Fair Ball: A Fan's Case for Baseballby Bob Costas (Read by)
From his perspective as a journalist and a true fan, Bob Costas, NBC's award-winning broadcaster, shares his unflinching views on the forces that are diminishing the appeal of major league baseball and proposes realistic changes that can be made to protect and promote the game's best interests.
Los Angeles Times
"Costas comes out of a tradition of gentle baseball eloquence."
New York Times
"He is as good a pure broadcaster as I've ever seen."
"Intelligent, witty, good-natured, he is the very antithesis of the shills who dominate most sports programming."
"With his unique ability to weave intellect into a typically anti-intellectual medium, he's the best in the business."
- Random House Audio Publishing Group
- Publication date:
- Edition description:
- Unabridged, 3 cassettes, 6 hrs.
- Product dimensions:
- 4.54(w) x 7.20(h) x 1.24(d)
Read an Excerpt
Let's say it's late October, and you're in what should be baseball heaven, sitting on the couch watching the fourth game of the World Series, Yanks vs. Braves.
Suppose for a moment that you're a Minnesota Twins fan. You've been a baseball fan all your life, grew up playing the game, once got Rod Carew's autograph at a Little League clinic, spent your eighth birthday at Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington, and your fifteenth at the Humpdome in downtown Minneapolis. You played baseball in high school, took a summer vacation in college to Cooperstown, and once joked that you wouldn't leave the country between September 1 and the end of October, because you couldn't stand to miss the end of a pennant race or the playoffs.
But tonight you find yourself watching the Series not because you're passionately rooting for either the Atlanta Braves or the New York Yankees. Instead you're watching mostly because, well, watching the Series is what you've done every October for as long as you can remember (save for that lost fall of 1994).
So you sit there and contemplate the Atlanta Braves, a team the Twins vanquished eight years earlier in perhaps the greatest Series ever. And you wonder about the fortunes and forces that, since then, have sent your club into a decade-long financial and competitive tailspin, while the Braves have been in the playoffs every full season since. The two cities are roughly the same size, and, competitive factors being equal, Minnesota has supported the Twins at least as well as Atlanta has supported its team. Yet in the weird logic of late-'9Os baseball, Atlanta is a big market and Minneapolis-St. Paul is a small one. Whileyour team still plays in the depressing dome, Atlanta has a new state-of-the-art facility with natural grass, good sight lines, a cozy retro feel, and all the modern amenities.
When you look across the field at the New York Yankees, you just shake your head. It's hard to work up the old "Damn Yankees" antipathy these days. Partly because of Joe Torre, and partly because baseball's proudest franchise seems to be playing in a league, if not a sport, entirely different from your own. They got your best player two years ago, even though the Twins' owners would have paid him a team-record contract to stay in Minnesota, near where he grew up. He wanted to go to another club, Chuck Knoblauch said, because he wanted to play for a title. You recall that as a rookie Knoblauch had won a World Series ring. He was a Twin, and it was your team's second world championship in five seasons. You were sure then that Knoblauch would be a Minnesota fixture.
But these days, you know better. No player of consistent All-Star quality is going to remain in Minnesota throughout his career. And yet just this summer, you watched George Brettwho played as recently as 1993inducted into the Hall of Fame. Brett played his whole career with Kansas City, passing up bigger offers elsewhere. Not that he wasn't well-compensated, both financially and competitively. His Royals were perennial contenders, and won the AL West six times. He was happy to stay. Yet if he came up today, his competitive nature would make a move not just probable, but mandatorynot because of greed or disloyalty, but because teams like Kansas City and Minnesota can no longer even hope to compete.
Now back to the Yankees. After winning their second Series in three years, with a payroll that was already four times that of the Twins, they began the 1999 season by trading for the Cy Young Award winner, Roger Clemens. He's a pitcher you've long respected, but one who has bewildered you in recent years: Hadn't the Texan Clemens said he wanted to be closer to home after leaving the Boston Red Sox in '97? So didn't his decision to sign with the Toronto Blue Jays betray either a disingenuous streak or a staggeringly bad grasp of geography? But Clemens can pitch, so he proceeded to win two straight Cy Young Awards for the Blue Jays. Then Clemens demanded a trade in '99, because, he said, he wanted to play with a contender. And you wondered, "If a team like Torontowhich won back-to-back World Series in '92 and '93, and only recently drew 4 million fans for a season to a new ballparkcan't qualify as a contender, what does that tell you?" And all through the '99 season, as the pitching-shy Blue Jays were fighting toward the brink of contention on the bats of talented young sluggers like Carlos Delgado and Shawn Green, you couldn't help wondering how good they might be if they still had Clemens pitching for them.
After Clemens closes out the Series in Game 4, with a vintage, overpowering performance, you wonder if all this means the same thing to him as it would have if he'd stayed with the Red Sox and they'd somehow won it all. Or if it means anything like what it meant to Kirby Puckett, who took less money to stay in Minnesota, where he won world championships in 1987 and 1991.
In the weeks ahead, instead of the normal shake-up of hot-stove action, the rich get richer, and the ranks of those who can no longer compete grows to include what once were considered "middle-market" clubs. Seattle has a brand-new stadium and a string of sellouts, but they're convinced they'll have to trade Ken Griffey Jr. and/or Alex Rodriguez. Toronto is working on deals to ship away Green and Delgado before they bolt for free agency.
You still call yourself a baseball fan, and you still get out to the Metrodome a few times a season. But the game seems more distant today than it did only a few years ago. You can't follow pennant races anymorebecause there aren't anyand the wild card seems hard to get excited about. The media characterizes the game as "on the way back," thanks largely to Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. But even at its most epic, the '98 home-run race seemed somewhat disconnected from the season it was part ofless a highlight of the season itself than a thing unto itself (through no fault of the particulars), or a substitute for the plain fact that when the last several baseball seasons began, you knew that your team had no living chance to contend for a pennant.
No, the rising tide has not lifted all boats. And as you watch the games from your living room now, you realize that something essential has changed. You're not nostalgic for the "old days" as much as you are for the more recent ones, when the fact that you had one of the best managers and farm systems in baseball was a crucial advantage. When star players wanted to be with the Twins. When the Twins' owners weren't eyeing other cities. And when you could greet April with the hope that your team had a prayer.
But as you sit and watch the Yankees celebrate, those days seem far removed. You might wonder if anyone on the other side of the screen is feeling the same way.
From the Audio Cassette (Unabridged) edition.
Meet the Author
Bob Costas has won the Emmy Award as Outstanding Sports Broadcaster eight times and has been named National Sportscaster of the Year by his peers seven times. He has also received Emmy awards for his writing, interviewing, and reporting. His coverage of major sports events includes the World Series, the Super Bowl, the NBA Finals, and the Olympics. In addition to his sports broadcasting, Costas hosted the Emmy Award-winning interview show Later…with Bob Costas on NBC. He will be hosting a new sports journalism program on HBO beginning in February 2001. A native New Yorker, Costas now lives in St. Louis, Missouri.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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The author has great knowledge of the game and how it is run. The book also teaches how baseball was a game that needed fine-tuning before the 21st century. Lastly it expressed how some simple things could fix baseball.
Bob Costas is one of America's best-known baseball, and for that matter, sports broadcasters. He has called numerous World Series, All Star, and League Championship games His book, Fair Ball: A Fan's Case for Baseball offers up thought-provoking and holistic solutions to help restore and maintain competitive balance in Major League Baseball. The 2001 book has some parts which are dated, but many of Fair Play's points remain relevant today. MLB players, the Players' Union, and baseball's owners are beginning early discussions on the next Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). As such,it is a good time to re-examine some of the more contentious labor-management issues. Costas' book gives us a perfect retro platform to do so. The premise of Fair Ball is that the fans don't really care about the business side of baseball. Yet today, baseball discussions can sometimes be more about the revenue haves vs. the have nots than actual on-the-field play. MLB fans, from New York to Kansas City, want their teams to have the opportunity to compete consistently for the playoffs. Costas' book, avoids the Polyanna-ish route, to make the point that some teams will make good use of this opportunity while others will squander it through bone-headed trades, bad management, or sheer bad luck. However, it is the opportunity for teams to consistently compete which lies at the heart of Fair Play. Some of Costas' recommendations include: --Revenue Sharing -- All teams should share 50% of their TV, Radio, Internet, and Ticket Sales revenue. This still allows successful teams to make more money, but flattens out the huge disparity in local revenues that exists today. --Salary Cap and Floor - Tied to the revenue sharing and based on a formula, all MLB teams cannot spend beyond a certain point and must spend a minimum amount. The ceiling is two times the amount of the floor. The "luxury tax", baseball's current mechanism to enforce a semblance of salary equity is failing miserably in this area. --SuperStar Salary Cap - Put a cap on the maximum amount you can pay any one player. This would allow all teams to theoretically compete for the premiere players. --Tighter Salary Slotting for Younger Players -- Create specific floor and ceiling pay rates for players first coming into the league. Allow teams to "bank" some of their salary cap to lock up prospects according to need as long as they spend, on average across 5 years, withing the floor to ceiling range. --International Draft -- include international players in a draft. Today, big-market teams are generally the only ones competing for the elite foreign players. Readers might correctly point out that some small market teams have been able to compete, some even consistently so, for the playoffs. While this is true, there are many more small-market teams that don't compete at all and this has harmed the value of many of these franchises and thus, the game's overall value. Others may believe that baseball is a business, should be subject to free market competition, and that Fair Play's recommendations smack of socialism. The belief that baseball exists in a free market is completely non-sensical. Baseball enjoys many restrictive covenants (e.g. territorial rights, centralized TV contracts) that limit competition. Each club's welfare is intrinsically tied to one another-a rising tide that lifts all boats, so to speak.
Bob Costas again shows how much of a pure genius he is. If baseball doesn't even consider some of his ideas then they are cheating the players and the fans. Five Stars.
Bob Costas writes a call to arms for all fans who have rapidly watched the disintergrating state of the game. This book does not spout some utopian theories, but solid, grounded discussion on how to improve the game, inside and out. Any fan, who has become disgusted with both ownership and player salaries, need to read this book. Those people who believe that there is nothing wrong need to read this book. Not a real intensive read, it took me a few hours finish, but a very informative one.
Bob Costas is a genius, and he shows his knowledge of baseball throughout this book. Costas is an outstanding broadcaster, and an excellent writer. A must read for any fan of the game!
Bob Costas'FAIR BALL is a triumph of the classic baseball fan and an impassioned look at the ways the game can be improved. Costas has succinctly summarized improvements on America's favorite sport.
This is one of the most truthful pieces I have ever read. He picks out the bad points, tells you a good solution, and it is a very possible to complete. If only the league would take some of his ideas into consideration, I think it would help the game imensly. Any baseball fan out there should take a little time out of their life to read this. I think it is a very interesting and enthusiastic piece.
Some of the book seemed like high-school filler, like he had a minimum number of pages to write. But he is a fan and raises a lot of valid points regarding the economy of the game. I sure hope the league doesn't lose a season through strike/lockout just to agree on a plan similar to what Costas has lined up... Should have been a SI piece.
Finally somebody speaks up about the out of control issues in baseball escalating under Bud Selig's watch. Costas for Commissioner! He gets my vote! Very Entertaining, and easy to understand. I didn't agree with everything but it is a major step in the right direction.