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'Out of Bounds': Astros Fans Continue To Suffer

Fingers and Costas both dislike the DH and so should you

By Mark Fagan, 1:11PM, Fri. Nov. 25, 2011

'Out of Bounds': Astros Fans Continue To Suffer

I have dubbed Thursday, Nov. 17, Black Thursday. The day my nightmare became reality. Starting in the year 2013, the Houston Astros will move from the National League Central to the American League West. Designated hitter and all.

Coming off the worse season in franchise history and having strewn their best and most-beloved players across the MLB in a poorly executed rebuilding effort, the Astros faithful are now hit with this staggering uppercut.

Jim Crane's bid to buy the Astros from Drayton McClane would only be approved by Major League Baseball if he agreed to move the team to the AL, thus evening the leagues with 15 teams apiece and making intra-league scheduling much easier and more frequent. Crane received a $65 million credit in purchasing the team by agreeing to move to the AL.

The then-Houston Colt .45s entered the National League in 1962 and have been building NL history since. While not boasting a rivalry like that of Yankees/Red Sox lore, they have built solid rivalries over the years with the Dodgers, Braves, Cubs, Cards – while not so much with their as-of-2013 divisional foes the Rangers. I do begrudgingly admit I could see a rivalry building with Texas once Houston actually fields a competitive team again.

My biggest problem is moving to a league where the designated hitter is utilized. And things could get worse. On Nov. 18 in Sports Illustrated's "Bud Messes With Texas," Joe Sheehan writes on Bud Selig's eventual legacy as commissioner, "the [Astros] move further dilutes the identities of the AL and the NL and continues commissioner Bud Selig's pattern of changing the structure of the sport. More than postseason expansion or new mallparks or revenue upticks, the defining trait of Selig's reign has been the melding of leagues with storied histories into one business unit. No longer do the leagues alternate picks in the draft or employ separate sets of umpires. League presidents went the way of doubleheaders. Even the vaunted playing differences between the two leagues have faded, with the only real difference being the presence of the DH in the AL."

And Sheehan goes on to more horrifyingly say, "The history of the American and National leagues is just that. For all intents and purposes the leagues no longer exist, and you can expect MLB, even post-Selig, to continue to blur the lines. We will see more 'interleague' play, the DH used by all 30 teams and perhaps a radical realignment that forever severs the ties to the original groups of eight."

My love for the Astros will endure this worst-case scenario, but it's been tainted and sullied.

Rollie Fingers had this to say about the DH when I interviewed him back in 2004 ("Fingers of Fame"):

Austin Chronicle: … [W]hat are your thoughts on the designated hitter?

Rollie Fingers: I'm not real crazy about it, I signed as an outfielder so I enjoyed hitting, I had an opportunity to hit from 1968 to 1972 and I got a few hits, a couple home runs in the big leagues, and when they put the DH in that kinda took the wind out of me cuz I wanted to hit. I went to San Diego as a free agent in the National League so I got to hit for four years, which was great. Then I went back to the American League and I had to finish out with the Brewers and the DH but I'm not a real big fan of the DH. I think it takes a lot away from the game as far as managing goes.

AC: It's a whole different style of play really.

RF: Oh yeah, it makes managing a lot easier when you don't have to juggle that pitching staff around.

Excellent point Mr. Fingers. You don't have to "juggle that pitching staff around," no double-switches, no advantage for good-hitting pitchers, and far less managerial decisions in general.

Baseball announcer, historian, and all-around expert Bob Costas says it best, "Baseball is simply a better game without the DH."

And heck, they are already fielding a AAA team down at Minute Maid so maybe the Astros should be relegated to the Pacific Coast League and the Express can face their parent club in the AL West. At least Astros tickets would be more affordable and I wouldn't have to drive to Houston (or Arlington) to see them play.

Follow on Twitter @AusChronSports.

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