Bob Costas: Strasburg debut "has no precedent"
Stephen Strasburg's debut will feature, among other acts of hoopla, both the Baseball Tonight set on site and a live broadcast on the MLB Network, with Bob Costas providing the call. CNBC's Darren Rovell is reporting that Strasmas day should be worth about $1.5 million to the franchise, from tickets to ticket packages to speculated ticket buys to concessions.
The Post will offer a Strasburg commemorative poster on Sunday, and CNN included Strasburg on its list of Tuesday's Intriguing People. (But behind Hall & Oates? Re-count!) So, as always, the question is compare this to other big debuts.
"In terms of hype and buildup, it has no precedent," Costas told me Tuesday morning before his production meeting. "Everything has changed so much just in the last few years. It's not just a 24/7 news cycle, but a 24/7 sports news cycle, including the reason why I'm here: MLB NEtwork. We're treating this like a football playoff game, with a full pregame show from the site.
"No matter how good the pitcher was, the circumstances didn't exist in the past for something quite like this in terms of buildup. In doing some research, one of the tihngs that struck me is even a guy like Dwight Gooden, I remember how anticipated his debut was was, and he debuts at the Astrodome in front of 18.000 people. Roger Clemens debuts in Cleveland in front of 4,000 people, and it wasn't like Clemens was an unknown, like a Fernando Valenzuela.
"When you look for historical precedents, there's really none. And the comparisons are all over the place. Juan Marichal pitched a one-hit shutout in his Major League debut with 12 strikeouts, but his contemporaries like Koufax, Bob Gibson, Jim Palmer all debuted in relief., inconspicuously. So did Greg Maddux. Al Worthington and Karl Spooner both pitched back-to-back shutouts in their first two Major League starts. If Strasburg does that, they'll have to build an annex to the back of the stadium first game....
"So who the hell knows? Maybe he goes out and gets the [stuffing] kicked out of him. I don't suggest the Nationals then trade him. And if he throws a no-hitter, I don't suggest they start minting his Hall of Fame plaque."
Costas said if the game plays out in a normal fashion, he'll likely drop at least one Big Train reference, and I encouraged him to also wish his viewers a Merry Strasmas. He said "the whole baseball world" will be watching this game. And he said he's happy that his part of the proceedings will involve actually watching and describing a baseball game, after all these months of hype.
"There's a difference between excitement and drama, and hype," Costas said. "And the one thing that we have that no one else has, even in this tidal wave of coverage, the one thing that only we have is the game itself. Certainly there's room for analysis, and there's plenty of room for all these little ironies and historical connections, but the one thing we have is the drama and the excitement of the moment. When he gets on the mound in that first inning, that's the story. It's an event. It's theater.
"I'm very excited, but with I hope some perspective on it. One game does not a season or career make, but there's no doubt that the whole baseball world is watching. You can be into something without losing all perspective on it. That's what I aim to be: into it without losing your mind in the process."
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