Saturday, July 19, 2008

The State Of The Game

HBO replayed this evening Bob Costas' terrific Town Hall Meeting on Baseball. "The State Of The Game", a 90 Minute live program from this past Wednesday Night in New York City. Sohna had mentioned the "Costas Now" show to me, when I was away, so we made the effort to watch the replay tonight. Well worth our time.

Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Bob Gibson, Dave Winfield, Pete Rose, Jim Palmer, Evan Longoria, Doug Jones, Jimmy Rollins, Andy VanSlyke were among the Hall Of Fame and Current and Former All Stars invited to attend. Commissioner Bud Selig was interviewed on tape for a segment. So were Mike Schmidt and Joe Torre among others. Costas centering his questions on where the game stands today. The topics all very enlightening.

From the get-go, when Pete Rose appeared from Las Vegas (Ironically), the program took a mostly serious tone. Should Rose be re-instated to the game and be eligible for The Baseball Hall of Fame? Or should Pete continue to be subjected to being on the outside looking in--with many of those late generation players now embroiled in the Steroids Era of The Great Game--Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro, among others? Dave Winfield & Jim Palmer where in on the discussion with Costas and Rose. While Rose did not back down, neither did Winfield HOLD BACK. Clearly stating--if you have cheated you should not be honored among the best. He did not give in to Rose. He did not give in to steroids. And later telling Bob Costas how he even believes the diluting of The Hall Of Fame will continue when Designated Hitters, more and more, get elected to Cooperstown. "They are not complete players," Winfield stated. "But, I realize some more will eventually be elected. It can not be stopped." (Paul Molitor was elected to The Hall of Fame just a few years ago as a DH).

Pete Rose made an interesting statement concerning Roger Clemens. How "The Rocket" should have come clean, like Andy Petitte and Jason Giambi did before him on Human Growth Hormone and have mostly been forgiven. Something The All Time Hits leader also admitted he should have done over betting on baseball many years ago. Good Stuff.

Should Barry Bonds be elected to The Hall of Fame? Some would state Bonds had a Hall of Fame career BEFORE his home run explosion. This very topic was put into play on the program. Costas did not believe McGwire or Palmeiro deserved the honor. Winfield stating that 500 Home Runs will no longer be a Standard Bearer for Hall of Fame Election in the near future. The Panel comparing the All Around Careers of Jim Rice and Andre Dawson (both still falling short of Hall Election)--to those of Sammy Sosa, McGwire and even Jim Thome. Winfield believing Rice and Dawson were great all around players from their era and justly should be honored for their careers.

No one believing anyone should be elected to The Hall of Fame based on said player being better than "the least honored player currently in The Hall." Bob Costas stating how cronyism from many Veteran Committee Voters over the past decades has elected some undeserving members to Cooperstown.

Longoria, Jones & Rollins discussed the ongoing issues with Maple Bats. Wanted by players to provide more solid contact when bat meets ball, Maple has continually broken in dramatic style during most any game. The splintering wood many times flying and now hurting both fans, players and coaches physically. Longoria flat out stating--"Maybe not next year, but soon--Maple Bats will be banned from the game, by the players." An interesting perspective from a Young All-Star currently using Maple Bats to his advantage.

When I was growing up in the 1960's, 30% of all players in the game were African American. Today, just 8%. The Tigers Centerfielder Curtis Granderson was interviewed on how at every single level of play from childhood until he reached Professional Ball--he was the only Black American on his teams. Winfield stating how African-Americans have walked away from the game, many times due to neglect in inner city neighborhoods, but also due to the ever growing popularity that goes with the fame and fortune of Football and Basketball. It was a very good chat. Winfield mentioned The Baseball Academy's some Major League Teams are forming in their communities--including Our Washington Nationals. He also stated that youths need to realize how Baseball accepts all shapes and sizes--not just the fastest, tallest or greatest human specimen. Dave Winfield was very impressive. Having never really heard him speak before on topics of importance outside the lines--I came away from this episode with a new respect for this Hall Of Famer. Dave Winfield is a very thoughtful man.

Finally, Costas Now finished with a excellent conversation with Hank Aaron, Willie Mays & Bob Gibson--following a nice pre-taped interview with Joe Torre--who played with both Aaron and Gibson. Very upbeat, Hank Aaron is a very humble man. Too bad Costas only touched briefly, at the end, on all the hate Aaron put up with as he approached and eventually passed Babe Ruth with Home Run Number 715. Aaron deserved so much better at that time. Thankfully, today, he is revered for The Great Man Ole Number 44 really was--and still is today.

Really, this was great television--enlightening and informative. Exactly the type of discussions missing many times from the coverage of sport today. Too bad it could not have gone on another 90 minutes. There was so much to discuss. Fortunately, to make this event even better, HBO will be offering Costas Now Overtime--extended interviews from the program--available online. And HBO is preparing a special encore presentation with the extended interviews to air soon on their network.

If you have HBO--this is MUST SEE TELEVISION FOLKS. Check the listings. Watch Costas Now from July 16th. The Town Hall Meeting on The State of The Game. Well worth your time.

PS--You can also download portions of the program off iTunes.

PSS--Back in April, Costas Now did a terrific 16 Minute Segment on Mainstream Sports Coverage, The Internet and Bloggers. Parts of which are still available at and through iTunes. More good stuff.

Finally--We know Our Washington Nationals beat The Atlanta Braves tonight 8-2. While watching Costas Now--Sohna and I watched the game on the small side of Picture In Picture on our television. John Lannan got a deserved 6th win. Willie Harris looks like a real leadoff hitter and Ryan Langerhans is showing some good skills at the plate, not just in the field. And can we please trade Paul LoDuca now--before he cools off again?


The Man said...

on the topic of African Americans in baseball.. You can do all the opening of fields in the inner cities, but if you don't properly promote an African American baseball player your not going to catch the attention of the younger kids.

Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, BRANDON PHILLIPS, B.J Upton, these guys should be promoted AMAP..

Chris Needham said...

The problem I have with those 30/8 figures is that it ignores the huge influx of Latin (and even Asian) players into the game.

I imagine the numbers would look quite differently if you took those players out and compared with with black.

There'd probably still be a decline, but not one nearly as dramatic as it seems. The game has gone far more international over the last 20-30 years and I've never seen anyone really try to adjust for that.

Anonymous said...

I think Jimmy Rollins hit the nail on the head. Baseball is passed from father to son. I'll bet 96%+ of all baseball players had a father that instilled the love of the game into them as a boy and also spent hours throwing batting practice, catching them or hitting ground balls. Jimmy was right no other sport requires this amount of parental involvement. As a father of a professional player I see this all the time.

I would also bet if MLB was as dedicated ($$ & people)to RBI as it is to developing latin players the 30/8 number would change. When international players come under the same draft rules this may change. As always follow the money. . . .

Jim Palmer had a useful comment about judging the steroid era. Take away 10-15 homers (and the RBI) a year then decide if the player would be a HOF'r. But, what about pitchers? and gap hitters?