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Angels among clubs not thrilled with moving the Astros to AL West

MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL

Owners on Thursday are expected to approve the sale of the National League Central team, which would switch leagues in 2013 to achieve six balanced divisions, but the Angels offer several reasons why they are lukewarm on the idea.

November 16, 2011|By Mike DiGiovanna
  • Major League Baseball agreed to approve the sale of the Houston Astros to businessman Jim Crane only after he agreed to move the team to the American League.
Major League Baseball agreed to approve the sale of the Houston Astros to… (David J. Phillip / Associated…)

Reporting from Milwaukee — A national baseball writer tweeted Wednesday that "there is some opposition to [new Houston Owner Jim] Crane from American League West teams not wanting the Astros in the division."

To which another writer in the work room at the general managers/owners meetings responded, "What's not to like? You get to play the Astros 18 times."

When owners gather at the Pfister Hotel on Thursday, they are expected to approve Crane's $680-million purchase of the Astros from Drayton McLane.

As part of that agreement, Houston will move from the National League Central to the American League West in 2013.

The realignment will create three five-team divisions in each league and a more balanced schedule. Teams are expected to play 72 games — 18 each — against division opponents, 60 against teams in their league's other two divisions and 30 interleague games.

It will also require interleague play throughout the season.

The move would seem to benefit the Angels and other AL West teams to play 18 games a year against the Astros. Houston had a record of 56-106 last season, traded its best player, outfielder Hunter Pence, to Philadelphia and appears several years away from playoff contention.

"I don't look at it that way," said Angels President John Carpino, who is filling in for Arte Moreno at the owners' meetings. "Every team goes through ups and downs, and in three or four years the Astros could look different.

Carpino didn't say he's opposed to the Astros' move, but he is clearly lukewarm on the idea.

The Astros are not a natural draw in Anaheim, and Carpino doesn't like having to travel two time zones away to play another division opponent.

He also doesn't like the way interleague play will be sprinkled throughout the schedule, saying, "We could have our pitchers at risk because some series they're hitting, some they're not."

Carpino preferred a more dramatic realignment that would put the Angels in a division with the Dodgers, San Diego, San Francisco and Oakland.

The Rangers and Astros, Carpino said, could share a division with Arizona, Colorado and Seattle. In the Northeast, Carpino would put the New York Yankees and New York Mets, Boston, Baltimore and Washington in a division.

"If you're going to look at realignment, then why don't we really look at it?" Carpino said. "Let's look at natural rivalries and what makes geographical sense. Does throwing the Astros in the AL West solve the real issues except making two 15-team leagues?"

Nolan Ryan, Texas Rangers president and chief executive, likes the move, for obvious reasons.

"I like having them in our division because it gives us another team in our time zone," Ryan said. "We're disadvantaged that way, because so many of our games start at 9 p.m., and it hurts our TV ratings. And if both teams are competitive, I think it will create a good rivalry within the state."

Billy Beane, general manager of the struggling Oakland Athletics, doesn't see much benefit to playing more games against Houston. The Astros have had three consecutive losing seasons, but reached the World Series in 2005.

"That's very short sighted, because things could change," Beane said. "What's more a concern for us is how big and how competitive a franchise you are. Right now, everyone is bigger than us."

Joe Torre, MLB's executive vice president of baseball operations, played and managed in both leagues. He believes moving from the NL to the AL is more difficult than an AL-to-NL move.

"There's more offense in the AL, and you have to be ready," Torre said. "In the NL, you're basically pitching to seven hitters, because with the pitcher following the No. 8 hitter, most of the time you don't have to throw the No. 8 hitter a strike. In the AL, pitchers have to face nine guys."

Carpino is struggling to get his arms around this realignment plan but acknowledged fans could embrace it.

"It's not that we're opposed to it — we don't have all the particulars to cast judgment," Carpino said. "But if it's good for Angels fans and baseball, we're for it."

mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

twitter.com/MikeDiGiovanna

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