Lance Berkman says Bud Selig “extorted” new Astros’ owner into moving team to AL

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Lance Berkman used a pretty loaded word earlier today to describe how MLB commissioner Bud Selig convinced new Astros’ owner Jim Crane to move the team to the American League West. According to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com, the former Astro said Selig “extorted” Crane into switching leagues as a precondition of ownership.

Berkman hasn’t conveyed his feelings personally to the commissioner, but said he would if given the opportunity.

“If he called me, I would tell him,” Berkman said. “I think that’s exactly what it was. To tell [Crane], ‘We’re going to hold the sale of the team up until you guys agreed to switch’? It just happened that the Astros were being sold at an optimal time for that to happen.”

Crane received a price reduction from $680 million to $615 million on the sale by agreeing to the switch, which will put 15 teams in each league beginning in 2013. While he admitted to Crasnick that he probably would have preferred to keep the franchise in the National League, he called it a “good deal for baseball” and a “good deal for our owners.”

“Lance can say what Lance wants to say,” Crane said. “He has great ties to the Astros and was a great player there for years. We certainly understand that he’s opinionated, but I wouldn’t use that strong a term. I think it was just a business deal that got renegotiated.”

Extortion is a probably a little extreme, but there’s little doubt that Crane was strong-armed into switching leagues. But I don’t expect him to complain given the sweet discount he ended up getting. Something tells me Berkman will get that conversation with Selig, though.

The Red Sox designate Hanley Ramirez for assignment

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The Boston Red Sox activated Dustin Pedroia from the disabled list today. That’s a big deal. The move they made to make room for him on the roster was a big one too: they designated Hanley Ramirez for assignment. A designation for assignment, of course, means that the Sox have seven days to either trade or release Ramirez.

Ramirez, 34, is experiencing his worst season as a major leaguer thus far, hitting .254/.313/.395 (88 OPS+) in 195 plate appearances as he split time between first base and designated hitter. Given how well Mitch Moreland has hit at first and J.D. Martinez has hit at DH, there is simply no room for Ramirez in the lineup. At the moment the Red Sox have the second best offense in all of baseball despite Ramirez’s performance.

Ramirez, a 14-year big league veteran, won the 2006 Rookie of the Year Award and won the NL batting title in 2009. He has been a below average hitter in three of his last four seasons, however and, long removed from his days as a middle infielder, he has little defensive value these days. That said, his fame and the possibility that he could put together a decent run if used wisely will likely get him some looks from other clubs.