An MLB.com column that chastised the Texas Rangers for their part in relocating this week’s series with the Houston Astros was extensively edited and rewritten after publication, seemingly to be less critical of the team. None of the changes are noted in the piece.
The column was published today under the byline of Richard Justice, who has been an MLB staff correspondent since 2011 and previously worked as a sports columnist for the Houston Chronicle. When first published, the piece had the headline “Rangers, Astros crank up heat in St. Pete,” in reference to the fact that this week’s series is being played at the Tampa Bay Rays’ ballpark in St. Petersburg, Florida, after the destructive flooding from Hurricane Harvey in Houston. At some point later today, however, the headline was changed to the decidedly less adversarial “Hard not to root for Houston right now.” A lot of other things were changed, too.
Here’s the original opening of the piece:
The Astros are now the good guys. It’s more than just who they are. It’s what they represent: a great city pushed to its breaking point.
If there’s karma — that is, if the Baseball Gods are paying attention — the Astros will have one kind of week, the Rangers another. At a time when an entire country is pitching in to help Houston, the Rangers decided they were the ones who could not be inconvenienced.
Commence eye roll.
After today’s round of stealth editing, the Astros are no longer explicitly declared “the good guys,” and Mother Nature has replaced the Rangers as the villain. Gone, too, is the implication that karma should deservedly hand the Astros a good week and the Rangers a bad one:
The Astros are a team you can rally around. It’s more than just who they are. It’s what they represent: a great city pushed to its breaking point.
At a time when an entire country is pitching in to help Houston, Mother Nature is arch rival No. 1.
The storm that wouldn’t go away has sent the Astros and Rangers to Florida to play a three-game series at Tropicana Field beginning tonight. It’s believed to be just the fourth weather-related neutral field series in history.
In the updated piece, there’s no further discussion of the circumstances that led to Florida being specifically chosen as the new site for the series. That’s quite different from the original column, which dug into the process of negotiations between the two teams:
When it became clear Hurricane Harvey would not allow this series to be played at Minute Maid Park this week, the Astros asked the Rangers to swap a home-and-home series.
The two teams would play three games in Arlington this week, then switch a series to Houston on Sept. 25-27. The Rangers said no. Instead, they offered to play all six games in Arlington, with the Astros the designated home team this week (with the gate going to Houston).
Unable to compromise, the two teams flew to Florida on Monday to play a three-game series at Tropicana Field beginning Tuesday night. It’s believed to be just the fourth weather-related neutral field series in history.
All of that is gone from the new column.
There’s one more paragraph that was eliminated in the updated version, and, like the others that were erased or rewritten, it’s one that works to play up a rivalry between the two teams where the Rangers are positioned as the antagonist.
Regardless, this series in St. Petersburg could be must-see television given that Houston is fully aware the Rangers could have made the Astros’ lives a bit less chaotic, and deservedly so. Until now, they’d only rolled their eyes at Rangers manager Jeff Banister’s fist-pumping. Now they may be genuinely annoyed, if not infuriated.
Now, that paragraph simply reads:
Regardless, this series in St. Petersburg could be must-see action.
The column goes on to discuss the storm’s impact on the players, and from that point, the two editions look fundamentally the same in terms of substance—but there are enough minor tweaks in terms of style that the updated version appears to have been edited in its entirety by someone new altogether. “Should Rays fans root for the Astros?” becomes “Shouldn’t Rays fans root for the Astros?” A few lines later, “they love its diversity and culture, and they appreciate its huge bohemian heart” is switched to “they love its diversity and culture and appreciate its huge Bohemian heart.” The original phrase “they are distracted, worried and stressed for their families, friends and homes” is now “they are distracted and worried and stressed for their families and friends and homes.” Changes like these run throughout—each relatively insignificant on its own, but collectively enough to imply that the piece was subjected to a thorough round of editing after publication, rather than a simple scrubbing of its harshest parts.
Neither Justice nor MLB executive vice president of content Dinn Mann responded to requests for comment.
Both versions of the piece finish with the disclaimer that runs at the bottom of every MLB.com story—an assurance that the work is independent and neither the league nor the teams themselves are calling the shots.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.