We all knew that the Texas Rangers and the Houston Astros would be in the playoffs, right? The obvious domination that the two Texas teams would have over the world of Major League Baseball was apparent from a mile off, so it’s clear that all of the behind-the-scenes bickering—especially up in Arlington—has been in the works for some time, correct?
No, of course not! Like most people, we predicted that the Astros and the Rangers would be terrible this year. But all jokes aside, what’s going on in Arlington right now? Because for a team that won the AL West and is about to host a playoff game, the Rangers are looking pretty petty these days.
For much of the season the Astros held a grip on first place in the division, which they celebrated with an Astros-themed “Come and Take It” flag. After some backsliding in September, they found themselves alternating between second and third place until a strong conclusion to the season—bolstered by the Rangers splitting their series against the Los Angeles Angels—secured the ‘stros a spot in Tuesday night’s wildcard game against the New York Yankees.
Lest the Astros forget about the Rangers’ first-place showing as they prepare for their life-or-death matchup, the team rolled this out: a mock-up of the Astros flag (with the same bat in place of the cannon) that read, “We Came and Took It.”
The rivalry between the Astros and the Rangers in the AL West is roughly one month old—or as long as both teams have been playing relevant ball in the division late into the season—which makes the mockery a bold choice. It’s not like the Cowboys trolling a decades-long nemesis in the Eagles, or UT taking shots at OU, anyway. But a cross-state rivalry is good for Texas baseball. It’s a lot more fun to see the Rangers and the Astros passionate about the game than playing out the string, and should both teams manage to survive to the ALCS, the Rangers’ late-season trolling will make things all the more entertaining.
But aside from the kinda funny ribbing, the Rangers seem to be pretty defensive—the team banned a t-shirt from the stadium because it has the Dallas skyline on it.
The Rangers’ place in North Texas has been the subject of some speculation lately. Specifically, why did the team have so much trouble selling tickets to relevant ballgames late in the season, when the cost to watch them clinch the division against the Angels was as little as $6? Fans argued that it was because the game was on a weeknight, or that they were waiting for the playoffs to begin, or they had their hearts broken in 2011 and weren’t willing to commit again—but even now, with the playoffs in swing, watching the Rangers-Blue Jays series in Texas costs roughly half (tickets for Monday night’s game four start at $52 on StubHub) of what it does to see the first two games in Canada (with Thursday night’s game one at $99 for the cheap seats).
Maybe that speculation is why the team refused to sell the MLB-designed t-shirts celebrating the club’s first-place finish. Each division winner got a t-shirt to sell at the stadium and online that reads “The [Division] Is Ours,” in a bold font with the home city skyline behind it. That looked good in the AL East, with the city of Toronto behind a Blue Jay logo, or in the NL Central, where the St. Louis Arch sits in the backdrop of a shirt announcing the Cardinals’ continued dominance. But when it came time to celebrate the Rangers, the league opted to place the Dallas skyline behind the logo.
This is the puzzling postseason Rangers shirt for a team that plays in Arlington and Tarrant County. Dallas skyline? pic.twitter.com/P2P1q5zDBB
— Anthony Andro (@aandro) October 5, 2015
That apparently stuck in the craw of the folks over in Arlington, who presumably would have preferred to see a skyline dominated by Six Flags’ Texas Giant and the Black Hole waterslide, or maybe the Cowboys Stadium, on their t-shirts. Whatever the Rangers organization wanted to see, though, it wasn’t Bank of America Plaza and Reunion Tower:
Rangers officials, well aware of regional sensitivities, were surprised when they opened the boxes on Sunday afternoon. Clubs are not privy to the designs of the T-shirts and don’t see them until they are opened, club spokesman John Blake said.
The T-shirts were sold at the park on Sunday until inventories ran out. The club made the decision not to restock the particular T-shirt at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Several other designs – which don’t feature any skylines – will be available.
The skyline shirt isn’t available on the Rangers’ website, either, making them the only division winner in baseball to not offer apparel in the design. It’s a curious decision to willfully alienate fans in the largest city in the metropolitan area, but apparently they take this stuff pretty seriously in Arlington—a city that definitely wants you to know that it has its own identity. We’ll assume that, like the pre-printed apparel celebrating the losing teams of championship games, the collection of “The West Is Ours” t-shirts pulled from shelves are currently being donated to developing countries, where people can sport them along with their “Texas Rangers 2011 World Series Champions” caps.
If the chance to see a team that seems to be taking winning rather poorly isn’t enough to get you to pony up your $52 on StubHub for a nosebleed postseason seat, though, might you be enticed by a hot dog? Not just any old hot dog, mind you—the culinary mad scientists in Arlington have cooked up a curious confection to celebrate the playoffs: The Cotton Candy Hot Dog.
If those words don’t make sense to you in that order, worry not. Here’s what you’re in for:
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) October 5, 2015
“Cotton candy-infused mustard” is maybe one of the least appetizing concepts ever introduced, but adding a little bit of sticky-sweet to a savory product isn’t inherently ill-advised (witness ketchup, BBQ sauce, etc.). So maybe these are delicious? We’re open to that possibility, at the very least—but if you want to find out, you will have to go to Arlington, not Dallas. In Dallas, there is no baseball joy to be found, and it’s very important to our friends in Arlington that you know that.