Astros to play ‘home’ series at Tropicana Field; Rangers criticized for declining series swap

ESPN News Service

The Astros will play their upcoming home series against the Rangers at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida, after the teams failed to agree to a scenario in which this week’s games would be played in Arlington, Texas.

Astros president Reid Ryan told reporters that the Rangers declined a proposed swap of dates that would have Houston host a series initially scheduled for Arlington in late September. Ryan’s revelation prompted widespread criticism of the Rangers on social media, including a harsh tweet by Astros pitcher Lance McCullers.

Major League Baseball announced the relocation of the Rangers-Astros series, which starts Tuesday, due to historic flooding in Houston from Hurricane Harvey. Ryan spoke to reporters shortly after MLB’s announcement Monday.

“We went to the Rangers and said, ‘Hey let’s switch series. You guys have our home series,'” Ryan said. “‘We’ll take your home series.’ They rejected that and didn’t want to do that. The Rangers wanted us to play the next three days at their place, but they did not want to trade series with us. They wanted all six of our games at their park.”

Texas general manager Jon Daniels told reporters in a conference call that the Rangers had concerns for their fans who had bought tickets to the Sept. 25-27 series. Further, if they had made that swap, the Rangers would have been on the road for four of the last five series of the season from Sept. 15 to Sept. 27.

“We didn’t feel it was right to give our fans 24 hours notice that their tickets in late September were now good this week,” Daniels said. “We were willing to play this series anywhere the Astros and MLB wanted, including here in Arlington.”

Daniels, however, emphasized that the Rangers were not “looking for a competitive advantage.”

“We were prepared to make the event all about hurricane relief and helping our neighbors,” he said. “It had nothing to do with looking for a competitive advantage. That’s an inaccurate portrayal.”

The Rangers offered to play this week’s series in Arlington while providing all revenue — minus expenses — to the Astros. Later Monday, Astros owner Jim Crane announced that he will donate $4 million to the relief efforts in Houston.

“We are committed to doing our part to provide aid and assistance to the thousands of Houston-area residents that are desperately in need right now,” Crane said in a statement. “We encourage others in our region and beyond to help out in any way that they can.”

Astros manager A.J. Hinch said the team flew to Tampa on Monday night and that their focus is on family and what’s going on in Houston more so than baseball and negotiations about where to play games.

“It’s somewhat irrelevant because of what’s going on in Houston. We need to focus on the right things,” Hinch told SportsCenter on Tuesday morning. “Obviously there’s a lot of emotion involved on a lot of fronts. … Obviously the baseball schedule is going to continue. We would have loved to have played in Arlington and switched series, but … we’re really going to go wherever people tell us to go.

“It sounds like there was a lot of debate on what to do. The right thing to do is really focus on the people back home and start the recovery when this relentless storm finishes. Until then, the emotion is going to come out. That’s the way the world works nowadays.”

Rangers outfielder Delino DeShields, who spent five seasons in the Astros organization, asked fans from both teams to stop bickering over the decision and focus instead on helping those affected by the devastating floods.

“I want people to understand that what is happening down there is way bigger than baseball,” Deshields said on Twitter. “I know the fans and families and friends who live in Houston are upset that baseball probably won’t be played in Houston this week along with the other cities down there.

“… Everyone wants to point fingers at each other calling each other names, that [the Rangers] are classless and nobody has respect for anybody. That’s BS. I have teammates and coaches who either one live down there or have family down there that are being affected by this. … But we want to call each other names and disrespect each other because of what? We are rivals? That’s so irrelevant right now and at this second I’m pretty disappointed at how people are reacting to this.”

The Astros will host “home” games far away from home in St. Petersburg — just as they did in the wake of Hurricane Ike in 2008 when they played two scheduled home games in Milwaukee.

The Associated Press reported that the Astros’ three-game home series against the New York Mets, which starts Friday, also will be played at Tropicana Field, but MLB said it has not yet determined a location for the Mets-Astros series.

If the Astros play both series in Florida, they will end up playing 19 straight games away from Houston, where the AL West leaders last played on Aug. 24. They begin a 10-game road trip after the Mets series.

Hinch said an effort is underway to get those families who haven’t been able to yet join the team to do so. That includes his wife and two daughters who are stranded at their house but haven’t been affected by the flooding.

“As soon as we can get [families] out, we’re going to get them with us and essentially have the families travel with us for the foreseeable future.

“I’m never going to tell a player not to worry about his family. Family is first. This baseball stuff is secondary. … This goes beyond being a manager; it’s just about being a human. Those who struggle with it, we’ll help them.”

Ryan said Minute Maid Park, despite some flooding on the service level, is in “good condition” and that a team of 30 people have been taking care of the facility.

“These guys have been doing great work over there,” Ryan told the Houston Chronicle on Monday. “It’s a lot of the people on our stadium operations crew. They’ve been working their tails off over there to make sure that the stadium is ready to go.”

MLB joined with the Major League Baseball Players Association in donating $1 million to the relief efforts in the Houston area, which is dealing with massive flooding after Hurricane Harvey made landfall on the Texas Gulf Coast south of the nation’s fourth-largest city.

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