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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 Kaat, 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 assignments 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 it 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 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.

 

 

MLB’s juiced baseball is juicing Triple-A home run totals too

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There has been considerable evidence amassed over the past year or two that the baseball used by Major League Baseball has a lower aerodynamic profile, leading to less drag, which leads directly to more home runs. If you doubted that at all, get a load of what is happening in Triple-A right now.

The minors have always had different balls than the majors. The MLB ball is made in Costa Rica at a Rawlings facility. The minor league balls are made in China. They use slightly different materials and, by all accounts, the minor league balls do not have the same sort of action and do not travel as far as the big league balls. Before the season, as Baseball America reported, Major League Baseball requested that Triple-A baseball switch to using MLB balls. The reason: uniformity and, one presumes, more accurate analysis of performance at the top level of the minor leagues.

The result, as Baseball America reports today, is a massive uptick in homers in the early going to the Triple-A season:

Last April, Triple-A hitters homered once every 47 plate appearances. As the weather warmed up, so did the home run rate. Over the course of the entire 2018 season, Triple-A hitters homered every 43 plate appearances. So far this year, they are homering every 32 plate appearances. Triple-A hitters are hitting home runs at a rate of 135 percent of last year’s rate.

Again, that’s in the coldest, least-homer friendly month of the season. It’s gonna just get worse. Or better, I guess, if you’re all about the long ball.

Which you had better be, because if they did something to deaden the balls and reduce homers, we’d have the same historically-high strikeout and walk rates but with no homers to provide offense to compensate. At least unless or until hitters changed their approach to become slap hitters or something, but that could take a good while. And may still not be effective given the advances in defense since the last time slap hitting was an important part of the game.

In the meantime, enjoy the dingers, Triple-A fans.