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Bob Costas and Jim Kaat Talk Braun, Phillies, Red Sox, Nationals, MLB Network Print
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Written by Maury Brown   
Wednesday, 11 April 2012 00:18

MLB NetworkYou know the season is getting fully underway when the annual conference calls with the various national broadcast teams occur. For MLB Network, this year takes on extra significance with the added playoff round being added into the mix.

On Tuesday, MLB Network host Bob Costas, analyst Jim Kaat and president and CEO Tony Petitti spoke on a media conference call leading up to the premiere of MLB Network Showcase this Thursday, April 12 with the Miami Marlins visiting the Philadelphia Phillies at 7:00 p.m. ET. The game marks the first time in 2012 that Costas and Kaat will call an MLB game and the start of the fourth season that Costas and Kaat have called games together for MLB Network.

Here’s the transcript of that call.

Tony Petitti on the next steps for MLB Network:

“I can’t say whether it will be the new Wild Card [games], but I think the right words are ‘exclusive content.’ We’ve talked about the next step for us being having some exclusive baseball content where we really are the place to go for that particular game, whether it’s Postseason or regular season. I think that’s the next step, whether that will happen in the short run or happen over time as [Major League Baseball] goes through the contract negotiation process, whenever they start that. I think what we’ve done is best position ourselves to have a seat at that table, that was our goal over the last four years and I think we’ve done a really good job of that and I think [Major League Baseball] feels the same way. We’re hoping that that next step, whatever it might be, will happen shortly.”

Bob Costas on whether the five-game suspension of Ozzie Guillen by the Miami Marlins is justified:

“I think the Marlins had to react. They had to react forcefully without any ambiguity. Their original statement had no wiggle room – ‘There’s no reason to respect or admire Castro…’ – this was even before they made the decision about the suspension. I think most people will view that as fair and appropriate and, if anything, I think there’s some people who probably would’ve thought that the suspension would last longer than that, but five games seems equitable to me. It seems reasonable to me. I think there’s also an implication here that regardless of Ozzie’s shoot-from-the-hip history, he better keep it holstered on anything that goes outside baseball. People will just say ‘Hey that’s Ozzie,” if he’s talking about something that happened on the ball field, or he gets mad at one of his players, or he gets mad at someone on the opposition and he speaks colorfully about that, fine. But just keep it between the lines. The other stuff, I don’t think he has very much wiggle room anymore. [Chicago White Sox owner] Jerry Reinsdorf was pretty indulgent through the years in Chicago, but Ozzie’s painted himself into a corner now.”

Costas on whether Ryan Braun can recover his reputation completely and the position MLB is in having its MVP calling into question its drug testing program:

“First of all, completely, there is always going to be somebody, even if [Braun] is a model citizen and a model ballplayer for the next 10, 15 years, there’s always going to be somebody who’s going to recall this and make it a defining issue, but can he regain his standing nearly completely? Yeah, if everything goes well from this point on. He’s still a relatively young player, he’s a very likeable guy, and I think in his defense, he was fine in his defense – and I said this on the air – until he threw the [drug] tester under the bus. That made no sense. There’s no plausible reason to believe that his sample was tampered with. It was triple-sealed. How in the world would A) someone have the motive to do it and risk being charged with a felony; B) skillfully break the triple seal and then reseal it three times; and then C) – and maybe this should be ‘A,’ – be such a skillful rogue chemist that he spiked both the ‘A’ and the ‘B’ sample identically? What Ryan could’ve said was, perhaps plausibly, ‘I have no idea how this test turned out the way it did. I tested negative many, many times before. As soon as I heard about it, I took another test. That came up negative. I never knowingly ingested anything. I have no idea how this happened, it’s an aberrant result.’ If he’d left it at that, given how articulate he is, how likeable he is, I think that would’ve been fine. When he went a step further with these kind of murky accusations, ‘We found out stuff about the tester’ and that sort of thing, I think that undermined his credibility. I don’t think many people believe just because Ryan Braun got off in this case on a technicality, that that calls into question the validity of MLB’s program and I think MLB themselves made that clear immediately and emphatically.”

SELECT READ MORE TO SEE THE REST OF THE TRANSCRIPT

Jim Kaat on whether the Washington Nationals can be a Postseason contender:

“I appreciate what Washington has hopes for because that’s where I started my career when they had no hopes. I think a lot of it depends on the condition of Drew Storen. They don’t know when they’ll get him back, but I think there’s reason for optimism there because of a couple of reasons: The division promises to be a little more balanced with the Phillies not having the offensive production that they thought they would have, and the Marlins being much improved, the Braves are still a factor. So, with all that in the mix, it kind of evens things out and if [Ryan] Zimmerman and [Stephen] Strasburg can have big years for them, certainly I think it’s not false hope to say that the Nationals certainly have a shot at contending in that division.”

Bob Costas on the youth of the Nationals:

“They’re a promising team. Their best players are young players. One [is] a veteran like Jayson Werth, who they hope has a better year in his second year in Washington than he did in his first, but most of their prize players are young players, just entering their prime, like Zimmerman or guys just on the cusp of stardom like Bryce Harper and Strasburg, they hope if they remain healthy. If things break right, they have a heck of a chance, maybe not to win the division this year, but to be a contending team in the near future.”

Jim Kaat on Nationals manager Davey Johnson:

“I think they have the right man at the right time for them managing that team. I’m a little biased because Davey was a teammate of mine. He’s managed championship teams and as opposed to, say, a younger, inexperienced manager, I think he’s the right guy right now for that team to continue to get better.”

Bob Costas on the Boston Red Sox closer situation:

“When [Jonathan] Papelbon leaves and then [Andrew] Bailey gets hurt, that’s a tangible thing regardless of the atmosphere or the change in atmosphere created by the switch from [Terry] Francona to [Bobby] Valentine or anything else. If you haven’t got a closer, at least a reliable closer, and apparently they want to keep [Daniel] Bard in the starting rotation, who might have seemed to be an option, you’ve got a practical problem there.”

Kaat on the slow start by the Red Sox:

“I think it may take the team just a little while to adjust to the new type of kind of hands-on leadership that Bobby [Valentine] will provide. As far as the closer issue, I’ve always been quite impressed with [Mark] Melancon even though it’s not often that closers have a curveball for one of their best pitches. It’s just too risky a pitch. I still don’t think you can judge [Alfredo] Aceves and Melancon too early on what they might do as a closer. I think the one thing people forget with Bard when they say he should be in the bullpen, [is that] he was a starter in college. He has worked very hard. He has a third pitch, a changeup. He’s worked very hard to prove that he can be [a starting pitcher]. Again, the baseball fan, and rightly so, they’re passionate, they want to look at things every day, today’s game only. Baseball people look at it over a 30-, 40-game span and given that, if they give Bard six or seven starts and allow the bullpen situation to be the way it is and still kind of stay in contention, then they can make decisions after that if they have to make some changes.”

Kaat on if he ever had to transition between starting and relieving:

“I was a starter most of my career and then Whitey Herzog had said, ‘I want to use you like I used Steve Mingori in Kansas City, lefty against lefty.’ I just said, ‘Ok.’ I just worked on being a side-armer, which is what Rich Hill is doing for the Red Sox. He’s rehabbing. As a starter, you’re a pitcher and you have to learn how to use your third pitch, and it’s a marathon, not a sprint.  As a reliever and Bard was the epitome of this, you come in and you’re a thrower, like Goose Gossage was or Dick Radatz or Papelbon. Mostly they’re power guys or they have a specialty pitch. So, that’s the big adjustment to going to be a starter. You have to find a cruising speed for your fastball and not think you’re going to overpower everybody and depend a little bit more on control and using a third pitch versus just coming in a four-five pitch one-time at-bat to get one guy out. You just throw everything you have against the wall at one time.”

Kaat on why Jackie Robinson matters 65 years after his Major League debut:

“I don’t think I crossed paths directly with Jackie, but I think that question, I wish that if you read my friend Bill White’s book, Uppity, I wish that people like Bill White and Bob Gibson could answer that question because they went through in the Minor Leagues what Jackie went through. I do remember in the early 1960’s riding out to the ballpark in Orlando to Spring Training when we had to stop and pick up Earl Battey and Lenny Green and Julio Becquer from a separate hotel. [It is] hard to believe that existed even in my lifetime. I think you really have to ask the black players that went through that, or African-American – and I don’t say that in the derogatory fashion. I know Bill White and Bob Gibson have always referred to themselves as ‘black players.’ – Ask them why Jackie Robinson continues to matter just as you would ask if there was a large contingent of Jewish players why Hank Greenberg and all the abuse that he took, that he had to overcome.  I think those are the people that can answer that question better than I can because I didn’t have to go through what they did.”

Costas on Jackie Robinson’s legacy:

“Obviously, the world has changed as we see from present headlines. That doesn’t mean that racial issues don’t exist, but the world has changed dramatically and someone like Jackie Robinson had a significant hand in changing it for the better. I think that one of the lessons, if that’s the right word, that any young athlete can take from someone like Jackie Robinson is you’re given a forum and now many of these players in every sport have great personal wealth and you can use that forum for something besides your own enrichment. The issues are different now. The circumstances are different. No one’s ever going to be a trailblazer in quite the way that Jackie Robinson was, but a lot of these guys are in a position to do some good if they had a vision of the world beyond themselves and their sport, and that was something that Jackie Robinson, who was an uncommonly mature and intelligent man, [did]. Most athletes obviously come to professional maturation when they’re quite young and Robinson was kind of just ahead of the curve on that kind of stuff and just saw a bigger picture, as did other athletes who followed him. As did Bill Russell, or Muhammad Ali in his own way, or Jim Brown or Arthur Ashe or Tommie Smith and John Carlos. Again, the issues and the environment are different now, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t opportunities for people to speak out, to make their voices heard. I wish that some of the golfers this past weekend – different issue, but still significant – some of the golfers, the guys prominent enough that they’re pretty close to bulletproof had said, ‘Come on, it’s 2012. Come on, Augusta. Come on, this is nonsense. Open to the door to women.’ Would that be so hard to do?”

Kaat on the difference between working on a national game telecast as opposed to a local telecast:

“I think the difference is that Bob and I get a chance to cover sort of a game that has national appeal. We’re not representing one team. I was fortunate, I started my announcing career doing college games, so I never really sided with one team or another. I remember when I auditioned for the [Chicago] Cub job and they said, ‘Would you have a problem rooting for the home team?’ And I said, ‘Yes, I would. I just don’t think I could do that in fairness to all fans.’ So, I think that’s the difference, even though I took pride in not being a homer for MSG or YES, or even the [Minnesota] Twins telecasts. I think with MLB [Network], we get a game that always has national appeal and is a marquee matchup. That’s the way the network treats it, when you look at our research people and our production crew. You know we’re not going in and there’s not backroom talk about ‘Are the Yankees going to win tonight? Are the Mets? Or ‘What’s wrong with this guy?’ It’s just, ‘We’ve got a baseball game and it’s going to appeal to everybody out there that’s watching it,’ and that’s how we try to deliver the telecast.”

Kaat on whether he likes the national approach or local approach to a telecast better:

“Well, I always took the same approach. I don’t think anyone that watched Yankee games for the 13 [years] that I did them could say that. It made my job easier if the Yankees went 162-0, but I never felt that there was any pressure to say good things about the Yankees when they weren’t doing well. I’ve always felt comfortable being an objective observer and just watching what goes on the field. When somebody does something poorly, chances are that a guy on the other team is doing something well. So I liked them both identically from that standpoint.”

Kaat on how concerned the Phillies should be about their offense:

“I don’t know about worried, but knowing Charlie Manuel, and Bob has sat in with me on a number of conferences, and Charlie will make no secret about the fact that he’s a hitter. He wants a team that can provide some offense, so this is very frustrating for him right now not having [Ryan] Howard and [Chase] Utley, and [Jim] Thome with a bad back and getting off to a slow start. I read his comments everyday in the Philadelphia paper and he’s going to try to conjure up some kind of a lineup or figure out a way. He doesn’t have to pay much attention to his pitching. Rich Dubee will handle that and they’ve got solid pitching anyway. Right now, it’s a frustrating time for Charlie, not because they lost three of their first four, but all of a sudden, because he’s looking at a lineup where he’s saying, ‘Man, we don’t have anybody that can hit that three-run homer. We don’t have any extra base-hit power.’ He’s going to try to figure out where he can get that from or put a lineup together that might. Or he’s going to have to change his philosophy, which is going to be very difficult for Charlie to do, and turn into Gene Mauch and start bunting, hit-and-run and steal. That’s not his style, but maybe that’s the way they’ll have to play this year.”

Costas on the decline in production by the Phillies’ offense:

“I’m just looking at my notes for Thursday’s game and … in 2009 when they went back to the World Series, the Phillies scored 820 runs. The next year they scored 772, and last year they scored 713. So, that’s more than 100 fewer in the space of two years, and they had Ryan Howard for the full season and Utley for part of the season a year ago. Now they begin this season without either one of them and question marks as to when they’d be back, and already looking at a 100-run falloff in a space of two years, so that’s what Manuel’s worried about.”

Costas on Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard:

“Also, and this is no knock on anybody, Jimmy Rollins is still a very good player, but Jimmy Rollins is not the MVP player from 2007. The production is not at a peak as it once was. Basically, those were the three guys, apart from pitching, who were the heart of the team. Did they have other good players? Of course they did, but Rollins, Utley and Howard, in some order, were the heart of the team. One of them is now in a little bit of a decline. Again, he is still a very good player, Jimmy Rollins, but in a little bit of a decline, and Utley and Howard are out. That’s the heart of the team.”

Kaat on the Phillies’ lineup without Howard and Utley:

“Another point, just speaking from a pitcher’s standpoint, is now when I get that lineup card that the manager hands me and I look at it and say, ‘This is who I’m pitching against.’ Even though you respect every hitter that steps in a box in a big league game [and] has a bat in his hands is dangerous, all of a sudden [in] your mind, you’re much more aggressive in your approach to say, ‘Wow, I don’t have this three [or] four guy that I’m going to waste about 15 or 20 pitches on.’ I think that’s going to have a good effect on the opposing starting pitchers to challenge the Phillie hitters. It’s going to, in this day of counting pitches and innings limitations. All of a sudden, you can get through that lineup in fewer pitches than you ever did before. And as a result, if you’re a pretty good pitcher, you’re going to take your team deeper into the game. Even though Howard, when he comes back, may not be the real Ryan Howard, he’ll be a threat and he’ll intimidate some pitchers where he can affect the guy that hits before him and after him. Until they get back, Charlie’s going to figure out a way to put some kind of a lineup together that can pose a threat to the opposing starting pitcher.”

Costas on who can help the Phillies fill the void in their lineup:

“Now in fairness, they have added Hunter Pence, in the middle of last season, so there’s a very important bat that they didn’t have before. They have to have their fingers crossed that John Mayberry, who’s going to get time in the outfield and some opportunity at first base with Howard out, that he can blossom the way they hoped that he would. If he has a big year and if Pence has a big year for a full season with Philadelphia, that makes up some of the difference. Not all of it, but some of it.”

Source: MLB Network

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Maury BrownMaury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey. He writes for Baseball Prospectus and is a contributor to Forbes SportsMoney blog.. He is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network (select his name in the dropdown provided).

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