Give it a couple of weeks, but when September arrives for the baseball stretch run, the hissing and moaning will begin.Listen for it coming out of the AL East. Listen for it in Cleveland.It will sound like this: Hooo-ston.Throw in a few bleeps, add some dog-cussing of Bud Selig, mix in a little hooting at the “success” of the Texas Rangers and the Oakland A’s this season, and it’s a guarantee all of that will surround the Hooo-ston hiss and moan.Obviously, you know why.Wild-card playoff spots will be up for grabs. Best record in the league will determine home-field advantage in the postseason.There’s a fierce and balanced battle going on in the AL East, with four teams still hanging for the divisional title. Outside of Oakland, the fight for the two wild-card spots involves East teams, plus Cleveland from the Central.Those teams think the Rangers and the A’s are where they are mainly because of five months feasting on a Triple A product from down south in Mosquitoville.And the harsh feeling will center on Commissioner Selig giving the Rangers and A’s the gift that keeps on giving by moving the gawd-awful Astros, losers of 100-plus games the past two seasons, into the AL West for this season. Another season of 100 Ls is on the way.The Rangers are 21 games over .500 going into Friday road contest against the White Sox. Meanwhile, they are a staggering 14-2 vs. the Astros, and in the past two weeks have gone 7-0 on Houston.The A’s are showing some slippage of late, but a 12-3 record vs. Houston gives them a cushion even with the slippage.So when the Hooo-ston hiss and moan begins from other AL precincts, the logical and only comeback from the Rangers will be, “Beat who you are supposed to beat, bro, and otherwise, stick it.”Actually, the Astros for the most part have been amazingly competitive against the Rangers this season, particularly with their starting pitching over the past two weeks. But when it came down to winning time in those games, Houston simply didn’t get the W.Bad teams have bad bullpens. That’s always a given. The Astros may have the worst bullpen in the history of baseball. The Rangers wait out the starting pitchers and then bring out the fangs on that bullpen.The talk in the Rangers clubhouse this week centered on high praise for the collection of good young arms in the Houston rotation. Four of the five starters are considered double-plus prospects based on what I was told.“The owner down there needs to get off his wallet and spend some money for some veteran bullpen guys next season,” said one Rangers voice. “Those kid starters have a future, but they are being beaten up mentally by pitching well and never getting a win out of it. That’s a shame for them, but, yeah, good for us, I guess.”I’d guess he’s right. At least for this season.But with all the Hooo-ston hooting that is bound to come in September, one thing the Rangers can’t escape is what happens when the AL West isn’t their playground.The Rangers are a dominant 41-16 in divisional play. They have a losing record otherwise.It’s 13-17 vs. East, 10-13 vs. the Central and 10-7 vs. the National League.In the World Series years, neither time did the Rangers have a losing record outside the division. This team is not as good as the World Series clubs, but it also doesn’t appear the American League of this season is overall as strong as 2010 and 2011.Before the Hooo-ston hiss and moan begins next month, I’d also suggest that all evidence used against the Rangers and the A’s be examined closely.The evidence will show Houston is as bad — not worse — as we all expected at the start of the season.The blame for the current state of the AL West goes really to the LA Angels, not Houston. The division lost deep competitive balance when the Angels lost their way, or actually, never found their way.That’s the most gutless team in baseball at the moment. Total quit job. The Rangers, by the way, are 10-2 so far against Josh and his Orange County mess, and that record came before the Angels shut it down.Seattle, meanwhile, remains spunky, coming in here and winning two of three from the Rangers last weekend, then going to Oakland and winning two of three.The A’s don’t appear to have any advantage in trying to catch the Rangers, particularly since the Rangers have seven games remaining against the Angels compared to six for Oakland.Head-up, the Rangers and A’s have six games left, with three games each against the Astros. The team both want to avoid is spunky, spunky Seattle. The Rangers (9-7 vs. Mariners so far) wrap up the season series next week in Seattle.But the A’s, with a losing record (6-10) against the Mariners, are in Seattle for the final three games of the regular season.There is no denying the Astros have been an AL West gift this season for the two clubs that took advantage of Houston’s Triple A status. There’s no denying the Rangers have a losing record outside the division.But with postseason spots and postseason positioning on the line in September, the hiss and moan from the rest of the league should be mostly directed Anaheim way.
Randy Galloway can be heard 3-6 p.m. weekdays on Galloway & Co. on ESPN/103.3 FM. Randy Galloway, 817-390-7697 Twitter: @sportsdfw