A relocation of their three-game series this week was something the Texas Rangers and Houston Astros did not want, and such a measure is a rare occurrence in a sport that plays 4,860 games a season.
As recently as Sunday, the clubs were considering plans that would allow the games to be played at Minute Maid Park in flood-ravaged Houston, but that became next to impossible as the water levels kept rising.
Yes, playing the series at Globe Life Park was seriously considered Monday.
A swap of the series for the three-game series Sept. 25-27 in Arlington was a possibility. That one, though, was met with objections from the Rangers.
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In the end, Major League Baseball, with input from the Astros, decided to shift the series between American League West foes and in-state rivals to Tropicana Field, the domed home of the Tampa Bay Rays.
The decision was handed down around 2 p.m., and the Rangers were scheduled to depart at 8 p.m. The series will begin Tuesday, with a 6:10 CDT first pitch, and will be followed by a 6:10 p.m. game Wednesday and a 12:10 start Thursday.
“This is a small footnote relative to the big picture, real-life issues that are going on with our neighbors to the south in Houston and in the surrounding areas,” Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said.
“We talked about a variety of options with Major League Baseball and the Astros directly. As the visiting club, we’re kind of the third party to the final decision. The home team, ultimately, it’s their call.”
There were multiple factors for the game not being played in Arlington, Daniels said. The Rangers offered to host the games this week, staffing the ballpark and giving all the revenue to the Astros, who would have been the home team.
Daniels said that the threat of rain for at least one of the games played a role in the final decision, and all three games are certain to be played at Tropicana Field because of the roof.
The Astros might also be forced to play their weekend series against the New York Mets away from Minute Maid, and Tropicana Field is available if needed.
“We were open to doing it in the area,” Daniels said.
The Rangers weren’t as open to the idea of swapping series.
They didn’t want to be faced with a 12-game road trip at the end of the season when a playoff spot could be on the line. Also, the Rangers considered the effect a sudden swap would have on fans.
“I say that kind of cringing, honestly, because it pales in comparison to the true-life challenges that a lot of people are facing right now down there,” Daniels said. “But that would have been a real factor for us.”
The Astros are potentially facing a 21-day, 19-game road trip. They were to return home after three games at Anaheim to face the Rangers to open a six-game homestand before hitting the road for 12 games.
Daniels said that Rob Matwick, the Rangers’ executive vice president of baseball operations, was the Rangers’ representative with MLB and the Astros, whose leadership told him how grave things are in Houston and how difficult it would be to get employees to the ballpark to work the games.
Both Houston airports remained closed Monday, and the roads to the ballpark are impassable, as are the roads from the Rangers’ team hotel to the ballpark.
“I don’t know specifics, but I think it’s safe to assume the number of Astros staff that would have had to staff the game are dealing with much bigger issues as well,” Daniels said. “It didn’t make sense to further strain that group.”
The Rangers are scheduled to play three home games this weekend against the Los Angeles Angels and will donate their proceeds from the 50/50 Texas 2 Step raffle to the American Red Cross funds for victims of Harvey.
The series will be the fourth in club history played at a neutral ballpark. The Rangers opened the 2001 season against Toronto at Bithorn Stadium in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and played a three-game series with Montreal as the home team at the same ballpark in 2003.
Tampa Bay played host to the Rangers in a three-game series at Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex in 2007.
Rangers at Astros
(in St. Petersburg, Fla.)
6:10 p.m. Tuesday, FSSW, AT&T Sports Net