After much speculation the Houston Astros have been picked by Bud Selig and Major League Baseball as the National League team to move to the AL in 2013. This is being done in an effort to decrease the amount of in division games and align the divisions more evenly. With the move from the NL Central to the AL West, there will be exactly 5 teams in every division. A byproduct of this move is that each league will have an odd number of teams, necessitating interleague play throughout the entire season. Selig is also instituting a second Wild Card team in each league, increasing the number of playoffs teams from 8 to 10. Houston was the easiest team to move, although not the best. Because the point was to increase the AL West by a team and decrease the NL Central, it was easiest to directly move a single team from one division to the other. The Astros were also for sale and the move was entered as a stipulation into the purchase.
It seems a better move would have been to be patient, rather than rushing through the process, and move the Diamondbacks or Rockies to the AL West and the Astros to the NL West. This way no team loses their long history in their respective league and the Rangers would be able to maintain their cross league rivalry with the Astros. Every other city or state that has only two teams has one in each league (except Pennsylvania). This move will ruin that perfect dichotomy.
As far as the Indians go, we will have to see how the move plays out. It seems there is a benefit in a weak team like the Astros moving to the AL, where the Indians will play them more often. However, the Indians will probably play less games against the poor teams in the Central Division and will not be able to avoid National League powerhouses like the Phillies and Brewers.
Another thing to keep a lookout for is the designated hitter rule. With teams playing across league barriers all season long, American League pitchers will be constantly be forced to hit and National League teams will need to carry an extra bench player able to play as a DH. In the past the American League has dominated interleague play, winning more games every single season since 2004 and holding a .522 winning percent overall. This is most likely due to the fact that AL DH’s are far superior to the pinch hitters used by the National League while playing in AL stadiums. If NL teams have to pay for an extra player just to compete during the upcoming extended interleague play, they may change their ideas on whether or not they want a DH.
The Indians are in a pretty good position as far as this goes, since they have the perfect pinch hitter in Shelley Duncan. The Indians also have a pitcher who can hit in Josh Tomlin, who went 2-2 during 2011 with a run scored and an RBI. Ubaldo Jimenez and Derek Lowe each have a lot of experience hitting as well as they just came over from the National League.
Overall the Indians look to be pretty well set up for the new changes to come. The extra Wild Card team can only help as the Tribe is ready to compete now. A second Wild Card could possibly allow a non-AL East team to finally win a Wild Card. Rather than looking at this in a negative manner as most people seem to be doing, let’s keep an optimistic view on things and see how this all works out. You can’t fight Bud Selig, so for now we should just sit back and watch how this whole thing works out.