added 5/22/2009 by Bob Hulsey
Does anyone care about the Lone Star Series? I know the Dallas-Houston rivalry matters when it comes to the NFL and the NBA but does anyone really care when it arrives early in the baseball season? I don't, particularly.
It seems appropriate that the Silver Boot offered to the annual winner of this six-game ordeal is now sponsored by a bankrupt car company, Chevrolet. Like the Chevette, perhaps it's time for the concept to be totaled.
Interleague play began in 1997 but, believe it or not, the Astros and Rangers didn't get together until 2001. That's primarily because the Astros play in the Central Division of their league while the Rangers play in the West Division of theirs.
The Lone Star Series has never been swept and the overall record between the two franchises is 25-23 in favor of Houston entering this weekend. So, really, has anything been proven? And while the three-game set at Minute Maid Park in spring can be enjoyed by the fans in attendance, the return trip to the Metroplex later in the summer at the Broilpark in Arlington is always uncomfortable to endure.
Trust me, I've attended a few of them. I've lost a few layers of skin from searing my flesh in the stands while absorbing more heat than a Billy Wagner fastball during some of the games up there. For people that seem to be doing well financially, you'd think the folks of Big D could spring for a little awning or something. At least we don't make our visitors endure anything worse than smelling the Houston air or gagging on the lame Aramark food.
Do the players care about the series? Apparently not. This story in the Fort Worth Star Telegram implies the rivalry is no different than any other games to the folks who wear the uniforms. The players want to win because that's their job to try to win but there seems to be no animosity built up like you see sometimes in divisional playoff races.
Part of the dullness around the Lone Star Series is that the two teams rarely seem to arrive on equal footing. It's a general observation of mine that the Astros and Rangers rarely dominate at the same time. When the Rangers suck, the Astros have a good year. When the Rangers play well, it's the Astros that don't do well. Take, for example, what you are seeing now. Entering this weekend, the Rangers lead their division of the American League. The Astros are, um, in last place in their division of the National League. It's the yin-yang of Major League Baseball in this state. Not only is an All-Texas World Series seemingly unattainable, just getting one of them there is a monumental task. Houston has made it there once in just under 50 years. Meanwhile, the Rangers have never been at all.
Interleague play always seemed like a cheap gimmick, the sort of thing a used car salesman like Bud Selig might dream up. It has some appeal for inner-city tussles like the Mets-Yankees, Angels-Dodgers or Cubs-White Sox where the fan bases are at each other's throats 365 days of the year but, beyond that, few people give a flip. For every entertaining interleague rivalry game, there are a fistful of junk matchups like Pirates-Royals or Rockies-Mariners that can't stop traffic. Meanwhile, a fuller schedule of league games - meaningful games - could be substituted for the interleague nonsense.
So let's pull the plug on this yawner of a series and put the Silver Boot in mothballs or melt it down to pay for another toll road. Texas has bigger things to worry about than which end of I-45 has the better baseball team.