Houston Astros to move to AL West in 2013
By SPORTS NETWORK
|Houston Astros Chris Johnson (R) gets high fives in the dugout after hitting a two run home run in the ninth inning off Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Frank Francisco in their MLB baseball interleague game in Toronto May 20, 2011. (REUTERS/Fred Thornhill)
MILWAUKEE, WISC. - Major League Baseball has approved the sale of the Houston Astros to a group headed by Jim Crane, and also announced that the longtime National League franchise will move to the American League West for the 2013 season.
Baseball owners, meeting in Milwaukee, approved the sale unanimously. It is expected to officially close sometime next week.
Drayton McLane reached an agreement to sell the club to Crane in May for a reported $680 million. However, the decision to switch leagues may have lowered the sale price, as MLB.com reported the transaction to be $610 million.
"I welcome Jim Crane and his group as they prepare to become the new stewards of the Astros," Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement Thursday. "I thank them for their patience and determination throughout a long but necessary process, which allowed us to accomplish our due diligence. The enthusiasm of Jim and his group will serve the Astros and their fans very well in the years ahead."
The move from the NL Central to the AL West will balance both leagues with 15 teams apiece, and all six divisions will feature five teams. It will also give Houston a natural rivalry with the Texas Rangers, but will also necessitate the need for interleague play throughout the season.
Houston had been part of the National League since its expansion season of 1962, when the team was first known as the Colt .45s.
McLane had purchased the Astros in 1992 for $117 million.
The Astros made the playoffs six times during McLane's ownership tenure and reached the World Series for the first and only time in 2005, losing to the Chicago White Sox.
"I congratulate Drayton McLane on his 19 years of leadership of the Houston Astros, a franchise in which he has rightfully taken great pride," Selig added. "Drayton's ownership produced six postseason berths, the club's first National League pennant, a ballpark that is among the finest in the sport, and many contributions that have impacted the communities of Houston and throughout his home state of Texas. On behalf of Major League Baseball, I thank Drayton for his service to our game and I wish him and his family all the best."
The Astros have failed to reach the postseason since their World Series appearance and have struggled to sub-.500 marks in each of the past three seasons, including a franchise-worst 56-106 mark in 2011.
Crane had previously attempted to purchase the Chicago Cubs in 2009 and the Texas Rangers in 2010.
Houston's move to the AL West will become official after a new collective bargaining agreement is ironed out. A deal with the union is expected to be announced soon, possibly as early as next week.
The division realignment will be the first for Major League Baseball since Milwaukee moved from the American League Central to the National League Central for the start of the 1998 season.