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 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.
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The bulk of the book is spent detailing what should have happened in , what he would change, and what he would return to it's former self. The solutions for baseball are roughly split into five catagories. 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. Gate receipts, stadium revenue, and local TV money go only to the home team. 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 all playoff teams have been in the top ten in revenue. The world champion has been in the top five. Enter revenue sharing. 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.
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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.
Fair Ball: A Fan’s Case for Baseball by Bob Costas
Costas provides a formula for the ceiling and floor based on the total revenue from the previous year. 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. 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.
Look at football, basketball, and hockey. The regular season is just jockeying for playoff position.
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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 place.
His solution is to keep the three divisions and let the team with the best record get a reward for doing so. Home field advantage and a bye into the league finals. His solution does require moving one team from the NL to the AL in order to keep an even number of teams in each league. That team is This book gave good insight into the pros and cons of all that has gone wrong with baseball since I can't say I'm impressed with Costas' baseball knowledge.
I've always known him to be knowledgeable about baseball. He being the author was the main reason I read this book. Bob Costas is probably best known for his Olympic commentary over the years, but he has really been a renaissance man and announced everything from baseball to football in this country. Costas makes some good points in the book, but he also makes it clear that he should not quit his day job as a broadcaster to become a writer.
When one is reading this book, it is important to remember that it was written in , and was thus published before any of the major steroid allegations hit the fan. Costas starts the book by going over what happened in to lead to the strike shortened season in He lays out his own plan for what should have happened, but also reminds fans about what did happen in order to illustrate how this might be able to be avoided in the future.
He does not place the blame for the strike squarely on the shoulders of the players or the owners, but he makes it very clear that the situation should never have gotten to the point where players decided to strike. Perhaps the best example Costas provides to prove this point is when he is discussing what should be done with the designated hitter much later in the book.
Costas spends an amazing amount of time in the book talking about the current post season system and how there is so much wrong with it. Many have agreed with his points about the playoffs carrying too late into the year and the games starting too late in the day so that children on the East coast have to miss the games because of their bed times, but Costas goes much farther than that. The broadcaster shows how much of a baseball traditionalist he truly is when he adamantly opposes the advent of the Wild Card throughout the book.
He spends more time on this subject than anything else, and probably hurts his own argument, on the subject by not letting his ideas stand in one section of the book, but instead rambling on and on about it in many chapters. While some parts of his argument are valid, if one takes a good look at what he is arguing, they will notice that not only would it really be financially bad for baseball and the television networks for baseball to follow his plan, but it will also be a bad thing for many fans across the country who have found joy with their team due to the wild card.
Another one of the major topics Costas spends a lot of time on in this book is revenue sharing. In this section, he provides a pretty good plan that would be able to, perhaps, level the financial playing field to some extent. His ideas of how to share the merchandising revenue as well as the ticket sales are solid and should be given a serious look by those heads in baseball. He hurts his argument, though, by suggesting a salary cap. The broadcaster does at least acknowledge that if there is a salary cap ceiling, there does have to also be a floor so that teams are not paying 25 players the league minimum and putting a bad product on the field for fans.
Fair Ball: A Fan's Case for Baseball, Bob Costas,, Book, Good | eBay
Overall, Fair Ball provides a unique look into what needs to be altered in baseball. If he would not have spent an inordinate amount of time on the subject of the Wild Card, the book would have been much more enjoyable and his points would have been much easier to take seriously.
Bill Jordan is a contributor to Baseball Reflections. He can be reached by e-mail at BillJordaniv yahoo. If anyone has ever had the chance to read Fair Ball, please share your thoughts on the book here. You must be logged in to post a comment Login.