Reds winging it with Micah Owings

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owings throwing.jpgThe Cincinnati Enquirer’s Jon Fay points out that the Reds seemingly had the perfect chance to deploy their pinch-hitter/middle reliever Micah Owings in Monday’s Opener. It had become clear during the top of the fifth that Aaron Harang wouldn’t be coming back out for another inning, and his spot was due up to start the bottom of the inning. With the Reds down 4-2, it would have been a fine time to let Owings hit and then hopefully pitch a couple of innings.
Instead, the Reds chose to hit Miguel Cairo (who grounded out) and pitch Mike Lincoln (who allowed two runs in 1 1/3 innings). Owings ended up never appearing as a hitter or a pitcher in the 11-6 loss to the Cardinals.
Still, I’m not going to rail against Dusty Baker again here. Baker certainly could have gone to Owings off the bench, but the risk there is that he might not have been ready to pitch to start the sixth.
The right idea probably would have been to start warming him up when Harang let a couple of guys reach in the fifth. But then Owings would have had to come in from the pen to hit. If he made an out or homered, then everything like would have been fine, as he likely would have been left with at least another five minutes or so to complete his warmup. If he had reached base, though, the Reds almost certainly would have had to warm up another reliever to bring in to start the sixth and Owings would have been lost for the game.
It’s a difficult situation, as Owings is still a pitcher first and a hitter second. The Brewers had some success with Brooks Kieschnick back in 2003 and ’04, but he was thought of as a hitter first and then a pitcher. Kieschnick was involved in a decision just four times in 74 career relief appearances and three of those were extra-inning games.
Owings has more ability than Kieschnick did on the mound and probably at the plate as well. The Reds are going to rely on him a bunch in the sixth and seventh innings, particularly in situations like Monday when they’re down by one or two runs.
Unfortunately, that means the offense is going to take a backseat, at least unless Owings fights his way back into the rotation at some point. Owings, who sports a .300/.331/.547 line with eight homers in 170 major league at-bats, will hit when his spot is due up, but it’ll be an awful lot of trouble to try to arrange pinch-hitting appearances for him beforehand.

Bob Costas wins the Ford C. Frick Award

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Bob Costas has been selected as the 2018 recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award, presented annually for excellence in broadcasting by the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Costas will be recognized during the Hall of Fame Awards Presentation on Saturday, July 28, as part of Hall of Fame Weekend. He’s the 42nd winner of the Frick Award.

Costas — who, by way of obvious disclosure, has worked for NBC for the past 37 years — began broadcasting baseball in 1982, when he was paired first with Sal Bando and then with Tony Kubek for NBC’s Game of the Week telecasts. He soon established himself as the top national broadcaster in the game throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s. He worked play-by-play for NBC through 1993 and continued in that role for The Baseball Network, which was a short-lived joint venture between NBC and ABC for national broadcasting rights. During this time he was the pregame and postgame host for the All-Star Games and the World Series, with Vin Scully typically doing lead play-by-play.

Costas would move into doing play-by-play for these jewel events in the 1990s first for The Baseball Network and then, when The Baseball Network dissolved, for NBC, which had re-acquired baseball rights on its own. Costas called the World Series for NBC in 1997 and 1999, the 1998 and 2000 ALCS, the 1999 NLCS and the 2000 All-Star Game. After that Fox took over national broadcast rights which it still retains. Costas continues to appear on MLB Network, where he hosts a regular interview show titled MLB Network Studio 42 with Bob Costas and hosts other special programming. He likewise continues to work the booth for several games a year alongside color man Jim Katt, most recently in the 2017 postseason.

Those are the details, all of which are more than sufficient for a Frick Award winner’s resume. Costas, however, is far more deeply associated with baseball than the bare facts of his broadcasting duties would suggest.

In many ways, Costas has served as baseball’s unofficial voice and conscience over the years. A lot of people write baseball books, but Costas’ 2000 book — Fair Ball: A Fan’s Case for Baseball — was a must-read given Costas’ stature and respect among the game’s most important figures, and ir continues to be cited whenever people talk about potential changes to the game. Indeed, Costas himself was even suggested by some as a potential commissioner of baseball candidate around the time of its publication, based largely on its ideas.

In 1995 Costas delivered the eulogy at Mickey Mantle’s funeral. His words — especially the line describing Mantle as “a fragile hero to whom we had an emotional attachment so strong and lasting that it defied logic” — became instant history. He’d later be called on to deliver the eulogy at Stan Musial’s funeral as well. Given that Costas is a historian and fan of the game just as much as he is a broadcaster of it, he will no doubt continue to be called upon as an authority about the game and its place in 20th and 21st century society.

In more recent years Costas’ highest profile assignments have been in hosting NBC’s Sunday Night Football coverage and anchoring its Olympic coverage. Given that neither NBC nor MLB Network have featured the League Championship Series or the World Series over the past decade and a half or so, it’s easy to forget — and understandable for younger people to not know — that Costas was, unquestionably, the national broadcast voice of Major League Baseball for two decades. For fans of a certain age — including this author’s age — Costas’ voice is synonymous with Major League Baseball.

The Frick Award is often awarded posthumously or after the broadcaster in question retires. It likewise often goes to people whose accomplishments are limited to their words in the broadcast booth. Costas, however, shows no signs of stopping and will likely continue to broadcast baseball games for several years. However long he continues to go, his impact and legacy in baseball is undeniable. He is, without question, a worthy recipient of the Frick Award.