A couple of weeks ago, Jonathan Mahler wrote a long essay in the Times, essentially arguing that baseball, once Our National Game, has become largely irrelevant in the American culture. As you might imagine, I disagreed. First on the Internet, and later on the radio. In my original essay, I quoted a bit of Mahler's essay that included a quote from Bob Costas ...
Expansion also helped ensure that baseball would become a largely regional sport. Economically, this has been great: local TV deals are where the money is. It’s been good for fans, too: They can now watch their hometown team play most of its games.
The downside is that only a handful of franchises can claim any sort of national profile. When the postseason rolls around and it’s time for baseball to take the national stage — well, it doesn’t, unless the Yankees or the Red Sox are involved. "If Tampa Bay plays Cincinnati in the World Series, I don’t care if the series goes seven games and every game goes into extra innings, baseball is screwed," says Mr. Costas. "That’s not fair to the Rays or the Reds, but it’s true."
In that context, it seemed like Costas was saying that baseball is generally SCREWED without the right teams in the World Series. But he wrote a letter to the Times, explaining that's not what he meant at all:
When I said baseball would be “screwed” if two small-market, low-profile teams met in the World Series, I was speaking solely of the effect on national television ratings. That does not mean that small-market teams in the postseason aren’t good for baseball. In the big picture, they emphatically are.
In fact, the success this year of the Pirates, Indians, Rays and Reds is just one of the many indications that baseball is thriving. As Mr. Mahler himself notes, in every measurable way, other than national TV ratings (an admittedly significant concern), baseball is doing much better than at any time in its history.
That's just a bit of Costas's response, in which he makes it very clear that baseball is thriving and vibrant, thanks in part to its grand history and traditions.
Well played, sir. Very well played.