Bud Selig is playing hard ball with Jim Crane and the Houston Astros.
A lot has been written about the Houston Astros' ownership situation. Some have suggested that Bud Selig is extorting Jim Crane. Others suggest he is doing his due diligence. Maury Brown of Business of Baseball has been following the sale from beginning to end. In this article, he suggests that the deal may be approved or not approved in November. As it turns out, that might be pushing the issue right to the breaking point.
I spoke with a club official who confirmed that Jim Crane inserted a clause in the agreement that dictates that the agreement is off if the sale is not approved by November 30th. So, the owners cannot delay this beyond November. MLB is a multi-billion dollar industry. It is impossible that they don't know that this clause in the contract.
Maury Brown's article points out that there is a lot more going on here than simply a desired move to the American League West. Crane has been accused of many things in the past. Included in these, are several charges with Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and some unfair business practices during the war in Iraq. It is important to note that the majority of those accusations have remained accusations. Maury Brown has been at the forefront of making sure everyone is aware of them and he references all of them in the articles he writes for Business of Baseball.
The long and short of it is that it is quite possible that Crane will not be approved and Drayton McLane will have to begin this process all over again. In fact, Selig and the other owners don't have to do anything to keep this ownership transfer from happening. They just have to play the waiting game. While a move to the American League may be desired, it is not the only thing at work here. Instead of extortion, think of this like a huge fraternity. Crane is rushing and the members don't feel completely comfortable with him.
However, if he were willing to do what they ask, then it may make them feel a little more comfortable with him. A move to the AL West would allow the leagues to be balanced and would allow Bud Selig to expand the playoffs with the Players' Association's blessing as soon as 2013. This situation bares watching as Crane has already softened on a move to the American League. He wants balanced schedules so that he doesn't have to go out west as often.
People like him don't make a billion dollars by falling off the turnip truck. Both parties have something the other wants. Crane can facilitate a move to the American League and he will give Drayton more than anyone else to own the club. Bud has the ultimate approval to get Jim Crane into the club he so desperately wants to be a part of. It's an old-fashioned game of chicken and it's time to find out who's going to blink first.