I must admit, in many ways, I'm going to miss the Silver Boot. I've certainly gotten a lot of mileage out of making subtle fun at the expense of the Boot in the Series Previews. The baseball fan in me maybe won't miss this bargained for and forced faux-rivalry between the Rangers and Astros. The humor fan in me will miss the absurdity of Tom Hicks trading away pressuring Bud Selig to move the Rangers out of the West for a home-and-home against Drayton McLane.
I think also it has been remarkably easy to make light of The Lone Star Series simply because the Rangers have done so well against the Astros. It probably also helps that the Rangers are two-time defending American League Champions and the Astros are long time contenders for worst team in baseball. Overall, the Rangers have a 37-29 record against Houston in the eleven years that the state of Texas has been torn apart by being forced to choose.
More importantly, however, the Rangers hold an 8-3 advantage in holding the Silver Boot. The only time the Astros have won the Boot in consecutive seasons was '02-'03 and Rangers fans have been spending this past decade doing all they can to forget those two seasons. The year the Astros went to the World Series, in 2005, the Rangers finished 79-83 and still won the Boot 4-2.
Just about the only time I've ever felt the twinge of sports-hate bubble up toward the Astros is when, while good the last few seasons, the Rangers still lost a game or more to the Astros. The Rangers lost twice to the Astros last season. Twice! That's not unacceptable because they are our rivals from Houston. That's unacceptable because they are the Astros and they are bad. However, both Hicks and McLane have been slain in the meantime, which is a victory for everyone of sorts.
So why is the novelty coming to an end? Well, it's all fun and Silver Boot odes until they join your league and try to beat you for your division instead of plated ceremonial footwear. Starting next season, the Astros will be members of the American League West. Carlos Lee might come back and be a DH. Astros pitchers will trade in the joys of not having to hit for the pain of not getting to face pitchers. The Rays might play a series in Houston in September that decides a Wild Card participant. Adrian Gonzalez is going to rap one up the hill. Yankees fans will show up at Minute Maid in droves for a late August series. The Astros might play the Mariners in a contest that has scoreboard watching significance. It's going to be weird for a while.
The Astros will actually be villains starting April 1 next season. It won't be about something as hilarious as a shoe made of precious metal anymore. It will be about beating a division foe. They won't be any different in our minds than the A's, Angels, or Mariners. Worse yet, just their presence in our division evens a playing field that had long slanted in favor of the Rangers simply by having only three teams to beat to reach the playoffs. It won't take long for it to not be weird. The first time the Rangers play the Astros next season and it has consequences on the standings of the West for both teams, it becomes no laughing matter.
At least we still have one more Lone Star Series. One final go-round for the Boot. One final year of being amused by the lack of legitimacy before it gets all too real. It helps knowing that the Rangers could lose all six games to the Astros this season and still win the overall Lone Star Series. It wouldn't help knowing that the Rangers lost six games to the bad Astros and the final Silver Boot.
Maybe just this one time, I actually want the Rangers to win the Silver Boot for the sake of winning the Silver Boot.
Friday, May 18 7:05: LHP Wandy Rodriguez vs. RHP Neftali Feliz
Saturday, May 19 6:15: RHP Lucas Harrell vs. LHP Derek Holland
Sunday, May 20 1:05: RHP Jordan Lyles vs. RHP Colby Lewis
Here's a breakdown of the pitching match-ups against the ultimate rival Houston Astros:
- Neftali Feliz: 3-1, 7.34 K/9, 4.26 BB/9, .206 BABIP, 81.1% LOB, 4.55 FIP, 4.63 xFIP, 0.4 WAR - Last three starts: 7 runs allowed in 17.0 innings
- Wandy Rodriguez: 3-3, 5.96 K/9, 2.15 BB/9, .232 BABIP, 76.3% LOB, 3.08 FIP, 3.64 xFIP, 1.1 WAR - Last three starts: 6 runs allowed in 22.0 innings
Advantage: Wandy Rodriguez being left-handed and good and getting to face Neftali Feliz as a hitter over Neftali Feliz still walking too many including probably walking Wandy Rodriguez.
- Derek Holland: 3-2, 7.55 K/9, 3.21 BB/9, .272 BABIP, 62.5% LOB, 3.18 FIP, 3.99 xFIP, 1.2 WAR - Last three starts: 6 runs allowed in 20.1 innings
- Lucas Harrell: 2-3, 4.40 K/9, 3.60 BB/9, .284 BABIP, 62.7% LOB, 3.84 FIP, 4.35 xFIP, 0.5 WAR - Last three starts: 7 runs allowed in 16.1 innings
Advantage: Derek Holland showing off his mustache to the National League over Lucas Harrell sounding like a made up name.
- Colby Lewis: 3-3, 8.13 K/9, 1.38 BB/9, .285 BABIP, 80.9% LOB, 4.86 FIP, 3.90 xFIP, 0.4 WAR - Last three starts: 14 (earned) runs allowed in 19.1 innings
- Jordan Lyles: 0-0, 6.75 K/9, 3.00 BB/9, .206 BABIP, 81.6% LOB, 5.72 FIP, 3.72 xFIP, -0.1 WAR - Last two starts (Lyles has only made two starts this season): 4 runs allowed in 12.0 innings
Advantage: Colby Lewis being reminded of his days of getting to hit in Japan over Jordan Lyles on the losing side of several Silver Boot battles which must weigh heavily on his mind.
Houston Astros (17-21, 4th Place NL Central)
Rangers 2011 Record vs. Houston: 4-2
Houston's Recent Results: 2-0 series sweep against the Milwaukee Brewers
Houston's Home Record: 12-8 (31-50 in 2011)
Minute Maid Park Park Factors (LHB/RHB): HR: 107/117 - wOBA: 102/100
SB Nation Astros Blog: The Crawfish Boxes
|Match-up: (as of 05/17)||Rangers||Astros||Advantage|
|Batting (RAR)||43.3 (2nd)||-12.5 (22nd)||Rangers|
|Base Running (RAR)||-0.2 (15th)||-4.5 (29th)||Rangers|
|Bullpen (RAR)||18.8 (2nd)||1.4 (25th)||Rangers|
|Defense (UZR)||15.9 (2nd)||9.1 (6th)||Rangers|
|Overall (UZR + RAR)||96.6||7.1||Rangers|
Questions to Answer:
- Are you sad that the irrelevancy of the Silver Boot will no longer be relevant once the Astros play the Rangers a million times every season? (I sure am.)
- Who is your pick to lead the Ranger pitchers in hits in this series? (I bet Colby sends one off the train.)
- Over/Under: 4.5 bunts performed by Rangers pitchers in this series?
- Are you ready for Jose Altuve to be a pesky Ranger killer for the next ten years?
- Should we warn The Crawfish Boxes about Halos Heaven or just sit back and enjoy the ride?