Ahhh yes…the Silver Boot Series…also known as the Lone Star Series; featuring your Texas Rangers against the Houston Astros. Certainly one of the greatest rivalries in all of baseball!
Just kidding. Of course it’s not. In fact, it’s a manufactured rivalry birthed out of the beginnings of interleague play. You remember baseball before interleague play, don’t you? The American League only played the American League and the National League only played the National League; except for the All-Star Game and World Series, of course. I just wrote that and realized that anyone less than 17 years of age, couldn’t possible remember that, because interleague play is just that old now. (Now where’s my hearing aid?)
Fun fact: Your Texas Rangers hosted the first interleague game in MLB history at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington! (Which is now 20-years old, by the way) Who did they play? The San Francisco Giants. The date? June 12, 1997. Anywho… some of the “natural rivalries” that MLB created to spark interest in interleague play, make total sense due to pure geography; for example: The Beltway Series – Orioles & Nats, The Subway Series – Mets & Yankees, The Ohio Cup – Reds & Indians. Heck, even Rangers vs. Astros makes good geographic sense.
The problem? The Astros weren’t our rival. There was no bad blood. There was no history. Only 256 miles separate the teams’ home ballparks and there’s not really anything there. It’s just MLB dipping a boot in silver and telling us to have it out. In fact, some folks, like our very own Donny Hunt even rooted for both teams!
I think you’ve probably ascertained my opinion of the beginnings of this series by now.
But wait…there’s more!
Flash forward to 2014 and this is no longer an interleague play game. It’s not even just another American League match-up. With the Astros joining the American League West ahead of the 2013 season…they are now a division rival. A DIVISION RIVAL. Like the Oakland A’s, the Seattle Mariners, and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim near Berkeley (or wherever it is they play).
Granted it’s difficult to get truly fired up about playing a team that has lost over 100 games every year for the past three years. But now, this isn’t just six games to see who gets, what looks like, a really heavy boot. It’s 19 games a year. NINETEEN. And we all know that is more than enough to make or break you. It’s not that it’s likely that we’ll come down to the wire for 1st and 2nd in the division with the Astros; it’s that 19 games can make a huge difference in our record overall and, consequently, how we finish among our other division rivals, and other AL teams (with the new Wild Card structure) for playoff contention.
Lest we forget that the Astros are growing up. They won’t be a 100-loss team for long. Both ESPN and The Sporting News are ranking the Astros’ minor league system the best in baseball. And that’s not even mentioning the young guys that are already on the big league club, that just need time to grow into Major League action.
So 17 years later, here we are…with a true rivalry budding.
The Silver Boot series kicks off for the 2014 season tonight with Yu Darvish making his home debut. I can hear the home crowd now, “YUUUUU!!!”
9 down, 153 to go.
Your Texas Rangers are 4-5.
Tags: Texas Rangers