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“We want a pitcher, not a belly-itching Senator!”

rHoward.jpgMajor League Baseball, like the NFL before it, has given the finger to many of its fans by taking its Extra Innings package exclusively to DirecTV. However, MLB one-upped the NFL by not only flipping off its fans, but also telling Congress to get bent. Several senators, including John Kerry, had urged the MLB, during a two-hour Commerce Committee hearing, not to take its exclusive game broadcasts to DirecTV:

[D]espite congressional brush-back pitches - warning of legislation and even the oft-repeated threat to review baseball’s anti-trust exemption - MLB President Bob DuPuy didn’t flinch…”We as a business matter view the Baseball Channel as critical to our long-term survival and the interests of our fans who want more baseball,” he said during [a] two-hour hearing.

So for the next seven years, at least, the MLB’s new channel and the ability to watch most regular season games will only be available to DirecTV subscribers (non-DirecTV folks can still get their local games and any nationally broadcast games).

Said Arlen Specter: “When the fans react, Congress may react…You may be well advised to act before we do.”

Now I loathe the fact that I can’t get the NFL package, since I can’t get DirecTV. From August through January of every year, I am in constant pain over this. I’m not nearly as pained by the MLB move, however, since I don’t watch baseball (aside from my eternally pitiful Phillies) with nearly the same level of zeal as with football. But MLB’s decision irks me more. With the NFL, it’s purely a business decision that the Feds really have no business getting involved with.

But the same simply isn’t true for baseball, no matter what the MLB execs say. Congress has given the league an antitrust exemption, and MLB has reaped the benefits of it. In light of the fact that’s it’s been granted this rare exception from laws that otherwise apply to everyone in this country, doesn’t the MLB owe at least a little deference to the public?

Now it may turn out that, in the long run, it was the best decision for everyone for MLB to go with DirecTV over cable and the Dish Network. But in light of the exemption, I think MLB should’ve at least granted the Senatorial request for more discussion about this whole thing. If the MLB is so willing to thumb its nose at Congress, maybe Congress does need to fight back, and look at stripping the exemption and/or other possible legislation.