Was it inevitable? One won the American League West, while the other led it for most of the season and was forced to go the wild-card route to make it to this stage. The Texas Rangers and Houston Astros share a state and are bitter rivals and will face each other in the postseason for the first time in the ALCS. The teams finished with the same regular-season record, but the Astros won the head-to-head battle against the Rangers 9-4, including winning seven of the last eight meetings between the duo. However, only the Astros have lost in the postseason thus far. The Rangers are 5-0 and most of those wins were anticlimactic.
These teams and fan bases hate each other. One team has had a string of bad playoff luck before this season, and the other is appearing in its seventh straight ALCS. Minus Felipe Alou’s four years in the Bay Area, the team’s managers were at the helm of the San Francisco Giants from 1997 to 2019. Criticizing the Astros’ success is an overused narrative and if you don’t like how good they’ve been — and trust me 29 fan bases don’t like it — have your favorite team beat them. And that’s exactly where I find myself. I’ve viscerally hated Houston before this string of success, the team’s blatant cheating, smug nature, Brandon Taubman’s clubhouse outburst, and the team’s subsequent, subpar response. And why bring up that baggage at all for the ‘23 Astros? If you mention they haven’t lost a division series since 2015, everything the team has done to stay on top comes with it. Good, bad, indifferent, and disgusting.
Of course, I’m rooting for the Rangers. I genuinely can’t see from an unbiased reporter’s perspective how any other team’s fans could root for Houston. Easiest to digest is the predictable nature of how it always wins and something new would be good for baseball. I’m not sure the league office agrees with that since a lot of people would tune into the World Series to see baseball’s biggest villains lose. And Astros fans will show up in loads since even they know a high level of success isn’t forever and they might as well cash in while it’s here. Just ask the Patriots fans you know about their team.
The more complex way to break down the distaste of the Astros is how their rise to the top has taken shape and the way it’s currently presented. Like how homer and Houston’s MLB.com reporter Brian McTaggart, completely misrepresented how the Rangers celebrated making the playoffs. Facts be damned, Houston runs baseball! Yeah, right. Those who participated in the Astros’ cheating scandal took some lumps, like anytime you hear the name Carlos Correa, who is no longer with the team, you just cringe. And as Pete Rose will tell you, compared to the crime, Houston got a little more than a slap on the wrist. So when Major League Baseball can’t give the appropriate sentence, it’s left to the court of public opinion, as we’ve routinely seen over the last four seasons.
Rooting for the Astros in this series outside of Houston is like re-watching Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame and deciding Thanos wasn’t so bad. And you can couple that with all these superheroes trying to save the planet from a foreign demigod who is being too mean to him. Perceptions about the AL West being superior this season turned out to be correct. The AL East didn’t win a playoff game and it’s an all-Lone Star State showdown for the American League pennant. It’ll be a contentious, intricate series. And hopefully, for baseball as a whole, the Astros are knocked down a peg.
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