Friday, November 18, 2011

Baseball Zen

I'm not ready to talk about baseball.

Photo borrowed from middlethirds' Flickr page.
 My Texas Rangers lost the World Series. *choke* They collapsed at the feet of the Cardinals. *sob* It's still very painful to talk about. *kicks a squirrel*

Sorry, Mr. Nibbles.
(Photo borrowed from
 But I can't let this morning's news go unremarked upon (upon which it is unremarked...damn prepositional phrases). According to MLB commissioner Bud "I Was Abner Doubleday's Little League Coach" Selig, the Houston Astros are going to become an American League team in 2013.

Did you hear me?

(Photo borrowed from Harpo42's Flickr page)
 Texas has two baseball teams: the Rangers and the Astros. The Rangers are an American League team, the Astros are a National League team. That's because the unwritten law of baseball is that any city or state with more than one team should have a team from each league. It's the natural order. It's practically biological.

I'm totally not comparing baseball leagues to reproductive organs.
Unless you're OK with that. In that case, yes, I am.

New York has the National League Mets and the American League Yankees. *goddamnyankeeshowihateyou* Sorry, my fingers spasmed on the keyboard there.

Chicago has the National League Cubs and the American League White Sox.

Florida has the National League Marlins and the American League Rays. Or maybe it's the other way around. Who cares? There shouldn't be major league baseball in Florida anyway. Oh dear, my inner 80-year-old baseball purist just came out. Let me walk him back to his room...

In my day, catchers didn't have all this fancy protection.
If they took a bouncer to the nads once in a while,
 it was their own fault for not getting under it grumble grumble...
 Where was I? Oh, yes, balance. California has four teams - two from the AL, two from the NL. Plus the Padres. Oops, I think he got out again...

The point is, Comissioner Selig, who never saw a good thing he couldn't eff up, is disrupting the delicate and traditional balance of baseball, not to mention baseball fans. Who are pretty easily unbalanced as it is.

Uh...I have no words.
If you're not a baseball fan and you haven't already bailed on this post, hang on, because I'm about to go full-on baseball geek. I can't talk about German Expressionism and global economics all the time, you know.

 (whispers) I'm not that smart.
Baseball is poetic. It's symmetrical. There's a yin and yang to the subtle relationship between the two leagues. It's more than just the Designated Hitter rule - that simple change in play introduces a philosophical and strategic schism to the entire sport. The existence of a non-fielding batter in the American League puts the emphasis on offense - here is a player whose entire game mission is to make contact with the ball. With no need to structure the batting order around the weakest hitter (the pitcher) or a player who is a defensive asset but less effective at the plate, the manager can stack his lineup for maximum offensive power.

Meanwhile, in the National League, the offense and defense are inextricably linked by the need to send pitchers to the plate. A pitching change alters the batting lineup, while a decision to employ a pinch hitter or runner removes a pitcher from the game. The result is a much more nuanced, defensively-oriented strategy to the game. Fewer runs, more pitching changes - some say, more pure baseball.

The difference also produces different kinds of fans. Baseball fans tend to be created by geography: Everybody has a hometown team. (Unless you live in Iowa or something, in which case your accident of birth means you and I have nothing to talk about.) That team is going to belong to either the American or National League, and you likely are going to be either an American or National League person, depending on which team you're rooting for.

But geography is relative when it comes to sports. In no way could I be described as a Houston Astros fan - in fact, neither could many people in Houston, which is part of the reason the team is being sold and revamped - but if I had a philosophical disconnect with the DH rule, I could still be a fan of Texas baseball. Two teams, two leagues, everybody is happy. The universe is at peace.

Totally awesome picture by Heidi Younger.
Seriously, check out her website.
But now there is a disturbance in the Force. The Houston Astros, the yin to the Texas Rangers' yang, is realigning to the American League. I can't believe the universe won't tilt dangerously on its cosmic axis as a result of this unwise move.

The universe has an axis, right?
(Picture borrowed from the very cool Windows to the Universe website.)
 You can't have two American League teams in a single state and no National League team to balance things out. That's not what baseball do, as my good friend Ron Washington would say. You can't take away the prospect of an all-Texas World Series. OK, that's a razor-thin prospect, but now it's not even a possibility. And that's just wrong.

Besides, if you're a fan of one league, there's a mystery, an aura, to the opposing league. It colors your entire perception of a city. I look upon Houston, and besides the fact that it seems like really a horrible place to live (just my opinion, Houstonians, I'm sure it's the garden spot of the world), it's a National League city. Cincinnati is a National League city. Oakland is an American League city. I'm still not over the fact that my beloved Milwaukee Brewers jumped leagues a few years ago - how could such a thing happen to my hometown? I mean, I love my Beloved Spouse, but when I married him I didn't become Italian. And I'm not going to become a National League person just because Bud Selig says it's so.

(And yes, I'm aware that the Milwaukee Braves were a National League team, and the arrival of the Brewers as an AL team was just as big a shakeup in 1969 as their flip to the NL was in 1997. But we're talking about me here.)

Living in a city with a major league baseball team is almost as important to me as living in a city with great music, museums, and movie theatres that show Metropolis. Having that team be in the American League is also critical. That doesn't make me a one-dimensional jock who is defined by the fortunes of grown men playing a game. It makes other people that. But we're talking about me here. And I need the philosophical framework of baseball to support my well-being. That means having an interleague rival on the other side of the state.
I am aware of and accept your opinion.

I'm not ready to talk about baseball. *Really, Rangers, really? REALLY?* But I am done ranting about the Houston Astros and their pending move to the American League. I'll try to be a good neighbor when it happens. I'll bring them a candy bar. I can't do any more than that.

I shall also meditate upon it.
 If a Cardinal hits an easy fly to right field and no one catches it, does it blow the World Series?

*Godammit, Rangers. How could you?*

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