Major League Baseball’s Houston Astros will switch from the National League to the American League as soon as 2013, a stipulation to which the team’s incoming owners agreed, MLB said Thursday.
And Commissioner Bud Selig said baseball may soon expand its playoffs by adding a second wild-card spot to each league, MLB.com reported. But an MLB spokesman said that any potential postseason change is subject to negotiations on a new labor deal between baseball and the players’ union.
News about the Astros came as MLB team owners approved the team’s sale from Drayton McLane to a group led by Houston businessman Jim Crane. The deal was approved Thursday at the owners’ quarterly meetings in Milwaukee.
The league switch – which was a condition of the sale – will put the Astros in the American League West, the same division as the intrastate rival and defending American League champion Texas Rangers.
It also will give the leagues an equal number of teams – 15 each – for the first time since the Milwaukee Brewers moved from the American League to the National League in 1998.
Each of MLB’s six divisions will have five teams each when the move happens. Houston is currently one of six teams in the National League Central; its future division, the American League West, has four.
“There was a goal to have two 15-team leagues, and there were many reasons – logistical, competitive and otherwise – why this decision was in the game's best interest,” MLB spokesman Michael Teevan said in an e-mail. “An intradivision rivalry between the Astros and Rangers is one of them.”
The Astros franchise has been in the National League since it joined MLB as the Colt .45s in 1962.
Crane’s group initially opposed a league switch. But “it was made clear to us that anybody who owned the team would move to the American League,” Crane said at a news conference Thursday. “We sat down with baseball and Drayton, and we were able to come to a deal.”
MLB.com reported that for agreeing to the switch, Crane’s group effectively received a $70 million reduction from the $680 million purchase price. Crane said that the “money reported so far is fairly accurate.”
“This is a dream come true for us, and it’s been a lot of fun getting it done,” Crane said.
McLane, who has owned the Astros for 19 years, said he is selling the team for estate reasons, according to MLB.com.
Selig said Major League Baseball could soon expand the postseason by two teams, meaning 10 of MLB’s 30 teams would make the playoffs, according to MLB.com.
But Teevan said that no postseason changes have been finalized.
“Any potential changes remain subject to collective bargaining, which is ongoing,” Teevan said.