Fair Ball: A Fan's Case for Baseball

Fair Ball: A Fan's Case for Baseball

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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.

In this cogent—and provocative—book, Costas examines the growing financial disparities that have resulted in nearly two-thirds of the teams in major league baseball having virtually no chance of contending for the World Series. He argues that those who run baseball have missed the crucial difference between mere change and real progress. And he presents a withering critique of the positions of both the owners and players while providing insights on the wild-card system, the designated-hitter rule, and interleague play. Costas answers each problem he cites with an often innovative, always achievable strategy for restoring genuine competition and rescuing fans from the forces that have diluted the sheer joy of the game.

Balanced by Costas's unbridled appreciation for what he calls the "moments of authenticity" that can still make baseball inspiring, Fair Ball offers a vision of our national pastime as it can be, a game that retains its traditional appeal while initiating thoughtful changes that will allow it to thrive into the next century.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780767904667
Publisher: Crown/Archetype
Publication date: 04/03/2001
Edition description: 1ST TRADE
Pages: 220
Sales rank: 290,989
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.50(d)

About 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.

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. While your 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 Brett—who played as recently as 1993—inducted 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 mandatory—not 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 Toronto—which won back-to-back World Series in '92 and '93, and only recently drew 4 million fans for a season to a new ballpark—can'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 anymore—because there aren't any—and 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 of—less 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.

Table of Contents

11993: What Should Have Happened15
21993: What Did Happen27
3The Nature of Sports Leagues41
4It's Not the Revenue, Stupid (It's the Revenue Sharing)51
5Balancing the Field63
6Union Men81
7The Floor-to-Ceiling Cap91
8If It Ain't Broke ... (The Foolishness of Radical Realignment)105
9Radically Simple Realignment115
10Pennant Races and Wild Cards123
11The 3-and-0 Count149
12Loose Ends157

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Fair Ball: A Fan's Case for Baseball 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
lateinnings on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It's too bad this is Costas' only baseball book. This book captures Costas' passion about the game and reveals his recipe for improving the game.
kkirkhoff on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Bob Costas is a fan of baseball. He appears numerous times in Ken Burns' "Baseball" series. He knows baseball. This book is his attempt to show what is right about our national pastime, and what is wrong. And where it went wrong. It also gives good solid arguements on how to fix it.According to Costas, baseball's problems started in 1993 when the owner's shook up the leagues to try to generate popularity. This only made it worse. Baseball was turning into hockey, football, and basketball. The bulk of the book is spent detailing what should have happened in 1993, what he would change, and what he would return to it's former self.The solutions for baseball are roughly split into five catagories. - 1993- Revenue sharing- Salary caps- Realignment- Wild Card--On 1993Baseball thought it had problems. It's popularity had been going down for several years. Baseketball's had been on the rise. Basketball was as popular as baseball. That should tell you something. Basketball at it's highest was only AS popular as baseball in it's lowest. Nevertheless the owners did something drastic and, according to Costas, borderline stupid (my words, not his). Among the things that happened were three divisions per league and wild cards.--On Revenue sharingCurrently every team gets $15 million for national TV coverage. Gate receipts, stadium revenue, and local TV money go only to the home team. Therefore, the Yankees make $58 million, the Cubs $56 million. At the other end, the Expos make $3 million. The Twins $5 million. You can see by this how big money teams can attract top talent and be in a position to compete for championships year after year. Since 1993 all playoff teams have been in the top ten in revenue. The world champion has been in the top five.Enter revenue sharing. All teams would get a semi-equal share (60% home team 40% visiting team) of gate receipts, stadium revenue, and local TV money. After revenue-sharing is implemented, the Yankees get $54 million, the Expos get $27 million.Yes, lesser teams may be taking away some of the successful team's revenue, but it's for the greater good of the league. More evenly-matched teams. Everyone has a chance at competing for top talent and the top spot.--On Salary capsBecause there are a handful of players that have yearly incomes in the tens of millions, only high revenue teams can afford them. The rest can afford one, maybe two each. A salary ceiling makes top players affordable to all teams. But, along with a ceiling on salaries, there is also a floor. A minimum salary that fluctuates with the league's total revenue. These guys will still make a ton of money. After all, the clubs make a ton of money because of their talents, they should get their fair share. But the range shouldn't be $15 million a year vs $300,000. Costas provides a formula for the ceiling and floor based on the total revenue from the previous year.--On RealignmentThere has been a desire to adjust the leagues and divisions to cut down on traveling and create rivalries. Houston vs Texas. Oakland vs San Francisco. New York vs New York. You get the picture. The problem is that baseball is a very historical sport. More historical than any other. The country was glued to Mark McGwire as he chased and broke Roger Maris' record. No one cares about football or basketball records. To this end, rivalries are built through a history of two good teams consistently competing for the top spot. City distance doesn't make a rivalry, ecstacy and heartbreak does.--On the Wild CardIn a nutshell...having a wild card takes all the competition out of a pennant race. Look at football, basketball, and hockey. The regular season is just jockeying for playoff position. Costas sites numerous pennant races that went down to the wire. At the end of the season, there's a winner and a loser. Wild card advocates site instances where the wild card provided a race. In reality, without the wild card the race would have been there, just not for 2nd and 3rd plac
MusicMom41 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
ac raved so much about this book that it encouraged me to dig it out and finally read it. I have been an avid baseball fan since I was a young child but for the last 15 years I watched with dismay as my favorite game seemed to be sinking deeper and deeper into an expensive mediocre sport that seemed designed more to make money for the highest paid players and the owners. Bob Costas has not only laid out the mistakes that have been made to bring about this sad state of affairs, he has also suggested solutions to remedy the many problems that currently plague the game. Unfortunately its been about a decade since he published this book and I haven't seen any progress yet. I'll try not to get discouraged.Two easy fixes that will improve the competitiveness and the post season excitement without costing either the players for the owners any money and to ditch the DH in the American League and to dump the ¿wild card¿ for the post season. His solution for that last suggestion is beautiful and easy to do. If you love baseball but are unhappy with the direction it has taken this is a must read¿if only to know that the problems could be solved if the owners and players could work together.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
BooksonBaseball More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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!
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.