Major League Baseball told Houston businessman Jim Crane it would not approve his purchase of the Astros unless he agreed to move the team to the American League, The Associated Press has learned.
Crane was forced to agree to move the sale along, a person familiar with the negotiations said Wednesday on condition of anonymity because no official announcement has been made by MLB or the Astros. Approval of the sale could be announced as early as Thursday at a meeting of baseball executives in Milwaukee.
Crane reportedly agreed to the move in exchange for a drop in the sales price valued earlier this year at $680 million. The person who spoke to the AP could not confirm the sales price.
The MLB Players Association believes two 15-team leagues would create a more proportionate schedule and has urged baseball to make the switch. With schedules for next season already completed, the earliest such a move could take place is 2013.
Time is running out for approval of the deal: Crane has said that his offer, which was announced on May 16 expires Nov. 30.
An MLB spokesman did not immediately return messages seeking comment, though Commissioner Bud Selig addressed an Astros' move during a Twitter chat on Monday.
"For 15/15 realignment, Houston would be the team moving to AL West. Would create more fairness in baseball," Selig tweeted via the Colorado Rockies Twitter feed. He also added that "15 teams in each league would necessitate interleague play every day but it will be better schedule overall."
The Astros currently play in the six-team NL Central. The AL West is the only league in the majors with four teams (Rangers, Angels, Athletics and Mariners).
The Astros would be in a division with in-state rival Texas. But fans are unhappy that the other three teams are all on the West Coast, meaning many road games would routinely end past midnight Central time.
DODGERS SAY FOX INTERFERING: The Los Angeles Dodgers are complaining that Fox Sports is illegally trying to interfere with efforts to sell the team and it assets, including media rights to future games.
Dodgers attorneys filed a complaint Wednesday in Delaware bankruptcy court saying Fox attorneys violated the automatic halt to litigation against a debtor in bankruptcy by sending a letter to the Dodgers' financial adviser.
GIBSON, MADDON NAMED TOP MANAGERS
Kirk Gibson took a tough-guy approach. So much so, he brought three Navy SEALs to spring training.
The SEALs wrote D, W and I on a board. The letters stood for a sense of purpose, not a traffic offense: "Deal With It."
"They bought into it," said Gibson, voted the NL Manager of the Year on Wednesday after the guiding the Arizona Diamondbacks to a worst-to-first finish.
Joe Maddon took a different tact. After Tampa Bay lost its first six games, he proclaimed with a great flourish that this team was the best 0-6 club in baseball history.