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A Transformed MLB: Astros Jump to AL West Stirs up a League of Change
- Updated: April 1, 2013
Sunday night featured the Houston Astros first game as an American League Franchise. The Astros put an 8-2 beating on the visiting Texas Rangers in front of a sold-out crowd at Houston’s Minute Maid Park. The game served as a fitting season opener, as the Astros jump to the American League will define the condition of the entire 2013 season.
The first result of the Astros move out of the National League is that all MLB divisions will hold the same amount of teams. While this may be given, it’s still important. In past seasons, the playoff race seemed much more gruesome for the 6 team National League Central compared to the 4 team American League West. To make the playoffs previously, a team such as Cincinnati would have to best 5 other professional caliber teams. The Rangers or Athletics on the other hand had only 3 teams they had to top. The Astros jump to the American League makes a skewed playoff system flow a little bit more fairly. In basic terms, it is a balancing act for playoff contention. This move, however, is not limited in its effects to these two lone divisions. The Astros joining of the American League sends changes that can be felt around the league.
The previous set up of the MLB featured 16 teams in the National League, and 14 teams in the American League. The National League was a little bigger, but things seemed to work out alright outside of the imbalanced playoff races. The influx of the Astros into the American League skews the original system. This little move brings profound changes to the entirety of the MLB. From players, to coaches, to fans, the changes will be worth taking note.
This jump disfigures the way the MLB has scheduled games for the past several seasons. Previously, the National League could match up 8 teams vs. 8 teams, while the American League would match 7 teams vs. 7 teams. Never the two should interact except for the mayhem that was interleague play. Now, however, the National League has 7 teams to face 6 teams and the American League carries this same imbalance. Schedulers are left forced to take these two left over teams from each league and stick them together. In other words, throughout the season there will be a National League team vs. an American League team. There will be no more grouping this war of the worlds into a condensed interleague play some time in June. Instead, for the first time since the breakup into divisions, interleague play will be scattered throughout the season.
The removal of traditional interleague play has many side-effects, one of which might turn out being pretty fortunate.
Buster Posey’s recent mammoth of a contract has brought up a lot of concern about protecting any given franchise player. When you’re breaking the bank to hold on to a key component of your team, it’s a necessity to preserve this player. In this respect, the National League is at a disadvantage. You see, in the American League, when your superstars start to wear out down the stretch of a long season, you can plop them in the designated hitter role on a given day. This gives them a rest from full on play, yet you can retain the benefits of their offensive talents. Essentially, it’s a break for the player without giving up a day of production from his spot in the lineup. An interleague play peppered throughout the season brings the National League closer to this luxury of the American League. Now the San Francisco Giants will be seeing spread out trips to American League ballparks, thus spread out opportunities to throw a DH into your lineup. The Giants will look to utilize Posey in these various situations throughout the year. Their new, high price-tag, of a player will continue to make himself worth the money by producing with his bat. At the same time, the Giants are preserving Posey by giving him regular breaks away from the strenuous duty of catching. It’s a win-win situation for all National League teams looking to get the most efficiency out of their players.
The Giants weren’t directly effected by Houston’s trip to the AL West. However, San Francisco, as well as the rest of the National League will be reaping the benefits of this new scheduling. As for Houston, they’re in the middle of an evolving MLB and are central in switching around the way things operate. And as of Sunday night, it appears Houston will also be central in switching around the way things are done in the AL West. Step aside Texas, there’s a new star of the Lone Star State.