To be fair, pushing Astros to AL has nothing to do with fairness

by | CBSSports.com National Columnist
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Astros fans will have to get use to more visits by the Rangers, winners of two straight AL titles. (Getty Images)  
Astros fans will have to get use to more visits by the Rangers, winners of two straight AL titles. (Getty Images)  

Welcome to baseball, Jim Crane. Now put your clothes on that stool so we can go through your pockets without worrying that you might be ticklish.

That is how baseball works. That's how all sports work. You pay an exorbitant amount of money to be in the secret club, and then it turns out that you not only have to eat at the kids' table but you have to set up the chairs and clean up afterward.

Crane put up an announced $680 million to buy the Houston Astros from Drayton McLane, and we say announced because there is often a significant difference between the amount of money on the press release and the amount of money that actually changes hands.

Now it turns out Crane will pay $615 million, with Major League Baseball helping to make up the difference with $35 million to McLane.

But as an added bonus, Crane got to start his ownership by telling his fan base that they had just turned in their history to make Nolan Ryan happy.

The Astros couldn't be sold unless Crane agreed to become the 15th team in the American League, and the fifth team in the AL West. In exchange for 18 games with Texas, they got 54 games with Seattle, Oakland and Los Angeles of Anaheim. They evened out the short division in baseball, and Bud Selig tweeted that the move "would create more fairness in baseball."

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Fairness? Baseball? Help us, Lord.

Baseball has two leagues playing different rules. Baseball has an exhibition game determining the most important game of the World Series. Baseball has replay for some things and not for others.

Baseball isn't about fairness. Baseball is about jerry-rigged solutions, often performed at the point of a metaphorical gun. Baseball does seat-of-the-pants kneejerkery well, solving today's immediate problem with today's immediate solution, and then trying to figure out a way to blame the union for the problem later.

Thus, mentioning the word fairness is a pretty laughable construct, even when addressing a mathematical imbalance.

Baseball did it without noticing that 16/14 wasn't actually a problem. It was something that filled column inches on slow days, but the games churned on and the right results were achieved because the number of games each team plays sees to it that the right results are reached.

And baseball did it because Crane had no leverage, or friends in the room to take his side. This dreadful unfairness lasted 14 years, since Bud felt the need to take care of Milwaukee, his old team, by moving it to its natural marketplace in the National League. And since the designated hitter has lasted nearly 40 years in half the sport, clearly some unfairnesses are unfairer than others.

So let's cut the crap about "fairness." This was done to the baseball fans of Houston because they were essentially defenseless, and in true baseball fashion it came after the team was sold FOR THE SECOND-LARGEST PRICE EVER!

And in case we didn't cover this before, FOR THE HOUSTON FREAKING ASTROS!

It was a nice piece of shoe-squeezing, which baseball is good at, and it was a nicer piece of bait-and-switch, at which baseball is even better. And we would all be more appreciative if Selig would say that, instead of handing the baseball fans of Houston a gravel-on-toast and passing it off as New York strip.

Which, now that we think of it, it was one more thing at which the game's structure excels.

Well, good luck to Crane, or bad luck, whatever the karmic fates have in store for him. He just needs to know that his introduction to his new partners was a knee in the short and danglies, at a spectacular cost, and with the added benefit of annoying his fan base on Day 1.

And now, let us all rise for the national anthem.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.com.

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