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Three changes that Major league baseball absolutely must make

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Prior to the All Star game in Kansas City earlier this week, commissioner Bud Selig fielded questions from fans, submitted online, regarding some of the obvious issues facing Major League Baseball that just won't go away. By all reports, the commish was uncomfortable answering some of the questions, and that is likely because what he had to say doesn’t make much sense to those who follow the game with any interest.

Under Selig’s watch, MLB has added four franchises. They have gone from two divisions in each league to three divisions with a wild card team in the playoffs, and they’re about to add two more wild cards this season. He presided over the labor strife of 1994, the steroid era, the start of the World Baseball Classic, the introduction of inter-league play, and MLB has seen a 400 per cent increase in revenues during his tenure. But there are three main items that baseball needs to address.

1. Expand instant replay. Selig responded to a question about instant replay as reported on MLB.com:

"We've gone to replay. We're going to expand it -- when we get all the proper cameras -- to bullets hit down the left- and right-field lines, plus trap plays in the outfield. I have this special committee of 14 people and we've discussed instant replay. I must tell you that within baseball, there's not a great appetite for any more instant replay. It is a game of pace. You have to be careful you're not interrupting the game every five or 10 minutes. But we'll continue to watch it."

What world is he living in? Does he not pay any attention to fans, to the media, or to anyone that is slightly more forward thinking than his blue haired ribbon panel, which includes Jim Leyland, that is advising him on such matters?

Everyone with a functioning brain is in favor of using the technology that is available to get the calls right on the field. They’ve gone to the point of using replay on home run calls, and now they need to expand it to use on catch or no catch plays, fair or foul calls, and safe or out calls at every base, but especially at home plate.

The argument that instant replay would slow down the game doesn’t hold water. If done correctly, there would be a fifth umpire in the press box or at a remote location who reviews close plays and instantly relays the correct call down to the field. No confabs between umpires. No managers coming out to argue. No umpires marching down a tunnel, only to re-emerge ten minutes later to tell us what we can all see on TV at home. Only when time is taken for the umpires on the field to go watch television is the game delayed. Most importantly, no blown calls changing the outcome of important games because MLB refuses to avail itself of the technology to get the calls right.

There is hope that replay will be expanded, beginning in 2013. The new collective bargaining agreement provides for consideration of expanding the use of instant replay. Even Selig seems to commit that some expansion of replay is imminent. I wrote on this topic earlier this season when ESPN’s Jayson Stark reported that MLB was moving toward expanded use of replay next season. I hope he is right.

2. Use the Designated Hitter in all games. Or at least in all interleague games, including playoffs. If necessary, expand the rosters by one to allow teams to add another pitcher or a DH if they're not used to it, but don't subject fans that have seen a vastly superior game to watching pitchers come to the plate and try to hit. It's not entertaining at all.

Once again, Mr. Selig is in denial of the problem:

Looking at all of the popularity and attendance figures, I guess our fans seem to like it the way it is and that's very important to me. I don't think the difference in rules has really hurt us at all.

Selig also commented that he might like to see the DH used in interleague games in National League parks, and let pitchers hit in American League parks. Give the fans a little variety in their rules.

This idea is about as exciting as a tie in the All Star game. No fan of American League teams wants to see pitchers bat, under any circumstances. Every league from grade school through every minor league in America uses the DH.It’s time for Major League baseball to cop on and just implement use of the DH in every game.

3. No more blackouts. In it’s greed to grab every last dollar that the American public has to give, Major league baseball has colluded with the Fox network to bring us a regional "game of the week" every Saturday. If our favorite team is unfortunate to be chosen for one of the regional games of the week, and Fox decides that all the people in the market where we live don’t want that particular game, we’re screwed.

Even if we subscribe to the Fox Sports channel that broadcasts our favorite team, or even if we pay over $ 200 to get out of market games, Fox and MLB are going to shove Joe Buck and Tim McCarver down our throats, probably with some east coast game that we couldn’t care less about. Enough already!

It gets worse for some people who live in areas that are the designated markets for multiple teams, or teams that are nowhere near them, such as Hawaii, Iowa and northeast Ohio. The Toronto Blue Jays' protected market includes all of Canada.

Selig commented years ago, before the current contract with Fox sports was renewed in 2007, that this was a problem that had to be addressed. Instead, the deal was done that gives Fox exclusive rights to the World Series, the All Star game, and one league championship series each year. Plus, they broadcast usually three regional games of the week, with two of those games being blacked out in every market.

One group of fans has actually filed a class action lawsuit against MLB, calling them an "illegal cartel". The suit also names DirecTV and Comcast as co defendants.

Whether or not the lawsuit is successful, there is no excuse for this archaic policy. MLB could surely make more money from the increase in viewership by letting fans watch the games that they want to watch, rather than by trying to force feed games on one local channel.

That’s not all that needs changing, but those are the main issues that MLB needs to address. For instance, I don’t need to see the Tigers play the Royals and the Indians 18 times each season. I understand the need to create division rivalries, but I’d much rather see more interleague games, once they have the DH implemented in all of them.

I don’t like the new limits on bonus spending for players chosen in the amateur draft, and I think it should be mandatory to eject any fan that reaches on to the field of play and interferes with a ball in play. I mean, if they’re not bright enough to know the difference between a fair ball and a foul ball, they shouldn’t be allowed to sit in the front row anyway! Replay should also be used to identify these fools on Sportcenter every night, too, but that’s another matter. Let's start by getting the calls right, and go from there.