Baseball Warms Up For World Series Play

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The temperatures are dropping, but baseball is heating up. The Philadelphia Phillies are waiting to see if they'll face the Yankees or the Angels in the World Series starting next Wednesday. Also starting next week: the NBA regular season. Host Scott Simon talks baseball playoffs and bad football teams with NPR's Tom Goldman.

SCOTT SIMON, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

Time for sports.

(Soundbite of music)

SIMON: The World Series almost here. Philadelphia Phillies wait to see if they'll face the New York Yankees or the Los Angeles Angels in the World Series starting next Wednesday. Also next week, National Basketball Association begins its season.

NPR's sports correspondent Tom Goldman joins us. Morning, Tom.

TOM GOLDMAN: Top of the morning, Scott.

SIMON: And let's start with baseball. Just when you think the Angels have a fork in them, they come back to life.

GOLDMAN: They certainly did.

SIMON: But the series goes back to New York - you got Andy Pettitte on the mound, C.C. Sabathia is resting up. You've got to figure the Yanks have a little advantage, wouldn't you?

GOLDMAN: You certainly would. First, we should say if Game 6 happens tonight -because the prediction is for monsoons basically - so, when it does happen, you're right, the Yanks have to be favored, on paper at least. Since June 30th, New York has lost only ten games at the new Yankee Stadium. As you mentioned, they've got a murderer's row batting lineup, they've got the great veteran lefty pitcher Andy Pettitte starting tonight, so I like the Angels.

A couple of reasons: L.A. gritted its way to a win in Game 5 facing elimination. So, they've already showed that they can perform under that kind of pressure. Relief pitcher Brian Fuentes did say pressure is what you put in your tires, and I think there's a bit of that attitude in that whole team. Plus, in this post-season of woeful relief pitching, the Yankees have some definite issues, Scott.

Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain, the guys who come in before Superman closer Mariano Rivera, they've struggled and the Angels know they can hit these guys. So, whenever Game 6 happens, I'll go with L.A. and the scrappy upset.

SIMON: Okay. That'd be nice to see. NBA regular season begins next week. NBA's Referees Union have agreed in a new contract. But let me ask you about, you know, the game. Because Orlando, Boston and Cleveland all think their time has come, and Los Angeles says not so fast.

GOLDMAN: That's right. With the Lakers being the defending champions, you know, what you saw is that the rich got richer here, and basketball is a game of only five people on the court. And the addition of even one great player to an already great team can have a big impact. So, you know, we mention the Lakers.

They added Ron Artest. And for those of us, Scott, old enough to remember the Michael Jordan-Phil Jackson era in Chicago, Artest is that Dennis Rodman-like addition, you know, a shut-down defender, this all-out fierce rebounder, a little loopy, like Rodman too. Although, so far, Artest hasn't shown…

SIMON: You called Dennis Rodman loopy?

(Soundbite of laughter)

GOLDMAN: Yeah. Well, bridal gown and lipstick, what do you call it?

SIMON: He's an artist. But go ahead, yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GOLDMAN: So, he brings that. Orlando got better. Cleveland, of course, added Shaquille O'Neal, and a guy I really like added to their team, Leon Poe, who was so effective coming off the Boston bench. So, this definitely the best supporting cast Lebron James has ever had, and the Cavs hope that this will be enough to keep Lebron in Cleveland and keep him from bolting when he becomes a free agent after the season.

SIMON: And we only have 30 seconds left. Is it possible for the season for the Washington Deadskins to get even worse? I mean, they're bringing in a man who once a great offensive coordinator, Sherm Lewis, and has been calling bingo numbers to call the plays now.

GOLDMAN: Yeah, I know. And, yeah, it's a team in disarray. And, of course, this has lead to snarky reporters making jokes about the great game of bingo. Like this one, Scott, this Monday night imagine the Washington quarterback getting the play on his helmet receiver and Sherm Lewis forgets where he is and he calls N-37.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: Situational awareness, I believe, as the pilots put it. Tom, thanks very much.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome.

SIMON: NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman.

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