The Houston Astros will not be moving to American League if the new Jim Crane ownership group has anything to say about it.
That's what a source close to the group tells CultureMap in the wake of a wildly speculative Saturday that brought a slew of stories on the Astros possibly moving to the AL if Major League Baseball realigns. It all started with a report from ESPN's Buster Olney in which two anonymous "highly ranking executives" cited the Astros as the most likely team to jump from the National League to the American League under a plan that put 15 teams in each league rather than the current 16 to 14/NL to AL split.
"Jim is a businessman first, but he's also a traditionalist in many ways," the ownership group source tells CultureMap. "He's a pitcher (in college) and he loves the National League game. He grew up in St. Louis. This is not something he's looking for. This group certainly didn't buy the team with the intention of it becoming an American League franchise."
Crane's group still needs to be formally approved by MLB — with sources continuing to tell CultureMap that the official nod should come around June 28 — and as Olney pointed out in a tweet, Bud Selig could theoretically make switching leagues a condition of purchase, but that's a highly unlikely scenario, according to CultureMap's source.
"You don't spend $680 million on something and have a third-party come in an dictate new terms after the agreement's been ironed out," the ownership group source says. "Even Major League Baseball. These are extremely complicated deals. A lot of work goes into them. They are not something you can just go in and change in that significant of a manner."
While a move to the American League might create a natural rivalry with the Texas Rangers as many stories have suggested, the gates brought in by AL powers like the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox making regular appearances at Minute Maid Park would actually be the more financially attractive part of a league switch. CultureMap's source says that would be more than negated by having to compete in the often bigger-dollar world of AL baseball however.
Crane has not commented on AL speculation himself yet, but when he talked to CultureMap after his introductory news conference he cited the NL San Francisco Giants and the way they built through homegrown pitching as something of a model franchise.
CultureMap previously broke the story of who Jim Crane's high-powered business partners in the new ownership group are. These include Kinder Morgan co-founder Bill Morgan and Hines real estate empire CEO Jeff Hines, highly successful business tycoons who would have their own strong feelings on any Astros' league switch.
But what do you think? Do you agree with the Jim Crane ownership group's NL preference or would you like to see the Astros make a big leap to the other league?