During Baseball Playoffs, No National TV Coverage

The whole point of having eight teams participate in the baseball playoffs was to make the countdown to the World Series more exciting for more people.

Part of the fun is watching the progress of other teams. In past years that was possible with national TV coverage.

This year, ESPN's daily "Baseball Tonight" highlights show will have to suffice.

In the Northwest, we will see the first-round Seattle-New York series and, no matter who wins, the American League Championship Series.

We will see no Cleveland-Boston first-round action unless our series ends before theirs, and no National League games.

No post-season games will be telecast nationally until the World Series. It's an arrangement fans regard as an abomination, ironically called The Baseball Network.

The idea behind The Baseball Network was to make more money, of course.

The consortium, formed by Major League Baseball, ABC and NBC, was designed to create more commercial inventory to sell to advertisers and to boost TV ratings - by telecasting up to 14 games regionally each week. Ratings had been declining.

But after just two seasons, The Baseball Network is dead. ABC and NBC say they don't want to play in 1996. CBS or Fox could be in the game next year, perhaps with a more traditional, national "game-of-the-week" approach.

Meantime, for a few more weeks we're stuck with regionalized coverage - even the championship games for the American and National league titles will be regionally broadcast, depending on an area's league affinity - until the World Series.

This is the time of year when even casual fans are interested in watching other games on TV. By watching other games, you can size up teams the Mariners could face in the next round or in the World Series, watch teams cheered on by the kinfolk back home or simply watch great baseball being played elsewhere.

As if imposed provincialism weren't enough to rile fans, the playoff schedule seems designed to confound even those with the technological capability to intercept the satellite feeds of game broadcasts - the signals networks use to feed their local stations.

All playoff games will start simultaneously, no matter what time zone the game is played in. Everything will be adjusted for the convenience of the almighty Eastern time zone.

All weekday games will start at 5 p.m. Pacific time (8 p.m. Eastern). On weekends, the start time will be 4 p.m. Pacific (7 p.m. on the Right Coast).

Want to tap the satellite feeds to watch the other three games of the first round?

You can. With three more TV sets, one or two satellite dishes and eight eyes.

This would be a pain in anyone's neck, but even the sports bars that specialize in pulling in obscure telecasts from outer space are challenged.

Many bars don't expect to be able to show their patrons more than the locally broadcast Mariners contests and one or two other games plucked from satellite feeds, because of a lack of hardware or difficulty finding the signals - and ones that aren't scrambled or proprietary.

For the rest of us, all games through the playoffs will be broadcast by The Baseball Network on either KOMO-TV (Channel 4, ABC) or KING-TV (Channel 5, NBC), both of which carried TBN games during the regular season.

The local television rights to Mariner games, held by KIRO-TV (Channel 7) and the Prime Sports cable channel, expired with the regular season.