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Nightengale: Backlash over Astros/Rangers Flap is Misguided

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A residential neighborhoods near the Interstate 10 in Houston, Texas. Photo: Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times

The rain won’t stop, people are dying in Houston, and thousands more are missing in one of the largest natural disasters America has ever faced.

And we’re supposed to be worried about baseball?

We are actually engaging in a petty feud on whether the Texas Rangers should have agreed to flip-flop a three-game series with the Houston Astros while people are coping with a disaster around them.

Are you kidding me?

Please. Enough. Stop it.

It’s not a “tragedy’’ that the Astros will have to travel an extra week during their schedule, spending six games and days in St. Petersburg, Fla., instead of playing at their home ballpark of Minute Maid Park in Houston.

That’s an absolute insult to the millions of people of Houston.

This is no more than an inconvenience.

A tiny, miniscule nuisance involving millionaire ballplayers in a $10 billion business.

Complain about your hardship staying in a five-star resort this week while one of the most destructive storms in the nation’s history has ravaged the fourth-largest city in the country, with people still being rescued from rooftops, 30,000 taking refuge in emergency shelters, and hundreds of thousands still without power, and nearly a half-million people expected to apply for federal assistance?

You kidding?

Sure, there will be plenty of sympathy within Major League Baseball that the Astros lost a home stand and will spend a total of 19 games and 21 consecutive days on the road. They will be away from their families, at least until the Houston airports re-open, and when they finally return home, Houston won’t look anything like it did when they left.

Yet, instead of focusing on financial relief funds, praising MLB and the union for donating $1 million, and the Astros for pledging another $4 million, we are caught up in this petty-mindedness of the debate whether the Astros should be playing these next three games in Arlington, Texas, home of the Rangers.

The Rangers were originally scheduled to play in Houston for three games beginning Tuesday night before Hurricane Harvey forced the relocation of those games. The Astros simply asked the Rangers to switch the series, saying they will play three games in Arlington now, but requested that their three scheduled games in Arlington on Sept. 25-27 be switched to Houston.

The Rangers declined, saying it wouldn’t be fair to their fans who have already purchased tickets for the game, and not to their players, who are hanging onto the fringe of the American League wild-card race. The Rangers offered to instead permit the Astros to be the home team this week in Arlington, giving all of their proceeds to them. The Astros declined.

So MLB stepped in and moved the series to St. Petersburg, after also considering St. Louis, believing it would be the easiest resolution. It would also provide the Astros the opportunity to stay put for their series against the Mets which likely will be switched to St. Petersburg, too.

This is when all the nastiness began.

The Astros are fuming, believing the Rangers should have cooperated. The Rangers are irritated because it makes them look selfish. These two franchises already were bitter rivals before Hurricane Harvey came along, and now it’s escalated.

Simply, the Rangers say, they didn’t want their club to lose millions of dollars in revenue by switching series, and if the Rangers are still in the wild-card race in September, those three games could loom large. They didn’t want to embark on a 12-game, four-city trip before ending their season in Arlington.

The Astros, and anybody else, to be honest, would have done the same if the positions were reversed, but it still ignited a hate storm.

Rangers outfielder Delino DeShields Jr., exasperated with the sudden nastiness, took time to respond back on his Instagram account.

“I’m just going to put this out there to get it off my chest because I can’t sleep and I’m really frustrated how people have been acting over the past 24 hours,’’ DeShields wrote. “As a resident of Texas I’m hurt by everything that’s been happening in south Texas. … I want people to understand that what is happening down there is way bigger than baseball. We love baseball yeah. Baseball brings people together yeah. I know the fans and families and friends who live in Houston are upset that baseball probably won’t be played in Houston this week along with the other cities down there. I’m upset that we aren’t playing in Houston because I love the city of Houston…

“What has happened in South Texas is something beyond our control and we all know that. We can NOT do anything about it. People, I don’t have any answers on why we are playing in Tampa or why we aren’t playing in Arlington and switching the series in September. And that should be everybody’s last concern right now. But there’s a reason all of this is happening and nobody on the outside really knows what’s been going on behind closed doors. …

“Everyone wants to point fingers at each other calling each other names, that we are classless and nobody has respect for anybody. That’s BS. I have teammates and coaches who either once lived down there or have family down there that are being affected by this. I’m sure there are people all throughout our organization and throughout our baseball community who are being affected by this in ways you people on the outside have no idea about. But we want to call each other names and disrespect each other because of what? We are rivals? That’s so irrelevant right now and at this second I’m pretty disappointed at how people are reacting to this.

“This isn’t about where we are playing a baseball game. This is about people in Texas and from all over the country coming together and helping the ones who are and have been affected by this natural disaster, not ripping each other apart for something we don’t have control over.’’

Amen.

It’s only baseball, people.

You want real life and death?

Turn on your TV, watch the horror in Houston, clasp your hands, and pray.

Please, please, pray.

By Bob Nightengale

This article was republished with permission from the original publisher, USA Today. Follow Bob Nightengale on Twitter and Facebook

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