Houston Astros to the American League: A Lot of Movement for 2 More TV Games

Mark AmentContributor IINovember 18, 2011

HOUSTON - OCTOBER 10:  Craig Biggio #7 of the Houston Astros is congratulated by Jose Vizcaino #10 and Brad Ausmus #11 after hitting a home run against the Atlanta Braves in the second inning of game four of the National League Divisional Series on October 10, 2004 at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

This quarter's baseball meetings will be memorable for Bud Selig upsetting the natural order of things as he caught the realignment bug from the NCAA. 

In order to create more inventory for baseball's television partners, Selig pushed the Houston Astros to move to the American League West (more on that in a moment), added a new wild card team for each league and fundamentally altered interleague play.

What additional inventory did the TV networks gain? One playoff game in each league between the two wild card teams.

The Houston Astros were the designated franchise for realignment because Selig had the power to force the Astros to move.  The sale of the Astros has been pending since early spring and has been held up until the additional playoff game could be worked out with the players' union. 

Once the owners got the green light, the sale was ready to be approved but only on the condition that the franchise move to the American League, a prospect which doesn't particularly thrill the fans.  That move cost Drayton McLane, the selling owner $35 million (the MLB is paying the other $35 million), as the price was reduced to entice Jim Crane to go through with the sale and the league switch. 

I don't know if that is a reflection on the American League or, more likely, the long history of the Astros in the National League. 

Interleague play will now take place every day during the season.  Since each league will now have 15 teams, in order for all teams to be playing everyday, one interleague game must be played. 

So, rather than the three or four windows that fans could anticipate and teams could design marketing plans around, interleague games are likely to become just another game.  That's a prospect I don't think is particularly beneficial to baseball, especially when it's done in return for a single playoff game in both leagues.