Baseball's Autumn Surprises Still To Fall

Cue the organ, cue the autumn winds, cue the crunch of fallen leaves underfoot. October baseball is here, and with the postseason starting in a few days, there are still many to-be-decideds when eyeing next week's division series. NPR's Scott Simon talks with ESPN.com's Howard Bryant about the hot, hot pennant races in baseball.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

SCOTT SIMON, Host:

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

And now it's that magic time of the year for baseball.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: Cue the organ, the nip of autumn winds, the crunch of fallen leaves. October baseball is here. And with the postseason starting in just a few days, there's still a bit(ph) too many, several many - I'm sorry - to-be-decideds. (unintelligible) next week's division series.

Joining us now from member station WFCR in Amherst is our own Howard Bryant. Always has his eye on the ball. Morning, Howard.

HOWARD BRYANT: Scott, good morning. How are you?

SIMON: I'm fine, thanks. Now, we have our own version about who's on first.

BRYANT: We do.

SIMON: American League, Minnesota and Texas are in. So are Tampa Bay and the Yankees. But we don't know necessarily in what combination, because we don't know who the wild card will be.

BRYANT: Or who's playing exactly, who's playing each other. And it's my favorite time of the year, you're absolutely right. Because this is when I get to make a while bunch of hotel reservations and then cancel them, when teams get eliminated. And I really thought that it was going to be easy and so far it's not.

I think the Yankees and the Rays, obviously one of those two teams wants to win a division, but they're both in the play-offs. So essentially it's only a question of match-ups. But nobody wants to play the red hot Minnesota Twins, who are suddenly looking like the best team in the American League.

SIMON: Yeah. Now, the National League still has a couple of slots unfilled for the postseason. The Giants lost to the Padres last night, and they're in a competition with Atlanta for the wild card. Bobby Cox - you know, let's win this one for Bobby.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SIMON: What do you say - who's retiring after 105 years as Atlanta's manager. How do you see this shaking out?

BRYANT: Well, if you go with my hotel reservation theory...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SIMON: Yeah.

BRYANT: ...I had planned on cancelling Atlanta. That would mean that the Braves would have to lose the next two games. And that would mean them getting swept this weekend and swept out of the play-offs. I think...

SIMON: I don't see that happening.

BRYANT: I don't see that happening either. It looks like San Diego - San Diego, for the Padres to stay alive, they have to win every game, and the Braves have to lose. And obviously that would make a one game play-off for the Giants and the - actually, it would not. Because if the Giants and the Padres tied and the Padres would win the division, the Giants would be the wild card and the Braves would be going home.

So right now it's looking like the Padres are going to have to pull off a miracle this weekend. And everything is going to have to break their way.

SIMON: Howard, how good is it for baseball that you have the resurgent Cincinnati Reds, Tampa Bay, Minnesota, Texas, all what we would call smaller market teams who are in the hunt...

BRYANT: I think it's good and bad. I think it's good because people who may have tired of the Northeast Corridor - Red Sox and Yankees every single year - you get some fresh blood. You get the franchise - the flagship franchise, the Cincinnati Reds, in the play-offs for the first time since '95.

You get Texas in the play-offs for the first time since '99. You've got Tampa Bay, who for the last 10 years have been the last team in baseball history, and now they're in the play-offs for the second time in three years.

But it's bad because it sends the message that these teams are actually competing every single year when they're not. Baseball still, at some level, has the Yankees at $200 million and everybody else not named the Red Sox playing around a hundred million or less - big inequities.

SIMON: Yeah. And the Yankees are still - I mean who would bet against them to actually win the World Series?

BRYANT: Well, if you're in Philadelphia, pretty much everybody in town...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BRYANT: ...since I think they're the best team in baseball.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SIMON: I thought you just said Minnesota.

BRYANT: No, I said the best team in the American League.

SIMON: Okay, all right. Howard Bryant, senior writer for ESPN.com, ESPN the Magazine, and ESPN the farm fertilizer, thanks so much.

BRYANT: My pleasure.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.