Wednesday, July 12, 2006

NL Wants Rangers Out of All-Star Game

Tuesday night it appeared that the National League would finally break its All-Star Game drought. The NL needed one more out from Padres closer Trevor Hoffman to finish off a 2-1 victory. However, Texas shortstop Michael Young dashed the NL’s hopes with a two-run triple to rally the American League to a 3-2 triumph. Afterwards, the NL was united in its desire to ban Rangers from the All-Star Game.

Ever since 2003, Texas has been a thorn in the side of the NL during the midsummer classic. That year, the commissioner’s office proclaimed, “This time it counts,” admitting that the first 73 editions of the midsummer classic were a waste of everyone’s time. Ranger third baseman Hank Blaylock went on to smack an eighth-inning homer off Eric Gagne to rally the AL to a 7-6 victory. It was only fitting that home field in the World Series was determined by someone from a club in the midst of its fourth consecutive last-place finish.

In 2004, Texas second baseman Alfonso Soriano won MVP honors with a three-run dinger off Roger Clemens as the AL cruised 9-4. Soriano was the first All-Star Game MVP from the Rangers since 1990, when a 60-year-old Julio Franco accomplished the feat. Last year, Texas first baseman Mark Teixeira smacked a two-run homer off Dontrelle Willis during the AL’s 7-5 win. Willis had been known to struggle against switch-hitters whose names were difficult to spell.

Noticing a trend, National League clubs decided to enhance the senior circuit’s chances by bringing Rangers to their side. During the off-season, the Washington Nationals traded for Soriano. Skeptics claimed that he would upset clubhouse chemistry by refusing to play the outfield. Also, as a well-known individual moving from Texas to Washington, many observers expected him to invade a foreign country. However, Soriano silenced the critics with a strong first half that earned him the lead-off spot in the NL lineup on Tuesday. Less successful in acquiring a Ranger were the Brewers, as Walker, Texas Ranger has been a bust in Milwaukee.

The NL did feel that playing Tuesday’s contest in Pennsylvania would offset the power of the Rangers. The NL’s last All-Star victory came in Philadelphia in 1996. All-time, the NL had been 7-1 in the Keystone State, including 4-0 in Pittsburgh. If the NL had held on to win Tuesday night, it likely would have requested that next year’s All-Star Game be moved from San Francisco to Scranton. After that, the National League would have urged major league baseball to follow the lead of Little League and hold its showcase summer event in Williamsport every year.

However, the NL’s hopes were once again dashed by a Texas infielder, as Young earned MVP honors with his clutch hit. In response, NL teams have joined together in their request to ban Rangers from the midsummer classic. They point out that despite being in existence since 1961 (originally as the Washington Senators), the Rangers have never played in the World Series. Therefore, they should not be allowed to decide home field advantage until they actually participate in the Fall Classic. One NL owner drew a parallel, noting, “If Skybar won’t let you in the door, you don’t get to decide what martinis they serve.”

Unlike most AL clubs, Texas actually had a losing record in interleague play. However, next July in San Francisco, the National League wants to avoid the Rangers at all costs. Unfortunately for the NL, most observers expect commissioner Bud Selig to allow the Rangers to participate. If so, rather than “This time it counts,” the game's slogan will be “Don’t mess with Texas.”