Bob Costas may not pay attention to his critics on social media while calling the New York Yankees and Cleveland Guardians ALDS matchup, but Mike Francesa’s newsworthy comments were hard to ignore.
Costas joined The Ken Carman Show with Anthony Lima on 92.3 The Fan in Cleveland Tuesday morning to preview the ALDS Game 5 finale (set for 4:07 p.m. ET Tuesday on TBS after a rainout Monday night). During the interview, the iconic play-by-play voice was asked about the criticism he’s received throughout the series.
“I see people like Mike Francesa and others that are critical of the way you call the sport,” Lima said after noting how excited he was to learn Costas was calling the Guardians–Yankees series. “Does that hurt you? When you hear people come after you that way? Someone who has done it at your level for as long as you’ve done it.”
Following Games 3 and 4 of the series, Francesa joined the crowd of critics who were calling out Costas for talking too much during his ALDS broadcast on TBS. “Everything’s a history lesson,” Francesa ranted on his BetRivers podcast. “We don’t need a history lesson every two seconds! Everybody’s a Yankee fan, they have Yankee history, they understand Yankee history! They know it backwards and forwards! This is not a history class. It’s a baseball game. Be quiet! Do the game. He’s driving everybody crazy.”
Costas, who is not on Twitter, said he mostly ignores his critics. But the above comment from Francesa appeared to catch his attention. The Hall-of-Fame play-by-play voice did not name Francesa, but he responded to Lima’s question by citing the Sports Pope’s rant.
“I’m gonna give you an honest answer, I don’t pay a whole lot of attention to it because of the dynamics that we’ve been talking about. So I understand what it is. There was one comment — in line with what you’re talking about where, ‘You don’t have to say these things about the Yankees. Everybody’s a Yankee fan. Everybody knows this,’” Costas recalled with a chuckle. “Does that person understand the nature of a national broadcast? Yes, everybody from Sacramento to Bangor, Maine knows who Aaron Judge is this year, but what about other factors within it?
“I think if you don’t set the stage and frame it a little bit, then the casual fan isn’t drawn in as much and they don’t understand the dynamics of the series.”
Criticizing Costas for offering too many ancillary narratives during a broadcast is one thing, but Francesa’s logic of “Everybody’s a Yankee fan, they have Yankee history, they understand Yankee history!” is flawed. Michael Kay can use that logic when calling game 125 of the season on YES Network, but Costas has to factor in non-Yankee fans who are tuning in to watch the MLB Playoffs when preparing for a national broadcast.
“I’m also very self-critical and I understand there are occasions when I don’t quite meet my own standard,” Costas admitted. “I don’t quite accomplish what I set out to do, and I do understand that possibly in Game 1 of this series — because I was so well-prepared — I was trying to frame the series. In Game 1, the balance might have tilted a little bit too much towards some of that background and history of the season and the history of the two franchises.”
On a recent episode of Kenny Mayne’s podcast, Keith Olbermann echoed Costas’ self-criticism claim as he recalled seeing the Hall-of-Fame broadcaster watch his own game broadcast at 2am during the 1997 World Series. “There was an element of doubt in him as to whether or not he would be asked back for the next game,” Olbermann said of Costas.
Recognizing that a national broadcast is different from the way local announcers call baseball games, Costas even suggested MLB working with network partners to have alternate feeds featuring a team’s home announcing crew in the future.
“They could put their voices, in real time, over the pictures the network is providing,” Costas told 92.3 The Fan. “And as long as the rating locally, which would be drained a little bit in both cities, as long as that could be added to the network’s rating, and as long as they played the same commercials so that the network wasn’t hurt in terms of revenue, that would be a reasonable alternative for people to have.”