Costas: Strasburg debut was "preposterous"
When I talked to Bob Costas about calling the Stephen Strasburg debut on MLB Network Tuesday morning, he was very measured, and very non-hysterical. I suggested he was dousing cold water on Washington's insanity.
"You can be into something without losing all perspective on it," he told me then. "That's what I aim to be: into it without losing your mind in the process."
So I checked back with Costas on Wednesday. He had lost his mind.
"I think this is in my personal top 10," he said, when I asked where this rated among the live sporting events he's covered.
(I was later told that I blurted out "Are you serious?!?!" when he said that. Whoops.)
"I've been lucky enough to do a lot of stuff: NBA Finals, Super Bowls, World Series," Costas continued. "I think it's in the top 10. Now bear in mind that I love baseball, it's my favorite sport, and that adds an extra edge. But I'd definitely put this in my personal top 10. If you asked me in the fourth inning, I'd have said 'Well, it's pretty good.' The way it finished? Yeah, it has some standing."
When he went back to his hotel Tuesday night, Costas ran into Pirates starter Jeff Karstens.
"You hung in there very well, up against History," Costas said.
"That guy had stuff that we have not seen before," Karstens responded.
I told Costas how all the fans were just kind of looking at each other and shaking their heads in amazement by the end, in between all the hugs. Then I asked if he, John Smoltz and Jim Kaat had any of that head-shaking reaction in the booth.
"That's what the Pirates were doing, too," he joked. "Look, are there other guys that can throw 100? There are other guys that can throw 100. Are there other guys that have wicked change-ups? There are. Are there other guys that have unbelievable curves? There are. There is nobody that has four pitches like this guy does, and can throw them all on command, and can throw them on any count. He can curve you at 3-0. That's what makes this guy close to unique, if not unique.
"I think at the beginning [Smoltz and Kaat] were appreciative observers, and at the end they were as thrilled as any fans. It was just a thrilling thing to be a part of. It's preposterous."
That's a fine word for the night, and one I haven't previously used. And to be clear, Costas wasn't saying this was the best pitching performance in MLB history or that baseball hasn't previously seen phenom rookie pitchers or that Strasburg is destined for Cooperstown. He was saying that facing impossible, absurd expectations, Strasburg went past them.
"I just can't think of anything that fits this category," Costas said. "What makes this unique -- and I'm using the word unique precisely -- what makes this unique is that you've never had the combination of hype and buildup and modern media coverage, and then performance.
"The other [phenoms], even if there was lots of conversation, you just didn't have the intensity of media coverage that you have now. You have all the hype, all the anticipation, all the coverage. We came into this with the idea of trying to be restrained and not getting caught up in the hype, but he has exceeded the hype. It seems like all the superlatives can be unleashed."
See highlights of Costas's exuberance at Deadspin.
SportsBusiness Daily collects reviews on both the MLB Network and MASN2 broadcast.
And SB Nation collects some of the best "Strasgasms" from around the newspaper and Internet world, as sportswriters were reduced to puddles of saliva.
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