There was great excitement about Bob Costas calling his first MLB Playoff series since 2000 last year, but by his own assessment, the legendary announcer dropped the ball.
Last October, Costas was on the call for the ALDS matchup between the New York Yankees and Cleveland Guardians on TBS, and the reviews weren’t great. Costas joined the latest episode of Bill Maher’s Club Random podcast where he admitted some of those negative reviews were deserved.
“This past October, I did the Yankees and the Guardians in the Division Series and I felt like I was off my game,” Costas said. “Sort of like a pitcher who still has good stuff, but somehow, as they say, he didn’t have command, that night. I could feel it. In the first five or six innings of the first game, it’s the same philosophy, same approach, but I wasn’t nailing it. It didn’t have the same flow and rhythm to it. There were a few awkward moments. I hadn’t worked that much with Ron Darling, only two or three games. Very smart guy. A guy I really like.”
Maher then paused the conversation to laud Costas’ broadcasting style, a take not many sports fans would have argued with throughout his career as a play-by-play announcer. But last October, social media was overwhelmed with criticism for Costas, who sounded as if he was more focused on squeezing historical nuggets into the broadcast than he was on the flow of the game. And it wasn’t just the younger baseball fan who complained, his biggest critic may have been 68-year-old Mike Francesa, who griped on his podcast that Costas “will not shut up.”
“I don’t place much stock in what two or three people say on Twitter,” Costas told Maher. “Because on Twitter, there’s no misdemeanors, there’s only felonies. But when I knew myself that it just wasn’t what I’ve generally been able to do—and I wasn’t comparing myself to 1995 when I’m doing the World Series, I was comparing myself to August and September of last season when things were as they usually were. And somehow, I might have gotten a little better as the five games went along, but it wasn’t what I intended to do. Now, why do I care about that?
“I’m back if I wanna be back to do it. I’m only doing it as much as what I want to do. I did a dozen Olympics. It was time to leave that. Most of what I’ve done is in the past. But I only want to do a handful of things and one of the things I want to do is a little bit of baseball,” Costas continued. “Why? Because I’ve always liked it and because it’s gratifying to me when people say the sort of things you’ve said. ‘You do it differently and I appreciate that.’ I don’t need a parade. I just like that. So I felt like I dropped the ball on that, and it made me feel bad about it for that reason.”
Costas came across as being over-prepared at times as he called his first MLB Playoff series in more than two decades last year. Rather than focusing on the game at hand, Costas may have forced too many ancillary narratives into the broadcast. But that might be a misstep that’s harder to repeat this season, thanks to MLB shortening its breaks in the action by enforcing the pitch clock.