Astros Should Embrace NL Heritage

added 5/2/2013 by Bob Hulsey

Right about now Jim Crane and the Astros might be attentive to ideas that can generate good will among their fans and does not cost the team anything. Well, here's one.

As the only team forced against their will to switch leagues as a condition of sale, I think the Astros should make clear that they would still prefer to be a National League city and one way they can do that is to make the home half of their annual rivalry series a "heritage series" where they pay special homage to their NL past.

Back when we were in the National League our "natural rival" was the Texas Rangers, which made some sense because they are the closest geographic team and they are in the same state. In Bud Selig's wisdom, our new "natural rivals" are the Colorado Rockies. Why? I haven't the snowiest.

I actually have experience as a resident of both Colorado and Texas and I can tell you there was some resentment of Texans in Colorado. That's because some Texans would go up to Colorado during ski season and act the way Texans usually do which rubbed some of the locals raw.

Actually, almost any area that makes a substantial part of their income on tourism loves the money the tourists bring and silently despises the tourists themselves. Ask native Galvestonians about that. Tourists come down (or up) in season and trash their natural wonders then go home leaving the locals to clean up after them. You'd resent that too if it were your home.

Let's face it, Texans do carry some swagger with them that can easily be read as arrogance or ignorance or whatever. So Coloradans do their share of bad-mouthing Texans while not to their face. At least until the Californians showed up.

Ask any western state about the influx of Californians fleeing high taxes, high regulation and high crime where they came from then set about electing leaders and demanding laws that bring all the same misery they just fled to their new area. Want resentment? Find out what the locals think of the people who come into their neighborhoods and just take over everything.

Whatever happened to "When in Rome,..."?

So somehow the Rockies became our rivals when they truly aren't and never have been. Don't expect any frothing-at-the-mouth hatred like we see with the Yankees-Mets or the Cubs-White Sox or even the Giants-A's. Astros-Rockies will be like a U.S.-Canada peace accord.

So why not use that time instead to redirect our anger? Start by promoting "Astros Heritage Days". Wear throwback uniforms. Let Brandon Backe (.256 career hitter) or Mike Hampton (.246 career hitter) or Dan Schatzeder (.240 career hitter) throw out the first pitch to remind us of the days when good-hitting pitchers were a secret weapon to a team.

Play the game with no designated hitters even when the Astros are the home team. After all, at least three of the current starting pitchers (Bud Norris, Lucas Harrell, Jordan Lyles) have hit in the National League before and it can be argued that the ninth-best hitter for Colorado is already better than the ninth-best hitter on the Astros so sacrificing the DH won't hurt the Astros much at all.

Currently, a Houston fan who wants to watch in person baseball by National League rules has to fly to Atlanta or St. Louis or Phoenix to do so. The Astros should make it that, for one series at least, the National League fans can stay right in Houston. Think that might get a few bitter ex-supporters who hate the league switch to come out to the ballpark? It could be seen as a goodwill gesture from Crane to the disenfranchised.

Crane could possibly get the disgruntled Larry Dierker (.136 career average, four homers) to help organize the event. If Larry's not interested, how about J.R. Richard (.168 career average, 10 homers)?

As fate has it, the rivalry series with the Rockies begins with two games in Houston on May 27th and May 28th. That's Memorial Day and the day after. That would be a great time, as we honor our war dead, for the Astros to also honor their own past with the first "NL Heritage Days".

The best thing about this for Crane and the Astros is that it really won't cost them anything but could generate an attendance spike. Even the regular fans will probably be sick of seeing Carlos Pena (.234 average, up from .197 last year) by then. It's the sort of outside-the-box thinking the new Astros keep telling us they welcome. I hope they take it seriously.