Until earlier today, the Astros and Rangers were scheduled to begin a three-game series tomorrow in Houston. However, since much of the city is now underwater due to catastrophic flooding from Hurricane Harvey, it was evident that MLB would need to find another locale. They did—and it’s the Tampa Bay Rays’ ballpark in St. Petersburg, Florida, which doesn’t make the Rangers look too good.
From the Astros’ side, the narrative looks pretty clear-cut here. With the team reeling from a storm that’s ravaged their home city—killing at least eight people, displacing thousands more and making professional baseball in town untenable for the time being—they reached out to their opponent and asked to swap this home series for an away one next month. The Rangers would take the Astros’ home series now, and the Astros would take the Rangers’ home series at the end of September. But while the Rangers were fine with the Astros coming to town this week, they refused to give up their own home series next month:
From the Rangers’ side, of course, things aren’t so straightforward. Texas general manager Jon Daniels said that the club offered to move this week’s games to its ballpark in Arlington while treating the Astros as the home team and giving them the revenue from the series. But giving up the September home series would have created a 12-game, four-city road trip at the end of the season for a team hoping to compete for a wild card spot, and that was the sticking point for them:
In terms of both baseball and business, it’s a perfectly logical decision for the Rangers. But in terms of compassion, it’s pretty crummy. The quick takeaway here isn’t and won’t be that the front office made a measured decision about the welfare of their own team. It’s that they decided to shut out a club forced from its city by natural disaster, putting clear baseball needs over what might be seen as more abstract humanitarian ones. The Astros—with no major damage to their ballpark, their players physically safe, and the financial means as an organization to navigate whatever’s to come—are hardly an equal stand-in for thousands of suffering people in their region who have lost everything. But they still serve as a symbol of Houston, and so turning them away can only make the Rangers look insensitive and selfish.
At one point today, Daniels said he was “almost cringing” when he discussed the Rangers’ baseball-related needs in comparison to those of the Astros. That reaction is reasonable—which should have been enough to make him think that those listening might react the same way, too.