Astros Won't Find Respect In A.L.

added 6/18/2012 by Bob Hulsey

Fans of the Astros got to see a look at the future over the weekend and I'm not just talking about a team from Houston employing a pitcher named Dallas. It goes far beyond that.

The Astros played under the hot Texas sun with a designated hitter in their lineup and suffered the same fate three days in a row. They watched a decent start get blown up in the fifth or sixth inning by a Rangers rally of five or more runs which turned a small Houston lead into a big Texas win to the approval of most of the fans in attendance.

The frustration was too much for Manager Brad Mills and Pitching Coach Doug Brocail who spilled out of the dugout Sunday in the top of the ninth to argue umpire Dale Scott's strike zone. Over the past week, it seemed the Astros could not buy a break from the men in blue. Seemingly the most blatant was when Jose Altuve was rung up on strikes for a pitch that came in at his eyebrows. Even jolly giant Carlos Lee was steaming by Sunday.

The Astros are going to have to deal with a new reality going forward. They will get no respect.

They are Nolan Ryan's bitch until they prove to the world that they aren't. By getting bent over and agreeing to switch leagues in a move that benefits the Rangers far more than it helps the Astros, the Astros forfeited the respect of their baseball brethren and it shows with every call that goes against them.

Within the National League, there is a familiarity. They remember those days in the Astrodome. They remember Bagwell and Biggio who played hard with a respect for the game that demanded respect in return. The American League knows or cares little about that.

It won't make a difference what uniforms they wear or what tv network they play on, the Astros will be treated no better than an expansion team next year. The league will laugh at the midget playing second base. They'll snort at the kids who can't seem to hit a 12-to-6 curve or lay off sliders in the dirt.

While the National League doesn't have any true dynasties (it was comforting that the teams from the big cities with the big budgets were largely incompetent except when the Dodgers were good), the American League has a definite social strata.

There is the New York Yankees. There is nobody who is supposed to beat the Yankees and if you have the nerve to think otherwise, they'll just buy a few more top free agents until you understand they are baseball lordship.

Then there is the Boston Red Sox who have the storied ballpark and they, too, love to spend a lot of money on players. They and their fans are a lot like the Cubs except they've enjoyed some recent success.

Then there is the nouveau riche - the Rangers, Angels and Tigers - willing to spend big while the Yankees and Red Sox seem a bit vulnerable in hopes they can claim a few pennants before the Yankees reload and destroy them.

Then there is the ghetto that is the rest of the American League. Teams with low attendance and low ratings like Oakland, Cleveland, Baltimore, Kansas City, Minnesota, Tampa and the South Side of Chicago may make occasional runs at the crown but they don't have the market to sustain themselves for long.

Then, below all of them, will be the Astros. That's because they'll be seen around the league as the club that lets Nolan Ryan throw out first pitches in their home park and lets "Sweet Caroline" cascade through their loud speakers.

Ryan postured last year that he wanted a rivalry between his Rangers and the Astros but I think he'd prefer having a lapdog he can routinely whip like slaves. That seems to be what he's going to get until the Astros understand they are the 98-pound weaklings on the block and nobody is going to hand them anything - especially not Bud Selig's arbiters.

Texans and Rockets fans know what it feels like to be dissed by their neighbors to the north. For Astros fans, it is somewhat of a new phenomena, having been presumed superior to the Rangers for most of the past 40 years.

Times have changed and, until the Astros develop a mean streak that proves they won't tolerate the status quo, all the rest of the American League will see is the franchise that got bent over by Selig and Ryan. And there will be no respect for that.