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November 17, 2011 at 10:34 AM

Will Astros move to AL West make things easier, or tougher on Mariners when it comes to making playoffs?

Many of you by now know that the Houston Astros will officially be moving to the AL West come 2013. That move was approved today, meaning the division will no longer be the only one in baseball with just four teams.

Some had suggested the four-team format gave the Mariners an easier route to the post-season, but that hasn’t really panned out the past decade.
So, will the incoming Astros make it a more difficult task? Tough to say.
Mathematically, it should be tougher to make the playoffs in a five-team division. But then again, the Astros are the worst team in baseball and the M’s will get to play them 18 or 19 times per season.
Photo Credit: AP

Those extra games could be enough to push the Mariners beyond the realm of a .500 team, if indeed that’s what they are by 2013. Ah, but let’s not forget that the rest of the AL West will also get to play those same Astros.
So, it would appear that winning the division outright won’t become any easier simply by having the Astros around to beat up on.
Then again, MLB appears ready to introduce a second wild card team in each league in conjunction with the Astros move. Now, that could be interesting. Because those extra 18 or 19 games against a really bad baseball team could indeed be what the M’s need to propel them past the usual wild card suspects in both the AL East and AL Central.
But let’s not overlook one thing.
The Astros may be bad right now. But it wasn’t so long ago that they were considered one of the premier franchises in the National League. They were in the World Series back in 2005 and had some near misses prior to that.
And now, they have a new owner coming into the picture. And we all know what new ownership means, right? It usually means spending money. We just saw that in this division with the Texas Rangers the past 14 months or so. The incoming Astros owner, Jim Crane, reportedly had about $65 million knocked off the sale price of the team so that he’d agree to move to the AL. That’s some good pocket money to have lying around for a rainy day purchase.
Throw some bucks into the equation, along with all of those high draft picks and prospect-laden trade returns the Astros have been scoring and there’s no guarantee they’ll remain this bad for very long.
What’s the conclusion we can draw from all this?
There’s no real way to tell whether the road to the playoffs for the Mariners just got tougher or easier.
But it’s probably safe to assume it just got a little more expensive.



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