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Baseball Swings Into Playoffs


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. I wait all week to say time for sports.


SIMON: Playoff time in Major League Baseball. So many games, but the Cubs aren't in any of them. However, we are joined by Howard Bryant of ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine to talk about those good clubs playing now. Thanks for being with us, Howard.

HOWARD BRYANT: Good morning, Scott. If the Cubs are what you're looking for in playoff baseball, I suggest a new team, a new century.

SIMON: Oh, oh, oh, oh, hey.

BRYANT: Anyone can have a bad century, right.

SIMON: Wait till next century. Listen. Let's start with the National League 'cause everyone's 1-1. The Braves beat the Dodgers last night to even the series. The Pirates essentially took batting practice on Cardinal pitching. They won 7-1. What have you noticed in these games so far?

BRYANT: Well, you notice that there's nothing like playoff baseball, in terms of the energy, the electricity. It's great to see the passion that people have coming to the ballpark and also what these players are doing on the field is pretty remarkable in terms of how evenly matched they are. The Cardinals and the Pirates, all season long, they would play games where one team would win 10-1 and then the next team would win 12-1 and that's exactly what happened in this series.

St. Louis won the first game 9 to 1 and then they come back and get crushed the next game. It's going to be great to see playoff baseball in Pittsburgh tomorrow for the first time since 1992 and I think it's just going to be - the electricity there, if they can come out and get those two games and go to the NLCS for the first time in 20 years, it's going to be pretty remarkable.

SIMON: Over in the American League, began a little later. The Tigers scored three runs in the first inning, that's all they needed against the A's, who came back with just two. The Boston Red Sox pounded the Tampa Bay Rays 12-2. Was this Boston's way of saying welcome to the playoffs, kids?

BRYANT: Well, I think it was their way of saying, look we're the best team in baseball and we need to prove it and the best way to do that is to start fast at home. But it's also another example of how all of this changes by a hair. That score was 12 to 2 and the only reason it got out of hand - the Red Sox were down two to nothing, but you make mistakes in the field and it snowballs and that's exactly what happened to Tampa Bay.

They had no business losing that game as badly as they did, but when the playoff pressure - I remember talking to David Ortiz one day back in '07 and he said, you know, when people come to Fenway Park, when other teams come to Fenway Park and something goes wrong, their knees start shaking, and that's when we go for the kill. And that's exactly what happened to Tampa Bay yesterday.

SIMON: Yeah, Fenway's worth a point or two, to say the least. A-Rod, Alex Rodriguez is suing Major League Baseball and Commissioner Selig. Not the Yankees, who really did try and kind of, I think, sully his reputation. What's the basis of this suit?

BRYANT: Oh, the basis of the suit is to discredit the process. Alex Rodriguez was suspended for 211 games for allegedly using performance-enhancing drugs on several occasions and instead of dealing face-to-face with those allegations he instead has attacked Major League Baseball and essentially taken the strategy that their tactics have been designed to destroy his reputation and career.

So this is going to get ugly. It's already ugly. It's going to be very interesting to see what an arbitrator decides in terms of tactics versus actual use of performance-enhancing drugs.

SIMON: And quickly, the Reds let go of Dusty Baker. I'll miss him. He's been a great manager. Never quite made it to the, well...

BRYANT: Three-time Manager of the Year, great person. Like, I always say about some people - about Mariana Rivera - here are some people who make this job really difficult, others who make it really easy. Dusty Baker made your job very easy, good baseball man. And hopefully, even at age 64, he gets another chance.

SIMON: Yeah. Howard Bryant of ESPN. Thanks so much.

BRYANT: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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