Welcome To The Wild, Wild West!

Astros/Rangers lead off the new season on March 31st. Photo Courtesy: Tom Hagerty /  LakelandLocal.com
Astros/Rangers lead off the new season on March 31st. Photo Courtesy: Tom Hagerty / LakelandLocal.com

By Will Martin

Fans of sport tend to be very very touchy about knowing all that they can about their favorite teams, even if it is at the expense of other cities and franchise relocation.

The same will also apply to Major League Baseball in 2013 with a fifth team added to the American League West.

Really, it’s nothing new. Fans of the Colts are happy in Indiana without ever mentioning The Great Baltimore Escape back in 1984.

Ravens fans couldn’t care less about getting the team that was once the Cleveland Browns.

They did that same dance fifty years ago when the St. Louis Browns came to Baltimore to become the Orioles. In Maryland relocating really is for the birds.

The people of Minnesota have every right to bitch about losing the North Stars and Lakers and so on. We won’t even start with the Dodgers and Giants leaving New York…

All my life it seems I have wound up living in a city that was dominated by the American League. Anaheim, Seattle, Arlington, Northern New Jersey, even Chicago for a long time. One of my first ever ball games involved the Milwaukee Brewers.

Once the Braves they were in the National League, got sent to the other league and then came home 31 years later in 1997.

Unless you’re Nolan Ryan perhaps no one outside of Texas is going to care about the Houston Astros being moved to the American League West to make for six divisions at 5 teams apiece. This also means that there will be a Texas two-step 19 times a year.

Probably never as big as the Yankees-Red Sox but you will now have an in-state rivalry with two teams unlike in New York, Chicago, the Bay area, or (ahem) Los Angeles by way of Anaheim.

For 51 years fans of the Houston Astros were treated to some memorable and not so memorable baseball as the Colt 45s then moving indoors in 1965 then into an outdoor locale in 2000 or so. 1975 Bob Watson scored baseball’s millionth run. Mike Scott in 1986 clinches a playoff spot with a no hitter. The Killer B’s of the late 90s were electrifying to watch. For many my guess is old habits die hard!

The old school in me remembers the tenacious play of Larry Dierker, Jimmy Wynn, Jerry Reuss, Don Wilson, Enos Cabell, Cesar Cedeno, Jose Cruz, Bob Knepper, One of the Forsch boys-Bob I believe and yes Nolan Ryan also did quite fine.

In 2005 I prayed for a Cubs-Rangers World Series. Instead God rewarded me with the Astros and White Sox. And so it goes.

New skipper Bo Porter will lead the Astros when the Rangers and Astros open up 2013 on March 31st at Minute Maid Park. His lineup will be a veritable Who’s Who of youngsters ready to establish themselves with a few established players.

You already recognize the names of Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve, Rick Ankiel, Carlos Pena, Jason Castro, Brandon Laird, Delino DeShields, and Brett Wallace. Bud Norris and Philip Humber figure to be your 1-2 starters from the mound. The rest will be a competition to Opening Day.

Evaluating talent before the start of the World Baseball Classic will certainly be a challenge.

The pitchers invited to camp were right-handers Ruben Alaniz, Mike Foltynewicz, David Martinez, Lance McCullers Jr., Brady Rodgers, Nick Tropeano, Vincent Velasquez, Aaron West and Asher Wojciechowski. Left-hander Brian Holmes is also on the roster.

The catchers are Tyler Heineman, Jobduan Morales and Roberto Pena, and the infielders are Correa, Chase Davidson, Nolan Fontana, Jonathan Meyer, former first-round pick Jio Mier, Rio Ruiz and Jonathon Singleton. No outfielders were officially invited, but Michael Burgess, Telvin Nash and Ruben Sosa reported early and may blend into the program.

All the experts speak as if this team will be one that will threaten to look like the 1962 Mets or 2003 Tigers with a boatload of youth and very few leaders. Maybe so, maybe not. The bigger question that I ponder is how well the Astros do with an everyday DH and no pitchers batting.

Let it also be said that the new look Astros goes old school. Old School will always percolate in my blood!

It’s going to be interesting to follow this teams 2013 inaugural season. Especially when they close out the regular season with the New York Yankees in September. Not a bad trade off at all. Twice the Yankees and Red Sox in Texas now. What was once a 16 year battle for a Silver Boot now becomes a 19 game fight for bragging rights.

Houston, we have no problems. Welcome to the Wild, Wild West. Glad to have you aboard!