that sparked a backlash.
“You’ve got a major storm that’s disrupted everything. We went to the Rangers and said, ‘Hey, let’s switch series. You guys have our home series, we’ll take your home series,” Ryan said. “They rejected that and didn’t want to do that. The Rangers wanted us to play the next three days at their place, but they did not want to trade series with us. They wanted all six of our games at their park. The fact that the Rangers refused to go home-and-home with us, we had to look at all of the options that were out there. We had to look at our players’ best interest and we had to look at the integrity of the schedule.”
Rangers General Manager Jon Daniels responded to social-media criticism by focusing on the notion that the team was looking at the problem strictly from a won-loss perspective.
“We were prepared to make the event all about hurricane relief and helping our neighbors,” Daniels said (via the Star-Telegram). “It had nothing to do with looking for a competitive advantage. That’s an inaccurate portrayal.”
The Rangers probably were trying to protect their September gate receipts, with the team 15 games out in the American League West and the Astros, who have a 13 1/2-game lead in that division, coming to town. The Rangers’ refusal to cooperate means that the teams will play their series in Tampa Bay’s Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. That’s likely to be the site of the Astros’ three-game weekend series against the New York Mets, too.
“We didn’t feel it was right to give our fans 24 hours notice that their tickets in late September were now good this week,” Daniels said. “We were willing to play this series anywhere the Astros and MLB wanted, including here in Arlington [Tex.].”
Daniels said the Rangers were trying not to become a distraction.
“The bigger issue, really the only issue, is what’s going on in South Texas right now,” he said. “People have lost their homes, in some cases their lives. We don’t want to distract from that debating about where a baseball game is played.”
It’s a bad look, one that stands in contrast to efforts by the Astros as well as the NFL, NBA and their Houston teams. MLB and the MLB Players Association announced Monday that they would jointly contribute $1 million to relief efforts and Jim Crane, the Astros’ owner and chairman, pledged $4 million, saying in a statement that “we are committed to doing our part to provide aid and assistance to the thousands of Houston-area residents that are desperately in need right now.”