Report: Rangers refused to swap home series with Astros

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We learned on Monday that, as a result of Hurricane Harvey devastating a large part of Texas including the Houston area, the upcoming Astros-Rangers series has been moved to St. Petersburg, Florida where the Rays play.

As the Rangers and Astros play one more series in late September in Arlington, one possibility was for the two clubs to swap hosting duties. The Rangers would host Tuesday through Thursday’s games while Houston would host September 25-27. The Rangers declined to do that, Fox 26’s Mark Berman reports. Astros president Reid Ryan said:

You’ve got a major storm that’s disrupted everything. We went to the Rangers and said, ‘Hey, let’s switch series. You guys have our home series. 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. The fact that the Rangers refused to go home and home with us, we had to look at all of the options that were out there. We had to look at our players’ best interest and we had to look at the integrity of the schedule.

Once this conversation was made public on Monday, the Rangers were thoroughly raked over the coals on social media. But the story is a bit more complex than it appears at first blush.

The Rangers and Astros are rivals and not just because they share the state of Texas and vie for dominance in the Lone Star State. They’ve been rivals since interleague play began in 1997 and it deepened when the Astros moved from the NL Central to the AL West in 2013. The two clubs had a benches-clearing incident earlier this year. Astros manager A.J. Hinch said it’s “one of the more underrated rivalries in baseball.”

Both teams’ front offices, like the players, don’t care for their rivals, either. So Ryan jumped on the opportunity to use the Astros’ turmoil as a way to make the rival Rangers look bad in the public eye.

The Rangers did have legitimate concerns. While the Astros are all but mathematically assured of winning the AL West, the 64-66 Rangers are three games behind the Twins for the second AL Wild Card slot in the American League. Going on the road to Houston from September 25-27 would extend their road trip to nearly two whole weeks. They will have been in Los Angeles to play the Angels, in Seattle to play the Mariners, and in Oakland to play the Athletics. Tacking on three additional road games at the end of a lengthy road trip against the AL’s best team could have a serious impact on the Rangers’ playoff chances.

Should that have obscured the real life implications of Hurricane Harvey? No, of course not. But the people that make up the Rangers’ front office were brought in to win baseball games, and sometimes people get tunnel vision in order to achieve a specific goal. This isn’t to make any excuses; it’s just human nature. Ryan attributed malice when there very likely was not any (Hanlon’s razor) and used that opportunity to maliciously spite the Rangers via the media. In the end, both teams look bad.

Report: Twins sign Erick Aybar to minor-league deal

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The Twins have reportedly signed free agent shortstop Erick Aybar to a minor-league deal,¬†LaVelle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune¬†reported Friday. FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman adds that the deal comes with a potential $1.25 million if Aybar reaches the majors, with additional incentives based on plate appearances. He’ll be able to opt out on March 27. The team has yet to confirm the signing.

Aybar, 34, is now four years removed from his career year in 2014. He’s been in a state of steady decline since then, slashing just .234/.300/.348 with seven home runs and 11 stolen bases over 370 plate appearances for the Padres in 2017. His poor performance wasn’t helped by a fractured left foot, either, which cost him almost six weeks on the disabled list.

Still, the Twins see something promising in the veteran infielder, and reportedly intend to use him as another utility option this spring. Per Neal, Aybar will join fellow backup infielders Eduardo Escobar and Ehire Adrianza and may even (temporarily) take over for Miguel Sano at third base if Sano isn’t able to shape up for the role by Opening Day.