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MORE YANKEES, FEWER BRAVES ARE ON THE DIAL

If you're a fan of the American League East favorite New York Yankees, this television season is as good as it gets.

The same can't be said for fans of the National League East favorite Atlanta Braves, whose decline in TV visibility endangers their status as America's Team.

The big baseball news in local television is that Western New York fans will see less of the Braves on TBS, but more of the Yankees on various outlets.

Because TBS is no longer technically a superstation, it had to make a TV deal to keep the Braves that wouldn't trouble major league baseball's cable partners -- ESPN and Fox -- too much. The resulting compromise cost fans of America's baseball team 35 regular season games on TBS this season.

Yankee fans, on the other hand, can catch their heroes on Madison Square Garden Network, Channel 49 and CBC, as well as Fox and ESPN.

A year ago, the waiver of the rule that blacked out games on Madison Square Garden Network when the Toronto Blue Jays had games at the SkyDome or a game carried on Canadian television increased the Yanks' visibility.

And this season, all 100 Yankee games on MSG will be seen here, as well as 13 games on Channel 49, eight on Fox's Saturday Game of the Week, three on Fox Sports Net's Thursday package, four on ESPN's exclusive Sunday package, and four on CBC. The final total may be slightly less than 132 games because in a few cases there is double coverage of the Yankees.

Fox, FX, Fox Sports Net: Channel 29, which is the local Fox affiliate, carries Fox's Saturday afternoon schedule starting May 30, with Boston at the Yankees the likely game here. The Saturday Game of the Week runs through Sept. 26, with the last two games "wild cards" that will involve teams still in the races.

Before May 30, Fox's cable channel, FX, will carry a Saturday night schedule. The package starts on April 4, with the pool of announcing talent to include Steve Physioc, Jeff Torborg, Kenny Albert, Ken Brett, Rick Cerone, Steve Lyons and Dick Stockton.

The Saturday games replace the Monday games carried on FX last season. The prime reason for the switch may have been the weeknight success that FX has had with reruns of "The X-Files" and "NYPD Blue."

Fox Sports Net, which is carried on the Empire Sports Network, also has a 26-game Thursday night schedule. Fox Sports Net allows a regional affiliate to carry one of two games offered. Empire plans to carry the 7 p.m. games so it can carry its 10:30 p.m. program, the Empire Sports Report.

Joe Buck and Tim McCarver remain Fox's No. 1 baseball team. Albert and Torborg are the No. 1 team of the Fox Sports Net's Thursday package.

ESPN: It starts its season Tuesday with a tripleheader. For the ninth straight year, it has a Sunday night baseball package. Its schedule includes 26 Sunday games, six to 12 division series playoff games, about 10 interleague games, weekly doubleheaders on Wednesday and extra games on holidays. The Cleveland Indians, defending American League champs, have four exclusive national appearances. Among the interleague games: A June 28 date between the Yankees and Mets.

The one blackout rule of note: If the Yanks have a televised game on MSG that ESPN also is carrying on Wednesdays, our area will get a secondary ESPN game.

WNYO: WB 49 is back with a package of Indians and Yankee games. Its 10-game Cleveland package off Cleveland's WUAB (with Jack Corrigan and Mike Hegan at the microphone) begins May 25 when Detroit visits Jacobs Field. WNYO is carrying three Cleveland-Toronto games, one of which also is carried by CBC. Its 13-game Yankee schedule -- from WPIX in New York -- starts May 29 with a game at Boston.

CBC: A 40-game package of the Toronto Blue Jays begins at 7 p.m. April 1 when the Minnesota Twins visit SkyDome. The schedule includes a July 1 game with the New York Mets and coverage of four Yankee games -- July 17 and July 18 at SkyDome and Sept. 12 and Sept. 13 at Yankee Stadium. It has a heavy concentration of its games on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Brian Williams and John Cerutti are the main announcers.

MSG: The regional sports network, which has a $50-million-a-year contract with the Yankees, is carried by most cable systems in the area. Ken Singleton, Jim Kaat, Olympic star Al Trautwig and Michael Kay cover the 100 games.

Fox Sports New York: A small number of subscribers to the Time Warner cable systems around Batavia will be able to catch 100 regular season games of the New York Mets, with Howie Rose, Fran Leahy and Ralph Kiner.

TBS: In its 26th season of covering the National League East champion Atlanta Braves, TBS has a schedule of 63 prime-time games, 20 afternoon and seven late-night games for a total of 90. A year ago, TBS carried 125 games. Since then, it lost its status as a true superstation because it wanted to charge fees to cable operators. Because Fox and ESPN hold exclusive cable rights to major league baseball, the league sold the rights to Braves games to TBS with the "request" that the number of games be reduced. Skip Caray, Pete Van Wieren, Don Sutton and Joe Simpson return to call all the games on TBS.

Additional Braves games may be available via Fox (up to 8 games), Fox Sports Net (1 game) and ESPN (4 games).

NBC: After carrying last season's World Series, the network has a limited baseball profile. The network (Ch. 2) carries the All-Star Game on July 7, three divisional playoff games and the American League Championship Series. Bob Costas, Joe Morgan and Bob Uecker remain its No. 1 team.

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