They couldn’t resist

A month ago I was sad to see the MLB Network cave in to the perceived need for perceived gravitas and give Bob Costas a feature spot on its debut broadcast. At the time, however, I was comforted by the fact that it seemed to be a one-off. Apparently it’s now a forever-off:

Bob Costas, a 19-time Emmy Award winner and NBC broadcaster, has signed a multi-year contract to join the upstart* MLB Network, CNBC has learned, though he will remain at NBC Sports.

The MLB network, which debuted on Jan. 1 as the largest launch in cable history at 50 million homes, will announce the news later today.

Costas will host original programming on the channel and will serve as play-by-play commentator for a select group of regular season games broadcast by the network, which is owned by the league.

I think Costas was — and probably still is — a great play-by-play man, but his Keeper of the Game shtick wears thin in a hurry. If they send him to class-up a Thursday night tilt between the Pirates and the Rockies, wonderful. We’ll all be better for it. If they stick him in a plush armchair and allow him to wax sepia, however, it will represent a major step back for the MLB Network.

*I suppose MLB Network is an “upstart” in the most literal sense (i.e. it just started up) but describing a channel backed by a $6 billion business and owned in part by the nation’s largest cable companies as “upstart” kind of stretches the normal meaning of that word, don’t you think?

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  1. Wooden_U_Lykteneau said...

    There is an upside for HBO viewers:

    “As part of the deal, Costas will leave HBO, where he hosted ‘Costas Now’ and ‘Inside the NFL’ over the last eight years.”

    Perhaps the NFL Network can make a similar move with an offer to Chris Berman, perhaps even take Stuart Scott, too?

  2. Bill said...

    Yeah, they all get annoying at one time or another, but I think Costas is one of the good guys. I’m happy with this. And it doesn’t sound like it will, but if it’s at all possible for more Costas to mean less H.R., Verducci, Leiter, Heyman, and/or Plesac, this is just unbelievably wonderful news all around.

  3. Craig Calcaterra said...

    Hate is probably too strong a word. He is a good play by play guy, a decent studio show guy, and is generally competent at what he does.

    That said, I am very weary of him serving as the defacto conscious and keeper of baseball history, a position to which he appointed himself via his “this is how to save baseball” book and myriad television appearances since.  There is also a very strong strain of “nothing can ever be better than 1950s and early 1960s Yankee baseball” in his work, which is annoying enough on its own, but which also fuels the previous criticism.

    And while it may not be entirely his fault, there is a sense in the media that Costas is somehow the Official Voice of something or at the very least constitutes instant-credibility when it comes to baseball.  It was my hope that the MLB Network could avoid paying tribute to that and going in its own direction.  Instead, they chose a boring orthodoxy that will only encourage Costas’ increasingly nostalgia-fueled view of the baseball universe, and I find that to be highly regrettable.

  4. Aarcraft said...

    Based on the article, I think they will be playing to his strengths.

    “Costas will host original programming on the channel and will serve as play-by-play commentator for a select group of regular season games broadcast by the network, which is owned by the league.”

  5. Aarcraft said...

    It doesn’t address the true need of the network though, which is a stat oriented guy to provide a counter point to the Heyman dribble.

  6. Aarcraft said...

    scatterbrian: I say switch. I think the beef has something to do with the extra inning package, but I’m not sure of the details. It seems to me when given a choice between a provider with no MLB Network and no MLB Extra Innings v. a provider that offers both, its worth a switch. Of course, it depends on the fee.

    As for the MLB network, it certainly has its flaws so far, but it still is on in my house far more than any other channel.

  7. scatterbrian said...

    Does anyone know about a beef between MLB Network and Dish Network? And is NLB Network worth the headache (and possible fee) of switching providers?

  8. The Common Man said...

    I think that, because he has been out of the play-by-play game for some time, Costas has been idealized as not part of the Fox-ification of the game.  As somehow above the hype and mroe stately than Joe Buck because he hasn’t had the chance to be down in the muck.  My biggest concern, based on his work with the Olympics and NBC’s football programming, is that he’ll only be too eager to embrace the narratives and hyper-gadgetry that is available now, like virtually every single other announcer out there.

    That said, I like the work he did in the past (especially after watching some of MLB’s greatest games replayed on MLB Network), and look forward to having my fears disproven.

  9. The Common Man said...

    Also, and this is my own recollection and may be incorrect, when Costas wrote his book I don’t know that it was clear that baseball didn’t need saving.  There were some rough years in the mid-nineties and comparatively little counterbalance to the mainstream media freakout over the strike and the perceived big-market/small-market dynamic.  I guess what I’m trying to say is, I’m willing to overlook everything as long as he doesn’t suck.

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