Lance Berkman Says Commissioner "Extorted" Jim Crane Into Moving Astros To AL
MLB Cardinals 1B Lance Berkman said yesterday that Commissioner Bud Selig "'extorted' new Houston Astros owner Jim Crane into changing leagues as a precondition of the sale of the franchise in November," according to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com. MLB next year will switch from its current format of 16 NL teams and 14 AL clubs to a 15-15 configuration "in an effort to improve travel conditions and make for a fairer schedule, and the Astros were deemed the best choice to change leagues." Berkman, who played 12 years with the Astros, said, "I feel basically like the commissioner extorted Jim Crane into moving the Astros." Berkman "didn't back down when asked if he has conveyed those sentiments directly to Selig." He said that he "would be comfortable using the word 'extort' if he talks to the commissioner." Berkman: "That's exactly what it was. To tell (Crane), 'We're going to hold the sale of the team up until you guys agreed to switch?' It just happened that the Astros were being sold at an optimal time for that to happen." Crane said of the Astros' move, "I think it was a good deal for baseball. I think it was a good deal for our owners. Would we have preferred to stay in the National League? Probably, yeah. But that wasn't the deal that was presented to us." He added, "Lance can say what Lance wants to say. ... I wouldn't use that strong a term. I think it was just a business deal that got renegotiated" (ESPN.com, 3/20). Berkman said, "It makes a heck of a lot more sense for the Brewers to go back to the American League from a historical standpoint. Maybe not geographically, but it makes limited sense for the Astros to move from a geographic standpoint because they have the Rangers but then most of their away games are going to be starting at 9:30 p.m. Houston time." MLB Exec VP/Labor Relations & HR Rob Manfred yesterday on behalf of Selig said that there was "no dissent among the owners on the idea of moving the Astros to the AL" (CBSSPORTS.com, 3/20).