The Texas Rangers and general manager Jon Daniels are baseball’s newest villains, at least in the 250 miles that separates Arlington from Houston.
The hate on social media is flowing. Websites like Deadspin have fueled the case against the Rangers.
The Rangers declined the chance Monday to swap their series this week against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park for the series scheduled at Globe Life Park in late September, as the Astros wanted to do.
So, now the series is in Florida, with the first game in the series being played Tuesday night at Tropicana Field, the domed home of the Tampa Bay Rays in St. Petersburg. That plays into all, too.
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It wasn’t easy getting to this point, and this is the last thing either club wanted.
“We were prepared, willing and offered to host the series,” Daniels said Monday in a conference call. “But the decision was made to go to Tampa instead.”
As late as lunchtime Sunday, the Rangers and Astros were still holding out hope that they could play by Wednesday at Minute Maid Park. The Rangers were even considering waiting until Thursday for a doubleheader and a makeup game on a mutual off day, likely Sept. 18.
Those hopes were quickly dashed as flood waters from the remnants of Hurricane Harvey started to overtake the Houston area. The two major airports were closed. The roads to Minute Maid were impassable, making staffing a game next to impossible.
So, the ideas started coming forward.
Astros president Reid Ryan said that the Astros suggested a series swap. Daniels said that the Rangers declined, not wanting to force the team to play a 12-game road trip over the final two weeks of the season with a potential playoff berth on the line. There were also concerns about the fans who had tickets for the Sept. 25-27 series and forcing them to use their tickets this week.
The Rangers’ idea was for the series to be played in Arlington with Houston as the home team. The Rangers would give the Astros all profits from the three games after being reimbursed by the Astros for expenses. The Rangers would then donate the reimbursements to hurricane relief.
The plan was for a Texans-helping-Texans theme. The Rangers wouldn’t be treated as the home team. Fans would be encouraged to participate in the Texas 2 Split 50/50 raffle, with all the proceeds for the Rangers Foundation going to hurricane relief.
There would have been donation stations. The hope was that Astros fans who had fled to North Texas would want to attend the games as a distraction for what they left behind.
Everything was to be geared toward helping Harvey’s victims.
The Astros declined.
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Ryan’s quote Monday afternoon sparked the outrage aimed at Daniels as he said that the Rangers “wanted all six games at their park,” insinuating that the Rangers wanted home-field advantage for three extra games instead of being compassionate about the difficult situation the Astros are trying to navigate.
Major League Baseball was heavily involved. As of Sunday, they weren’t considering alternate cities to host the games. MLB wanted the Astros to play at Globe Life Park as the home team, following the 2015 precedent of the Baltimore Orioles playing a series against Tampa Bay as the home team at Tropicana Field after rioting in Baltimore.
But the search for alternate sites started Monday morning, and by Monday afternoon the decision was made to play in Florida.
At the time, the weather in Arlington was an issue. MLB didn’t want any chance of a rainout. With the Astros’ series against the New York Mets also potentially in need of being relocated, choosing Tropicana Field would at least give the Astros a chance to play six consecutive games in one place.
The Astros also wanted a neutral field.
“It wasn’t solely up to the Rangers,” an MLB source said. “We heard out both teams and put various ideas on the table. Tampa is where we netted out, primarily based on the certainty of playing the games.”
The Astros are facing the prospect of a 19-game road trip, with a nine-game West Coast trip scheduled to begin Monday. That is the root of some of the anger directed toward the Rangers, who didn’t want to spend 12 straight games — seven fewer than the Astros — on the road later in the season.
Astros fans and various bloggers also fumed that the Rangers were in it for money, or that the Rangers were trying to gain three home games to fuel their chances for a wild-card spot, or that the Rangers should have done whatever the Astros wanted because of the circumstances facing the city.
“It’s not a good look,” one former major leaguer said. “But what are they supposed to do?”
As Ryan said via text Monday night, there are “no easy answers when it comes to a disaster of this magnitude.”
He spent his day Monday making sure that Astros employees affected by the flooding have all the support they need. He and Astros officials were also trying to make sure their facilities avoided damage.
Neither he nor Daniels had talked Monday. They didn’t talk during the process, with executive vice president Rob Matwick, a former Astros official, speaking on the Rangers’ behalf.
There were so many more involved in the decision besides Ryan and Daniels, including ownership from both clubs. The owners might have had the biggest say in it all.
But Daniels and the Rangers are baseball’s newest villains.