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Baseball looks to unscramble TV package


LOS ANGELES -- The decision by Major League Baseball and its broadcast affiliate, The Baseball Network, to schedule all four TC divisional playoff games at the same time each day has come under widespread criticism, and the one-year experiment apparently will not be repeated.

Barry Frank, MLB's chief television negotiator, announced yesterday that the sport will seek network and cable television agreements that assure every game is available nationwide.

"It is our intention, as we negotiate the next round of television contracts, that each game of the postseason will be seen by our fans in its entirety, nationally either on cable or network television," Frank said in a prepared statement. "In the future, starting times will be arranged so games will not conflict."

That had to come as good news to Los Angeles Dodgers general manager Fred Claire, who yesterday joined the chorus of those sharply critical of the way the game is being presented during the inaugural divisional series.

"I don't like it," he said. "It doesn't make a lot of sense. It's not good for baseball. We're missing something when we're not allowed to follow the games."

The regionalized coverage brings in only one game per market. The network did not even pick up the in-progress broadcast from Cleveland, even though fans could have seen most of the rain-delayed game between the Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians.

NBC's simultaneous coverage of the four games Tuesday night received a 10.3 rating, which was down 9 percent from the first prime-time game two years ago. Compared with three years ago, Tuesday's ratings were down 16 percent.

Mondesi ejected

Right fielder Raul Mondesi was ejected by plate umpire Bob Davidson in the eighth inning, apparently for arguing balls and strikes and then cursing the umpire. It was a big loss to the Dodgers in a tight game, since he is one of the most productive hitters in their lineup and was due to lead off the following inning. He was replaced in right field by Todd Hollandsworth.

Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda was upset by the ejection, which was made by the same umpire who ordered the Dodgers to forfeit an Aug. 10 game with the St. Louis Cardinals when fans peppered the Dodger Stadium field with promotional baseballs in the late innings.

"I know one thing: You don't throw ballplayers out of a playoff game for something like that," Lasorda said. "These people pay their money to see that guy play."

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