Wednesday, June 20, 2012

BC2012: Fair Ball: A Fan's Case for Baseball by Bob Costas

I found this in the clearance section of Half Price Books in Appleton, WI for $3. I decided to read it because Father's Day was coming up, and a faded sticker on the book says "GREAT GIFTS FOR DAD." I thought that was funny because my dad hates baseball, so this book actually would be a terrible gift for dad.

I like Bob Costas and I enjoyed this book in general, but I probably wouldn't have bought it had I taken more time to examine it in the store. The problem is that Costas wrote this book at a particular time (2000) to lay out his ideas for how to get Major League Baseball back on track (he felt baseball had gone wrong in 1993 but it could still be corrected easily). His ideas are excellent (revenue sharing, salary caps, etc.), but I haven't really followed MLB closely enough to know how many of those ideas are still viable. And even if they are, a lot of other things have happened in the past decade that would probably impact the specifics of Costas' ideas. So Fair Ball is a good book, but it's more of a period piece.

I wouldn't say reading this book was a waste of time, though. For example, Costas' argument against the wild card is still quite relevant. Essentially, baseball used to be all about the pennant races -- more so than any other sport -- and introducing the wild card playoff spot destroyed this dramatic and critical aspect of the game. The second-place team just isn't going to fight as hard going down the stretch when they know they'll still make the playoffs regardless of whether they catch the first place team. The "Loose Ends" chapter near the end also provides good commentary on topics like designated hitters, Pete Rose, instant replay, and commercialism.

Big baseball fans will find useful arguments and perspectives in Fair Ball, but I presume most big baseball fans would have read it 10-12 years ago when it was more topical.

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