Baseball focuses on way to unscramble TV package


LOS ANGELES -- The decision by Major League Baseball and its broadcast affiliate, The Baseball Network, to schedule all four 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.

The playoff format will be adjusted next year, but it appears that The Baseball Network dropped the ball at a time when Major League Baseball needs to revive interest in the game.

Mondesi ejected

Right fielder Raul Mondesi was ejected by home plate umpire Bob Davidson in the eighth inning, apparently for arguing balls and strikes from the on-deck circle.

It was a big loss to the Dodgers in a tight game, since he is one of the most productive hitters in the lineup and he was due to lead off the following inning.

Mondesi was replaced in right field by Todd Hollandsworth.

Small crowd revisited

Dodgers manager Tom Lasorda had one explanation for the small crowds that showed up for games 1 and 2.

"I think the Jewish holidays played a big part in the low attendance," Lasorda said. "It's their day of atonement. My son-in-law couldn't come to the games, so that's at least one less."

The holidays may have had an impact on the Game 1 crowd of 44,199 -- the smallest crowd for a Dodgers postseason game since the club moved to the West Coast -- but the rush-hour starting time and fan disaffection for the strike-tainted season also had to be important factors.

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