MLB forcing Astros to join the American League

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MLB forcing Astros to join the American League

From Comcast SportsNet
HOUSTON (AP) -- Major League Baseball told Houston businessman Jim Crane it would not approve his purchase of the Astros unless he agreed to move the team to the American League, The Associated Press has learned. Crane was forced to agree to move the sale along, a person familiar with the negotiations said Wednesday on condition of anonymity because no official announcement has been made by MLB or the Astros. Approval of the sale could be announced as early as Thursday at a meeting of baseball executives in Milwaukee. Crane reportedly agreed to the move in exchange for a drop in the sales price valued earlier this year at 680 million. The person who spoke to the AP could not confirm the sales price. "We'll let baseball talk about that," current owner Drayton McLane said Wednesday night. "There were a lot of adjustments, so we'll just wait and see what they have to say (Thursday)." The players' association believes two 15-team leagues would create a more proportionate schedule and has urged baseball to make the switch. With schedules for next season already completed, the earliest such a move could take place is 2013. Time is running out for approval of the Astros deal: Crane has said that his offer, which was announced on May 16, expires Nov. 30. Messages were left seeking from Major League Baseball, but Commissioner Bud Selig did address the Astros' situation during a Twitter chat on Monday. "For 1515 realignment, Houston would be the team moving to AL West. Would create more fairness in baseball," Selig tweeted via the Colorado Rockies' feed. He also added that "15 teams in each league would necessitate interleague play every day but it will be better schedule overall." The Astros currently play in the six-team NL Central. The AL West is the only league in the majors with four teams (Rangers, Angels, Athletics and Mariners). McLane said it will be difficult, at least at first, to see his team in the other league. "I've always been a National League fan," he said. "Change is a big part of my life and what I've tried to do in business. I think it's going to be interesting to see the American League teams come in and getting a rivalry with the Rangers. That won't be too bad. It's going to be good." The move would put the Astros in the same division as Texas. But fans are unhappy the other three teams are all on the West Coast, meaning many road games would routinely end past midnight Central time. Rangers president Nolan Ryan, who pitched for the Astros during his Hall of Fame career, said he has some of the same feelings as McLane. "I grew up an Astros fan and I look at the Astros as a National League team but I understand the desire to balance out the two leagues," Ryan said Wednesday. "From our perspective, I like having them in the same division because it gives us a team in our time zone. ... We've talked about the fact that there will be more interleague play and how does the schedule actually work. ... It's going to bring some dynamics. We're not sure how they'll work. Obviously, it's going to change some things." McLane bought the team in November 1992 for about 117 million. He turned down an offer from Crane to buy the franchise in 2008. McLane said he's leaving with mixed emotions, something that hit him as he attended a meeting with other owners Wednesday. "Last night when I went to bed, I thought about it. I can remember 19 years ago how elated I was. It's been a wonderful, wonderful ride," he said. "Each of these owners have been my friends for 19 years. One of the strange things is, I'm one of the older owners right now," McLane said. "There's only seven or eight that have been here longer than I have. Been a world of turnover." The 680 million sale price is the second-highest in major league history, trailing the 845 million purchase of the Chicago Cubs by the Ricketts family two years ago. The 660 million sale of the Boston Red Sox in 2002 currently is second. Like the Astros' deal, the Cubs and Red Sox transactions included related entities. A major selling point in Houston was the Astros' share in a new deal with the NBA's Houston Rockets to create a regional sports network that will begin airing Rockets games in 2012 and the Astros in 2013. Crane has said the team's 30-year lease at Minute Maid Park, which is owned by the Harris County Houston Sports Authority, will remain intact under his ownership. Crane, who founded a Houston-based logistics company in 2008, is also the chairman and chief executive of Crane Capital, a private equity fund company. In 2009, he was in the running to buy the Cubs and last summer teamed with Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban in an unsuccessful bid to buy the Texas Rangers.

One-goal victories are great but Blackhawks’ method has to change

One-goal victories are great but Blackhawks’ method has to change

See the Blackhawks get off to a slow start. See the Blackhawks get outshot. See the Blackhawks lean on their goaltending. See the Blackhawks find some offense in the third period. See the Blackhawks win.

This is a story the Blackhawks have written and played out plenty this season. Despite all evidence that it should work out to the contrary, the Blackhawks continue to pull out victories. But as we're well into the second half of the season, how much longer can they win with this formula? And is this, more than anything, a testament to how much they need to acquire someone (or plural) at the deadline to bolster their forward lineup?

Entering Sunday night's game against Vancouver the Blackhawks remain second in the Western Conference, two points behind Minnesota. Not surprisingly, they enter Sunday coming off another one-goal victory, a 1-0 decision over Boston on Friday night. Friday's game was cut from the same cloth as so many other one-goal games this season (please see above for the script). 

Here's how the Blackhawks are doing in one-goal games (through 48 games played this season) and how they've done in previous seasons:

Year Record
2016-17 18-7-5
2015-16 17-7-9
2014-15 22-13-6
2013-14 17-8-15
2012-13 19-3-5 (lockout yr.)
2011-12 22-6-11
2010-11 16-13-9
2009-10 23-9-8

The Blackhawks played 41 one-goal games (half of their regular-season games) in the 2014-15 season. Thirty of their 48 games this season have been one-goal games. But again, it comes down to how you're winning those games, and the Blackhawks are winning just about all of them in the same way: deal with a slow start and come back in the third period, relying on goaltending the entire time.

Being outshot the amount of times the Blackhawks have this season remains alarming. Sure, sometimes a lot of shots don't mean a lot of quality chances. But it's still better than minimal shots, and any shot can be an opportunity for a rebound, a deflection, something. From our stats guru Chris Kamka, here's a breakdown of the Blackhawks' shots per game vs. opponents, dating back to 2008-09:

Year Shots/Gm Opp. Shots/Gm Diff.
2008-09 32.7 28.6 +4.2
2009-10 34.1 25.1 +9.1
2010-11 32.2 28.7 +3.6
2011-12 31.5 28.6 +3.0
2012-13 31.1 26.2 +4.9
2013-14 33.1 27.2 +6.0
2014-15 33.9 30.2 +3.8
2015-16 30.5 30.8 -0.3
2016-17 29.3 31.1 -1.7

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

It's no surprise that the Blackhawks' differential was especially good in their Stanley Cup-winning seasons (and even 2013-14, when they went to the Western Conference Final). Those Blackhawks teams were deep, especially at forward. They weren't waiting for the perfect shooting opportunities as much as just firing. They had great four-line rotations, something they've sorely been lacking the past two seasons, which makes a difference with puck possession.

The Blackhawks will see what's available at the trade deadline. As I wrote a few days ago, there will be names out there but, considering some teams are still hoping for playoff spots, you take mentions for what they are right now. Over the next few weeks the picture will become clearer, and adding the right depth could rekindle that four-line rotation.

We've said throughout this season that the Blackhawks can't keep this up. We said it in November, and December, and now. Understand where we're coming from here; the Blackhawks can absolutely keep winning one-goal games. They've shown that in recent seasons and in the postseason, when the ability to do that is critical. But it's doubtful they can keep doing it the way they have most this season.

Road Ahead: Blackhawks play three home games before All-Star break

Road Ahead: Blackhawks play three home games before All-Star break

CSN's Pat Boyle and Steve Konroyd preview the Blackhawks' three upcoming games in the Road Ahead, presented by Chicagoland & NW Indiana Honda Dealers.

The Blackhawks have three home games before the NHL All-Star break, which takes place in Los Angeles.

The Blackhawks have dates between the Vancouver Canucks, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Winnipeg Jets. All three opponents are out of the playoff picture, sand Steve Konroyd is looking for the Blackhawks to step up in a certain part of their game: scoring.

See what Boyle and Konroyd had to say in the video above.