St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Lance Berkman said Tuesday that Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig "extorted" new Houston Astros owner Jim Crane into changing leagues as a precondition of the sale of the franchise in November.

Berkman, an Astros fan favorite for 12 seasons before his departure two years ago, called it a "travesty" four months ago when the team agreed to move to the American League in 2013 as part of baseball's new realignment plan. The Astros have played in the National League since their inception as the Houston Colt .45's in 1962.

Berkman raised the stakes before a Grapefruit League game between the Cardinals and Astros in Kissimmee, telling ESPN.com and a reporter from another outlet, "I feel basically like the commissioner extorted Jim Crane into moving the Astros."

Berkman didn't back down when asked if he has conveyed those sentiments directly to Selig. He said he would be comfortable using the word "extort" if he talks to the commissioner.