Baseball

MLB notes: Astros owner close to deal to sell team

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Tim Lincecum during their spring training baseball game against the Colorado Rockies in Scottsdale, Ariz., Monday, March 21, 2011. The game was called in the third inning because of rain with the Rockies leading 5-0. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Tim Lincecum during their spring training baseball game against the Colorado Rockies in Scottsdale, Ariz., Monday, March 21, 2011. The game was called in the third inning because of rain with the Rockies leading 5-0. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg) ASSOCIATED PRESS

A group led by Houston businessman Jim Crane is close to an agreement to buy the Houston Astros. Owner Drayton McLane said in a phone interview Wednesday that the team has been negotiating with Crane's group "for several weeks," but that no contracts have been signed. He said the deal could be reached next week, but the process could take longer.

McLane purchased the team in November 1992 for about $117 million. He put the franchise up for sale in November.

Crane has tried to buy the team before, getting turned down in October 2008.

Multiple media reports said McLane's asking price for the Astros is about $680 million. McLane would not comment on that. A major selling point is the team's 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 Astros games in the 2013 season.

Ryan set to take control

Baseball owners are set to approve Nolan Ryan as the controlling owner of the Texas Rangers when they meet Thursday. Chuck Greenberg and Ryan headed the group that bought the team from Tom Hicks last August in a deal valued at $590 million. Greenberg became chief executive officer, then left on March 11 and sold his ownership stake. Ryan, the team president since February 2008, took over as CEO.

Just a few souvenirs

The New York Mets' longtime clubhouse manager amassed a secret hoard of baseballs, hats, bats and uniforms, including an autographed 1986 World Series warm-up jersey, that he intended to use to fund his retirement, prosecutors said Wednesday in announcing his arrest. Charlie Samuels, who was with the team 27 seasons, reportedly had 507 jerseys, 304 hats, 828 bats, 22 batting helmets and 10 equipment bags, valued together at more than $2.3 million. His attorney said Samuels was a loyal employee authorized to take the memorabilia.

"This property was his," Bachner said. "He was authorized by the Mets to have it. This indictment never made it to first base and it's never coming home. This is not a betrayal of trust."

Samuels was fired in November amid claims that he placed bets on games and used Mets checks to cover his debts. The team said in a statement that Samuels was fired following an internal investigation that uncovered policy violations.

"We cooperated fully with the NYPD and the Queens District Attorney's office in their lengthy and thorough criminal investigation," the team said in a statement. "As this is a pending criminal matter, we will have no further comment."

Samuels, 53, also worked as the team's equipment manager and traveling secretary and had unique and unfettered access to Mets equipment, authorities said.

He stockpiled 507 signed and unsigned jerseys, 304 hats, 828 bats, 22 batting helmets and 10 equipment bags, valued together at more than $2.3 million, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said.

Officials recovered the collectibles at a friend's basement in Madison, Conn. Ex-Legends watch

Injuries

 The Cubs put catcher Geovany Soto on the 15-day disabled list with a left groin strain Wednesday and recalled catcher Welington Castillo from Triple-A Iowa.

 Braves reliever Peter Moylan will have surgery to repair a bulging disk in his lower back and will be out eight to 12 weeks.

 Athletics left-hander Dallas Braden will have surgery Monday in New York to repair a torn capsule in his left shoulder.

 Yankees trainer Gene Monahan will retire at the end of the season, after 49 years with the team, 39 of them as head trainer.

West Coast update

Cody Ross hit a game-ending RBI single in the ninth inning and Tim Lincecum pitched another gem as San Francisco beat the Diamondbacks 1-0 Tuesday night for their fourth straight victory. Lincecum struck out nine and took a no-hitter into the sixth as Arizona was held scoreless for the first time this season.

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