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Why ESPN Is Wrong About Baseball -- Again

I'm not a fan of ESPN. I've probably said that multiple times here at OTM, but if I haven't, you know it now.

With that said, I subscribe to its magazine. Or, as all the hip kids call it, The Mag. I only subscribed because I had back and forth conversations with one of their writers, who had helped me down my own journalism path. I just wanted to read his work -- and admittedly, some Rick Reilly.

Now, said writer is no longer working for ESPN and Reilly has, unfortunately, fallen off the map the last few weeks. It's all really sad, but still leaves me at this conclusion: I am not re-upping my subscription to The Mag. Nope. Sorry.

Until this subscription is over, it still comes to my mailbox. I picked a new issue up today and quickly glanced over the cover. It exclaims this: "New Year! New Rules! 31 Ways to Make Sports Better."

I was hoping their bold statement was true. I was sorely wrong.

I'll just focus on their bold "new rules" when it comes to baseball, and we'll work all the way down to No. 1:

ESPN suggests each league add one more wild card position in the playoffs, with the two playoff teams with the worst record meet in a best-of-three play-in series. There's a little bit more to this idea, but I can say fully it's complete crap.

One thing I love about baseball is that only eight teams make it in. Unlike every other professional league in the world, MLB doesn't have half of its teams make the playoffs. What's the fun in having a team below .500 make the playoffs? The MLB playoffs are for the best of the best and the system in place ensures that each and every year.

This has been part of the game since day one. Yes, the rule hurts sometimes, but other times, it's fantastic. If a pitcher throws a ball into the dirt and it happens to get a strike three, the catcher has to snag it. That is his job. It makes the catcher work hard and stay focused. Plus, who doesn't love a four-strikeout inning?

Now ESPN is just getting ridiculous. If anything, the National League should adopt the designated hitter; the American League shouldn't get rid of it. It'd be far easier for the NL to bring in players to DH than for the AL to change their whole offensive philosophy because now they can't have a DH. If the DH rule ever changes, it will not be because the AL is getting rid of it, it's because the NL is adopting it.

ESPN doesn't want 40 man rosters because of one game in September when Tigers coach Jim Leyland employed 23 players. It suggests that teams can only have 40-man rosters if they "concede defeat" and won't be in the playoffs. And those teams can only use a 40-man roster against another team that has "conceded defeat."

This is just so stupid that I don't even know what to write exactly. A 40-man roster is great because a) you can see young talent performs on a big-time stage, b) you can get some fresh legs up to the bigs and rest major leaguers in preparation for the playoffs and c) give players some incentives.

If ESPN wants teams to bow out of playoff contention, how many teams would actually do that? There are a few teams alive before September starts that need to make that big decision. But why? Let them call up 40 just like everyone else and see who can make it to the end. Do you think the Twins would have made it to the playoffs without a 40 man roster last season?

Once again, one part of one game makes ESPN want to change a rule. It cites Jorge Posada visiting CC Sabathia eight times during the fifth inning of game four of the World Series. Yeah, that is excessive, but how often does that actually happen? I can never think of that happening more than three times in an inning.

And damn it! That was the World Series. Baseball is about strategy. And even though it was the MFY, catchers and pitchers should be allowed to work together to get an out. Especially if it's in the Fall Classic.

So there's a lot of dead space in an at-bat. We get it. ESPN says if a pitcher leages the mound between pitches, it's a ball. If a batter steps out of the box, it's a strike.

That's dumb. Once again, this is baseball. This is how it has been since day one. The greatest one v. one battle in sports is batter v. pitcher. The game isn't just about pitching and hitting. It's about reading the pitcher, reading the hitter and doing what is necessary.

Some players are ridiculous; I can admit to that. But those moments tend to be in high-pressure situations. You're not going to see hitters wait 35 seconds outside the box if it's spring training. But if it's the World Series and you've got the game on the line, you're going to take a deep breath. Or two.

This is for all sports, obviously, but here's one I'm not totally against. Instant replay in baseball is OK. But it should only happen on a play that decides a run. Questionable home run call? Use instant replay. Double into the gap that may be a ground rule double, may not, and it brings in a runner? Use instant replay.

But nothing more. Baseball can not use instant replay on ball or strike calls. Baseball can not use instant replay on hit batsman (unless, I guess, if the bases are loaded and a run would come across).

No matter what, though, instant replay should be used scarcely. For the love of all that is holy, instant replay should see as little time in baseball as possible. The MLB will not become the NFL in that sense. Please, no.