Extra Innings Beanball War to Capitol Hill

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It may not be the 1927 New York Yankees lineup of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Earle Combs, Tony Lazzeri and Bob Meusel, but there will be another Murderer’s Row of sorts gathering on Capitol Hill Tuesday.

In Demand president Rob Jacobson, DirecTV president Chase Carey, EchoStar Communications chairman Charlie Ergen, Major League Baseball president and chief operating officer Bob DuPuy and Penn State Law professor Stephen Ross will appear before a U.S. Senate Commerce Committee hearing to discuss the league’s $700 million, seven-year deal with DirecTV for the out-of-market Extra Innings package and MLB’s linear network, scheduled to launch in 2009.

The hearing comes just four days before the March 31 deadline MLB set for cable and EchoStar’s Dish Network to match DirecTV’s offer.

In Demand said its pitch last Wednesday to baseball for the package satisfied the league's demands, matching DirecTV's price for the package and guaranteed distribution through In Demand's three owners -- Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Cox Communications -- of the league's upstart Baseball Channel to as many subscribers as DirecTV would provide the channel at launch.

But MLB immediately rejected the offer, saying in a prepared statement that it “falls short of nearly all of the material conditions.

That sets the showdown for a potential beanball affair at the Senate hearing, which was called after several lawmakers questioned whether baseball's exclusive deal with DirecTV was anti-consumer, particularly since cable has offered the package since 2001. The cable industry generated around 200,000 buys from the package last year.