Houston Astros: Three reasons why a rivalry with the Red Sox is brewing

Houston Astros center fielder George Springer (Photo by Kathryn Riley/Getty Images)
Houston Astros center fielder George Springer (Photo by Kathryn Riley/Getty Images) /
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Houston Astros
Houston Astros pitcher Wade Miley (Photo by Kathryn Riley/Getty Images) /

Reason #1: It’s good for us

Houston needs an elite rival

What was one of the special things the Houston Astros had when they were in the National League? It was not just a rival, but a special rival. When the MLB had two divisions in each league from 1969-1993, one of the Houston Astros‘ main rivals were the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers were always a historic team and they got more iconic in the 1980s. Our first playoff appearance in 1980 would not have been possible had we lost to LA in the one-game playoff. Fast forward a year later and we had the first official NLDS (because 1981 had a player’s strike meaning two half seasons). The Dodgers overcame a 2-0 deficit to us and went on to win the World Series that year. Overall, the Houston Astros were 82-93 against the Dodgers in the eighties, but they always had tight battles with them. Take a look at a few of these seasons and recognize just how close (if you can call it that) these teams were from each other.

  • 1983 – Dodgers (91-71; 1st), Astros (85-77; 3rd)
  • 1984 – Astros (80-82; 3rd), Dodgers (79-83; 4th)
  • 1987 – Astros (76-86; 3rd), Dodgers (73-89; 4th)
  • 1989 – Astros (86-76; 3rd), Dodgers (77-83; 4th)

Then you throw in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the one team that stood out as a rival were definitely the Atlanta Braves. If it wasn’t for the Braves and their dynastic run of 14 straight division titles, the Houston Astros might have been the best team in the National League. But when you lose three times in the playoffs to the Braves from 1997-2001, it’s frustrating, but understandable because they were that good in that span.

So once the Houston Astros got by the Braves in 2004 and 2005, it led to another rivalry. Now take the teams in the NL Central with us and ask who was the Houston Astros main rival. Some might say the Chicago Cubs while others might throw in the Milwaukee Brewers, But to me and I think a lot of people, there was no question the St. Louis Cardinals were. When you have two iconic playoff series against the team that had Albert Pujols, Jim Edmonds, Scott Rolen, and Chris Carpenter, which was managed by Tony La Russa, you’re talking about a team that won three straight NL Central crowns, reached the World Series twice, and won it all in 2006.

What’s lacking?

I threw in a few teams that from a baseball landscape, you can say they are among the first ten teams one could name from the top of their head. That’s because they already have earned the right to be considered historical and elite franchises. The Houston Astros are not on the same level when it comes to iconic sports teams just yet. But the hope is they can be with more success in the years to come. What would help this franchise, I feel is building a rivalry with a team that has a national following, won multiple titles, and hails from a city where winning is becoming contagious.

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Who’s the Houston Astros biggest rival right now in the American League? For sure, the Texas Rangers. We had to put up with their superiority when the team first switched leagues. Now, the momentum is on our side and we like it that way. But while the Rangers are part of a big market in Dallas (Arlington that is), having a rivalry with them is like the Hatfield’s and McCoys. It can be brutal and ugly sometimes, but I don’t see this rivalry being good for baseball right now unless it reaches a level that it can be.

This means the Houston Astros need to have a focus of someone else being a rival. I think for the last few years, we have an answer in the Red Sox. It might be the unlikeliest of rivals, but when you look at the elements behind it, there can be an argument that a rivalry is there.