Dear Mr. Selig,
If you are anything like me, you sometimes run hot and cold with your emotions. When that happens, I am practiced at the art of writing the scathing letter where I get out all of my emotions and use every dirty name in the book. Then, I crumple up the paper and start over. I did that once and then published my second draft over at Bleacher Report. As you might have suspected, some snark snuck through.
As a native Houstonian and huge Astros fan I ask that you ignore that version and focus on this one. I want to try to give as calm and sober an argument against the move you propose to make as I can. Unfortunately, emotions run high for us here in Houston. You are persona non grata around these parts dating back to Hurricane Ike. You can spare us the excuses and reasons for playing the games against the Cubs nearly 100 miles from Chicago instead of a site that would be more advantageous to Houston. That's in the past.
However, I bring it up only to highlight the perception that many Houstonians have of the commissioner's office. We could go back to 2005 when we have spent the entire season playing with the roof closed until the World Series when we were ordered to open it. Then, there was the 1998 playoffs when there was inexplicably a day off between two home games allowing Kevin Brown to pitch twice in the series.
All of these situations have perfectly plausible explanations I'm sure. Added up they add up for many Houston fans to one Bud Selig feeling like he can defecate on the city of Houston and the Astros. Is that a fair characterization? I'm sure it's not, but you need to know what you are walking into with this proposed move to the American League. Fans are already pissed at you and then you pull this.
Let me begin with the proposed playoff system. Baseball would become the only organized sport in the world to use an odd number of teams for a playoff system. NCAA basketball tried a play in game and scrapped it. It's a stupid idea designed to create drama where it does not exist. You did the same thing with the all-star game and with interleague play. I praise you on the wild card, but the wild card is a different animal. It arose out of a logistical need.
Baseball fans are a more sophisticated lot than with the other sports. We don't paint our chests, have fights in the parking lots before the games (usually). We don't have to resort to the wave and we don't need cheerleaders to get us into the game. Baseball is a game of advanced strategy and nuance. It's fans aren't going to be swayed by fake drama. That's the main reason why this so-called fifth playoff team format will not work.
While we are on the subject of orchestrated drama, let me educate you in the way that rivalries work. Geography alone does not make a rivalry. Putting us in the same division as the Rangers will not magically create a rivalry because we are an odd 250 miles from Arlington. Boston and New York are close to one another and the Yankees/Red Sox have one of the more recognizable rivalries in sports. Yet, put the Mets in the AL East and there would be no rivalry with the Red Sox.
The same is true for the rivalry between the Dodgers and Giants on the other end of the country. That rivalry is a rivalry a century in the making. The Athletics and Angels have the same proximity and have been playing in the same division since the late 1960s. They still don't have a rivalry of any renown. The same is true for the Brewers and anyone in the NL Central. Even Chicago and St. Louis (which are closer to Milwaukee than Dallas is to Houston) have not developed that rivalry.
This isn't to say that Dallas and Houston can't develop a rivalry. As they compete in the same division and go neck to neck on a few pennant chases I'm sure something will develop. Time is the great equalizer. That being said, we already have that rivalry with the Cubs, Reds, and Cardinals. It doesn't need time to fester, It already has.
I don't believe in making idle threats Mr. Selig. I love baseball too much to give it up and I'm emotionally attached to the Astros. I will never stop following them as long as they stay in Houston. I'm a native Houstonian and in the rarest of breeds, a third generation native Houstonian. My father grew up watching the Cardinals and Stan Musial back when Houston was the Cardinals chief affiliate.
Houston became one of their affiliates way back in 1921. That means that Houston has 90 years of National League history it is attached to. If you attempt to erase that you will lose a lot of fans. I'm not going to throw a number or a percentage on it because I don't make idle threats. Baseball cannot afford to lose anymore fans. The Astros certainly can't afford to go down that road.
May I propose an alternative to your American League suggestion. Don't move anyone yet. Add two games to the divisional series and make them a best out of seven series. Even if each series go only one more game you will have generated the same revenue as you would have with two play in games. You'll also rebalance the odds a little in favor of the team with the best record.
If fans and the MLBPA are not satisfied you can broach the idea of expansion to 32 teams. At that point, both teams could move into the AL and the leagues would be balanced again. You could discuss a similar arrangement as the NFL with four four team divisions and an additional round of the playoffs to accommodate two wild cards. Or, you could simply take the division winners and call it a day.
In the blogosphere there are lots of counteroffers on who to switch to the American League. I even found myself wondering why it couldn't be Arizona or Milwaukee. The truth is that no one should be forced to move. It's clear that no one really wants to move or you wouldn't have had to go through all these intense negotiations with the Crane group. Let everyone stay where they are and keep baseball the way it is a little while longer. You don't want your last big act as commissioner to be one that alienates an entire fan base.