With a new CBA in baseball within reach, Bud Selig, MLB's commissioner announced that the Houston Astros would be moving to the AL by 2013, creating two 15-team leagues:
"It's a historical day," Selig told reporters at a press conference Thursday.
The players association had long wanted to have an equal number of teams in each league, and the Astros' impending sale to Houston businessman Jim Crane gave Selig the leverage to finally make that happen.
In return for reducing the price of the club by $80 million, Crane agreed to give up Houston's long-standing rivalries in the NL Central and move to the far-flung AL West. They will have a more natural in-state rival in the Texas Rangers, but they will also have to travel up and down the West Coast, two time zones behind Houston, to play the Oakland A's, Seattle Mariners and LA Angels.
The AL, with its bigger-market teams as well as the extra DH slot, is considered the more competitive league, which will make the Astros' rebuilding project all the more difficult. And while they will no longer have to contend with the St. Louis Cardinals, the Rangers and the Angels, two well-run franchises in huge markets, will present formidable long-term challenges for Houston's baseball staff.
With an odd number of teams in each league, interleague play will have to be expanded to a nearly year-round basis.
Selig also confirmed that there will now be two wild-card teams in each league, though he did not specify how the new post-season format would work.
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