With all the discussion about the benefits and negatives of the Astros moving to the American League, it seems to me another option is being completely ignored. Given the talent and experience of the team that it appears the Astros will be fielding in 2012 and 2013, it would be prudent for Jim Crane/Drayton McClane/et. al. to have discussions with the Japanese Pacific League about a two year foreign exchange program.
Admittedly, there would be special travel logisitics involved if the Astros joined the likes of the Orix Buffaloes and the Soft Bank Hawks for a few seasons. However, if the Sugarland Skeeters can be in the ATLANTIC League, then anything is possible.
A few highlights of THE BAD NEWS ASTROS GO TO JAPAN (2012-13):
The Yu Darvish Factor- Picture this: Opening Night 2012 in the Sapporo Dome. The Astros take on the Ham Fighters in the first game of an historic four game series. I'd be up at 4:30 a.m. (Minute Maid Park Time) just to watch Yu Darvish's first pitch to Jose Altuve(who wouldn't seem all that short in Japan) for the Ham Fighters. If you don't know who Yu Darvish is check out this scouting report from ntn at Crawfish Boxes. Please note Darvish may actually be headed to the Major Leagues after 2011.
Breathing Orange Fire!-Nothing against "We are Your Astros", but Japanese baseball slogans are usually awesome or hilarious or both, especially by comparison. The Astros marketing department will fit right in with their Japanese counterparts if they pull out this oldie but goodie for the 2012 campaign.
Can Ichiro come along?- For scheduling ease, it would be best for another team to join the Astros on their Far East Adventure. With Ichiro Suzuki nearing 38 years of age, it would be ideal for the Mariners to give him a chance to play a few seasons in his homeland before he retires.
Corporate tie-ins galore- With all the travel that will be involved in this venture, it doesn't take much imagination to hear the Minute Maid Park announcer saying "The starting lineup for your Continental/United Airlines Houston Astros.
New angles for the Houston media- I'd read about Zach Levine's adventures getting lost in Shinjuku train station, or Brian McTaggart's exclusive interviews with the sumo grand champion. Of course, who wouldn't read Alyson Footer's blog about the varities of sushi, nato, and soba noodles at Chiba Stadium.
Inter-league Play- Fear not lovers of inter-league play, Japan has it too. If the schedule falls right,Minute Maid Park could host the Tokyo Yomiuri Giants, who brought the world Sadaharu Oh and Hideki Matsui. Better yet, the club could play a series at Osaka's historic Koshien Stadium against the Central League's Hanshin Tigers.